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Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein

Calls to remove Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFeinstein pushes for California secretary of state to replace Harris in Senate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Dem leaders back smaller COVID-19 relief bill as pandemic escalates Criminal justice groups offer support for Durbin amid fight for Judiciary spot MORE (Calif.) as the senior Democrat and potential next chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee are being met with silence from her Democratic colleagues.

While there is frustration with some members over Feinstein, who hugged Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham reports 'record-breaking' 9M haul during 2020 campaign Lawmakers pressure leaders to reach COVID-19 relief deal Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country MORE (R-S.C.) after the contentious confirmation hearings for Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettGraham reports 'record-breaking' 9M haul during 2020 campaign The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Dem leaders back smaller COVID-19 relief bill as pandemic escalates Supreme Court sees new requests for religious COVID-19 carve-outs MORE, President TrumpDonald John TrumpAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week Conservative policy director calls Section 230 repeal an 'existential threat' for tech MORE’s nominee to the Supreme Court, there is also widespread support for the California lawmaker.

Any decision to remove Feinstein from serving as chairwoman or ranking minority member in the 117th Congress, which convenes in January, would have to be approved by a vote of the entire Senate Democratic Caucus. And the support for such a move does not appear to be there.

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“The caucus is very, very cautious of those kind of things. They all kind of acknowledge that there but for the grace of God go I. They all want to retire with their boots on, or not retire,” said one Democratic aide. “I would be really surprised if you saw anything that approaches a real effort to push her out, or anyone else."

One Democratic senator on Monday said there is “frustration” over Feinstein’s style of running the committee, which her defenders characterize as “civil” or “moderate” and her detractors call “out of step” with the times and the brass-knuckles style of Trump and his GOP allies.

Feinstein came under sharp criticism last week for praising Barrett’s confirmation hearings as “one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in” and thanking Graham for his “fairness.”

Graham is a chief Democratic villain for his flip-flop of approving Barrett’s confirmation before a presidential election after saying he would do no such thing. Graham and other Senate Republicans did not give a hearing to Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandThe five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight McConnell pushed Trump to nominate Barrett on the night of Ginsburg's death: report MORE, former President Obama’s nominee to the court in March of 2016.

Feinstein, after praising Graham, gave the embattled South Carolina senator, who is facing a tough reelection race, a hug.

NARAL Pro-Choice America, one of the nation’s leading advocates for abortion rights, called for Feinstein to step down for failing to make clear Barrett’s nomination “is illegitimate and this process is a sham.”

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Demand Justice, another group on the left opposed to Barrett and Trump’s judicial nominees, said: “It’s time for Sen. Feinstein to step down from her leadership position on the Senate Judiciary Committee. If she won’t, her colleagues need to intervene.”

Democratic senators and aides, however, say Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBipartisan governors call on Congress to pass coronavirus relief package Pelosi, Schumer endorse 8 billion plan as basis for stimulus talks Funding bill hits snag as shutdown deadline looms MORE (D-N.Y.) is highly unlikely to move against Feinstein because doing so would risk a nasty confrontation with a high-profile, respected colleague.

Outside groups and Democratic members of the Judiciary panel who are frustrated with Feinstein’s management of the committee would have to whip up a tidal wave of opposition to take her gavel.

Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoHillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff YouTube temporarily suspends OANN account after spreading coronavirus misinformation MORE (D-Hawaii), a member of the Judiciary Committee, on Monday defended Feinstein’s performance at Barrett’s confirmation hearings last week.

“All of us are very clear on the danger Barrett poses to the [Affordable Care Act], civil rights, voting rights,” said Hirono, praising the job Democrats on the Judiciary panel did last week explaining their objections to the nominee.

Hirono said Feinstein’s compliment of Graham’s handling of the hearing was “being gracious.”

“She banged away like the rest of us during the hearing,” she added.

Feinstein delivered a big moment during Barrett’s first day of answering questions when the nominee refused to state clearly whether Trump had the authority to unilaterally delay the presidential election.

Barrett said she’d need to hear arguments from litigants, read briefs and consult with her law clerks before answering, a moment that went viral.

Feinstein also pressed Barrett on whether she agreed with the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s view that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, another hot topic Barrett declined to answer substantively.  

Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinLawmakers pressure leaders to reach COVID-19 relief deal Congress faces late-year logjam Funding bill hits snag as shutdown deadline looms MORE (Ill.), who would be next in line for the Judiciary Committee chairmanship — according to seniority — declined on Monday evening to express any interest for the gavel.

“I’m not going to speculate on that,” he said.

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He said he wasn’t even aware that one of the biggest abortion rights groups in the country called for Feinstein to step down.

“I haven’t heard that,” he said.

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyGovernment used Patriot Act to gather website visitor logs in 2019 Top GOP senator warns government funding deal unlikely this week Incoming Congress looks more like America MORE (D-Vt.) outranks Durbin — and Feinstein — in seniority on the Judiciary Committee, but he has already served as chairman and ranking minority member of the panel. He is expected to keep his position as the top-ranking Democrat on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

After Durbin, Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseCriminal justice groups offer support for Durbin amid fight for Judiciary spot The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - COVID-19 fears surround Thanksgiving holiday Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight MORE (D-R.I.) would be next in seniority to serve as chairman or ranking member of Judiciary.

Whitehouse declined to respond to NARAL Pro-Choice America’s call for Feinstein to step down and noted that Durbin was ahead of him on the seniority ladder.

While the entire Democratic caucus would have to vote on a change at the top of the Judiciary panel, Schumer would have a major role in the decision.

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The Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenate committee advances bill for national Latino museum Senate committee approves nominations of three FEC commissioners Scammers step up efforts to target older Americans during pandemic MORE (D-Minn.) and on which Schumer sits as the Democratic leader, would make recommendations to the caucus about who should serve as chair or ranking member of a committee.

Those recommendations are generally determined by a senator’s length of continue service on the committee, but the leadership can make a different recommendation if there are important other factors to consider.

Then-Senate Democratic Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidFeinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight Whitehouse says Democratic caucus will decide future of Judiciary Committee Bottom line MORE (Nev.) almost moved to strip then-Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) of his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee after he endorsed Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainSmearing presidential election will turn off young voters and undermine democracy Choking — not cheating — was Trump's undoing Gabby Giffords congratulates Mark Kelly with throwback photo of her own swearing-in MORE (R-Ariz.) over Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaSmearing presidential election will turn off young voters and undermine democracy 'Black Panther' star criticized for sharing video questioning COVID-19 vaccine Black voters: Low propensity, or low priority? MORE in the 2008 presidential election.

The chair of the Steering and Outreach Committee is appointed by the Democratic leader and generally does what the leader wants.

But Schumer will have a variety of other challenges to juggle if Democrats win control of the Senate. He will have to navigate the thorny debate over whether to eliminate or curtail the minority party’s power to filibuster legislation, which outside liberal groups are demanding. Picking a fight over Feinstein in such a context might not be desirable.

While there’s some dissatisfaction among a handful of Senate Democrats with Feinstein, there’s little appetite to get into an ugly fight over her future, which could come back to haunt senators. Feinstein would be the first woman to lead the Judiciary panel if Democrats take the majority.

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“Dianne Feinstein is a wonderful lady, I thought she did a great job and I support her,” said Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSanders says he can't support bipartisan COVID-19 relief proposal in its current form Progressives push for direct payments to be included in COVID-19 relief deal Rubio and Ocasio-Cortez spar on Twitter: 'Work more, tweet less' MORE (W.Va.), a centrist Democrat whose ascension to the most senior Democratic position on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was challenged at the end of 2018 by some outside environmental groups.

Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeWashington county warns of at least 17 positive tests after 300-person wedding The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by UAE - US records 1 million COVID-19 cases in a week; governors crack down Washington state issues sweeping restrictions to combat coronavirus surge MORE (D) and Democratic mega-donor Tom SteyerTom SteyerBiden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far Late donor surges push election spending projections to new heights New voters surge to the polls MORE joined activist groups in calling for Manchin to be blocked because of his relationship with coal and energy companies.

But when it came time for the caucus to decide on whether to let Manchin replace Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers Senate advances energy regulator nominees despite uncertainty of floor vote OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Esper reportedly working with lawmakers to strip Confederate names from bases | Enemy attacks in Afghanistan jump by 50 percent, watchdog says | Fort Hood soldier arrested, charged in Chelsea Cheatham killing MORE (D-Wash.) as the top Democrat on the panel, there was no serious discussion about circumventing him, according to a Senate Democratic aide familiar with the process.

“You could make the same argument for others,” the first Democrat aide said. “I’d be really surprised if you saw any mobilization whatsoever to try to move on her.”