Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein

Calls to remove Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinProgressive support builds for expanding lower courts Menendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill What exactly are uber-woke educators teaching our kids? 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 GrahamPassage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Progressive support builds for expanding lower courts McConnell backs Garland for attorney general MORE (R-S.C.) after the contentious confirmation hearings for Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettLaurence Tribe: Justice Thomas is out of order on 2020 election McConnell backs Garland for attorney general LIVE COVERAGE: Senate set to consider Garland for AG MORE, President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills 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.


“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 Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Finger-pointing on Capitol riot; GOP balks at Biden relief plan McConnell backs Garland for attorney general Biden can redeem checkered past and regenerate hope for millions with criminal justice reform 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.”


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 SchumerHillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds House Rules release new text of COVID-19 relief bill Budowsky: Cruz goes to Cancun, AOC goes to Texas 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 HironoSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Trump lawyers center defense around attacks on Democrats Hillicon Valley: Democratic senators unveil bill to reform Section 230 | Labor board denies Amazon request to delay local union vote | Robinhood lifts restrictions on GameStop, other stocks 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 DurbinMurkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo Democrats ask FBI for plans to address domestic extremism following Capitol attack Progressive support builds for expanding lower courts 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.


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 LeahyPress: The big loser: The Republican Party Senate acquits Trump in 57-43 vote Trump lawyer irked after senators laugh at him 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 WhitehouseTucker Carlson bashes CNN, claims it's 'more destructive' than QAnon Garland seeks to draw sharp contrast with Trump-era DOJ Democrats revive debate over calling impeachment witnesses 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.


The Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharFBI, DHS and Pentagon officials to testify on Capitol riot Five big takeaways on the Capitol security hearings Top cops deflect blame over Capitol attack 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 ReidManchin flexes muscle in 50-50 Senate Las Vegas airport to be renamed after former Sen. Harry Reid Sanders replacing top staffers with campaign aides 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 McCainCindy McCain planning 'intimate memoir' of life with John McCain Trump-McConnell rift divides GOP donors Arkansas state senator says he's leaving Republican Party MORE (R-Ariz.) over Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTrump and Obama: The odd couple who broke 'extended deterrence' for the Indo-Pacific The US is ripe for climate-friendly diets Obama says he once broke a classmate's nose for calling him a racial slur 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.


“Dianne Feinstein is a wonderful lady, I thought she did a great job and I support her,” said Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Klain says Harris would not overrule parliamentarian on minimum wage increase On The Money: Senate panels postpone Tanden meetings in negative sign | Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers 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 state officials warn providers offering VIP vaccine access Legislators go after governors to rein in COVID-19 powers Inslee rebukes hospital over vaccine appointments for donors MORE (D) and Democratic mega-donor Tom SteyerTom SteyerGOP targets ballot initiatives after progressive wins On The Trail: The political losers of 2020 Biden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far 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 CantwellRegulators keep close eye on Facebook's deal with Australia Video stirs emotions on Trump trial's first day Airlines warn of new furloughs without more federal aid 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.”