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Schumer says he had 'serious talk' with Feinstein, declines to comment on Judiciary role

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.) said Tuesday that he had a "serious" conversation with 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 (D-Calif.) amid progressive backlash over her handling of last week's Supreme Court hearings, but declined to address her future role on the Judiciary Committee. 

Schumer, speaking to reporters during a press conference, declined to say if he would make changes to the Judiciary Committee or to disclose how his conversation with Feinsten went. 

"I had a long and serious talk with Sen. Feinstein. That's all I'm going to say," Schumer told reporters. 

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Asked if he could discuss the conversation, he added: "Nope." 

Schumer's decision to sidestep questions about Feinstein's future comes after the California Democrat, 87, sparked calls for her caucus to replace her as the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee over her handling of Judge 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's Supreme Court nomination hearings. 

Feinstein sparked fierce backlash from some progressive groups when she thanked Graham for how he ran the hearings and was spotted hugging him after Thursday's hearing wrapped.

Feinstein, earlier on Thursday, had also criticized Republicans for deciding to move forward with Barrett's nomination. She also released a statement on Friday defending how Democrats handled the hearing. 

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But Feinstein has long been a target of progressive frustration because she's expressed opposition to nixing the legislative filibuster, a procedural hurdle that activists and a growing number of lawmakers warn could be a buzzsaw for major Democratic priorities next year. 

Feinstein on Tuesday declined to discuss her conversation with Schumer. Feinstein, as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, would be in line to chair the panel if Democrats win the majority in November. 

Democratic aides and senators acknowledge that while there is some "frustration" with Feinstein's style, it appears unlikely that the caucus would move to block her from becoming Judiciary Committee chairwoman next year. Feinstein would be the first woman to chair the powerful panel. 

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.), who technically outranks Feinstein, is expected to take over the Appropriations gavel. Sen. 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 (D-Ill.), who would be next in line, said on Tuesday that he wants to be majority whip, effectively taking himself out of the running. 

Other committee members defended Feinstein on Tuesday. 

"I think Sen. Feinstein has a long record of fighting for gender equality and reproductive rights and has led the minority on the committee well. And I look forward to continuing to serve with her," said Sen. Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - GOP angst in Georgia; confirmation fight looms Overnight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases Bipartisan Senate group holding coronavirus relief talks amid stalemate MORE (D-Del.). 

Asked about calls for her to step down or be replaced as the top Democrat, Coons added: “I don’t think that’s for me to say.”