Durbin seeks to become top-ranking Democrat on Judiciary panel

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Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the Senate minority whip who is known for articulate floor speeches and championing the rights of immigrants who came to the country illegally at a young age, says he will seek to become the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Durbin announced his intention Monday evening after Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who is 87, said she would not seek another term as the ranking member or a term as chairwoman of the panel.

Durbin thanked Feinstein “for her distinguished leadership” and said he wants to replace her.

“I intend to seek the top Democratic position on the Judiciary Committee in the 117th Congress. I have served on the committee for 22 years and I am its most senior member who does not currently serve atop another Senate Committee,” he said in a statement.

“We have to roll up our sleeves and get to work on undoing the damage of the last four years and protecting fundamental civil and human rights,” he added.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.) has more seniority on the committee, but he is already the top-ranking Democrat on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

Durbin was reelected this month as minority whip, which affords him a large office in the Capitol as well as a security detail.

Some Senate Democrats say Durbin should not be able to serve as both whip and the chairman or ranking member of a top Senate Committee. There is no Senate Democratic caucus rule, however, barring him from serving as whip and top Democrat on the Judiciary panel.

Two Senate runoff races in Georgia expected on Jan. 5 will determine if Democrats are in the majority or minority next year.

Durbin on Monday said, “The to-do list for the Senate Judiciary Committee is long and of critical importance to the future progress of our country.”

He could face a challenge from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who ranks just behind him on the panel.

Whitehouse is known as a brainy debater and fierce advocate for combating global climate change and dark money from special interest groups in U.S. politics.

Whitehouse on Monday did not comment on his future plans.

“Sen. Feinstein has led Judiciary Democrats with dignity and honor. I appreciate her service as ranking member and look forward to continuing our work together,” he said.

Tags Dianne Feinstein Dick Durbin Patrick Leahy Sheldon Whitehouse
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