Feinstein Won’t Seek Top Democrat Spot on Judiciary Committee

November 24, 2020 by Dan McCue
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

WASHINGTON – Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Monday she will step down as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee when the 117th Congress convenes in January, apparently bowing to critics who believe she wasn’t aggressive enough in her handling of Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

“After serving as the lead Democrat on the Judiciary Committee for four years, I will not seek the chairmanship or ranking member position in the next Congress,” the 87-year-old lawmaker said.

Feinstein said she would remain a member of the Judiciary Committee, as well as other panels, but would seek to focus her attention on the wildfire and droughts that have caused catastrophic damage in her home state in recent years.

“I also believe that defeating COVID-19, combating climate change and protecting access to health care are critical national priorities that require even more concentration,” she said.

“I will continue to do my utmost to bring about positive change in the coming years,” she added.

It wasn’t immediately known who would succeed her as the Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat.

Feinstein has served as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee since 2017 and previously served as chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and chairman of the Senate Rules Committee. She is also a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

But she drew flak from her party’s progressive wing due to her conciliatory conduct during Justice Barrett’s confirmation hearing.

At the conclusion of four days of hearings, Feinstein hugged Republican Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, telling him it was “the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in.”

Later Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, “I’ve had a long and serious talk with Sen. Feinstein. That’s all I’m going to say about it right now.”

The chamber’s partisan breakdown after the Nov. 3 election stands at 50 Republicans and 48 Democrats. If Democrats win both Georgia runoffs on Jan. 5, they would control the majority because Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, in her role as president of the Senate, could break ties. 

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