So much for comity, eh? Progressives put a target on Dianne Feinstein’s back from the moment she embraced Lindsey Graham at the end of Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing. Shortly afterward, Chuck Schumer made a public show of rebuking Feinstein for being too easy on Graham and Barrett in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, even though none of the other Democrats on the panel ever laid a glove on Barrett, either.
The writing was on the wall for Feinstein at that point. It’s clear that Schumer booted her from the leadership position on Judiciary, even if she’s issuing team-player statements in the aftermath:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein plans to step down as the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee in the next Congress, after facing blowback from progressives for her handling of Amy Coney Barrett’s contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearing.
Three people familiar with the matter told POLITICO, which Feinstein soon confirmed.
“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 California Democrat said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to serve as a senior Democrat on the Judiciary, Intelligence, Appropriations and Rules committees as we work with the Biden administration.”
Did she jump, or was she pushed? Let’s put this in context. There is at least some possibility that Democrats will take control of the Senate in the next session. That would have given Feinstein an opportunity to chair Judiciary just in time to shepherd friendly nominations from Joe Biden to the federal bench. Granted, the judiciary-appointment spree over the last four years limits those possibilities, but that’s not Feinstein’s fault — that blame belongs almost entirely to Schumer and Harry Reid. Mitch McConnell just played by the same rules.
Perhaps if Democrats had already lost one or both of the runoff elections and Feinstein knew she’d only be ranking member, it might not have been all that attractive. In this context, though, it looks pretty clear that Feinstein’s being run off, too.
The New York Times’ Nicholas Fandos isn’t fooled:
Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the Senate’s oldest member, said on Monday that she would relinquish the top Democratic spot on the Judiciary Committee next year, bowing to intense pressure by progressives who said she was not up to the task of leading a crucial panel at the forefront of the partisan war over the courts in a new Biden administration. …
Progressives had been pushing Democratic leaders hard in recent weeks to bar Ms. Feinstein from returning to her post next year, when Democrats hope they will control the committee. They believed that despite her towering status in the Senate, Ms. Feinstein’s record as a genteel deal-maker made her the wrong fit for an increasingly bruising partisan arena on the Judiciary Committee. Those stylistic differences have been exacerbated by Ms. Feinstein’s advancing age.
Progressives were livid, for instance, when Ms. Feinstein praised Republicans for their handling of Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination hearings last month, even though G.O.P. leaders had broken with precedent and their own professed opposition to election-year confirmations to fast-track the approval of President Trump’s choice before he faced voters. A photograph of the California Democrat hugging the committee’s Republican chairman, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, after Justice Barrett’s nomination was approved ricocheted across the internet, drawing condemnation from liberal groups.
They feared that under President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s leadership, Ms. Feinstein would be too gentle with Republicans who would seek to block his appointments to the federal courts.
Shameful. So who gets Feinstein’s seat? No one other than Schumer’s aide de camp, Dick Durbin:
Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) is next in line for the top judiciary spot after Feinstein. Durbin is also the Senate Democratic whip, which is the No. 2 position in the caucus and comes with its own security detail.
In a statement Monday night, Durbin thanked Feinstein for her “distinguished leadership on the Judiciary Committee during turbulent years” and announced that he intends to seek the top Democratic spot on the panel.
“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,” Durbin said. “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.”
Not to beat the room-temperature equine, but any “damage” is also on Durbin’s shoulders. Durbin was part of the same leadership team, with Reid and Schumer, that pushed the 2013 nuclear option which enabled McConnell and Donald Trump to fill judicial openings wholesale. Durbin has been one of the driving forces of the politicization of the judiciary over the last 20 years. Feinstein isn’t entirely innocent of that either, voting to go along with the Reid-Schumer-Durbin strategy, and that cooperation finally bit her in the rear end, too.
Hopefully the voters in Georgia will help keep more damage from being done. In the meantime, Durbin better hope that he’s not the next human sacrifice to the progressive piranhas when Joe Biden’s agenda ends up scaling back to reality.
Update: Our pal Jeryl Bier can’t wait for the media to defend DiFi. Oh wait …
Bracing myself for all the Schumer-can't-stand-powerful-women think pieces!
— Jeryl Bier (@JerylBier) November 24, 2020
Update: Lindsey Graham isn’t happy about it:
Sen. Lindsey Graham: "They literally ran Dianne Feinstein, who’s a great person, out of her job because she said something nice about me.” https://t.co/mO30kSQVnA
— Tim Hanrahan (@TimJHanrahan) November 24, 2020
Let’s not oversimplify …. it might also be because Graham said something nice about her.