Senator Durbin Wants to Replace Feinstein as Top-Ranking Dem on Judiciary Committee

Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said Monday he wants to replace California Senator Dianne Feinstein as the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Feinstein, currently the oldest Senator at the age of 87, announced on Monday that she would remain on the Judiciary panel, but would step down as the committee's leading Democrat in order to spend more time on climate change issues. Some liberal groups accused Feinstein of not acting strongly enough to prevent the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Durbin currently serves as the Democratic Minority Whip, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the Senate.

"I intend to seek the top Democratic position on the Judiciary Committee in the 117th Congress," Durbin tweeted. "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."

I intend to seek the top Democratic position on the Judiciary Committee in the 117th Congress. 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.

— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) November 24, 2020

"For the last four years," Durbin said in a Monday statement, "Republicans leading the Senate Judiciary Committee have turned a blind eye to the worst abuses of the Trump era. While President Trump assaulted the Constitution, the Judiciary Committee abdicated its oversight responsibilities and became little more than a conveyor belt to rubberstamp ideological and largely underqualified judicial nominees. The to-do list for the Senate Judiciary Committee is long, and of critical importance to the future progress of our country."

dick durbin
Democratic Illinois Senator Dick Durbin announced his intention on Monday to replace California Senator Dianne Feinstein as the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Tom Williams-Pool/Getty

Durbin has criticized Trump in the past, telling CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday that Trump's attempts to hinder the administration of President-elect Joe Biden from achieving a peaceful transition were a sign of Trump "acting out."

"He's very concerned about the fact that he may have lost an election," Durbin said. "Listen, it happens to all of us. And the fact of the matter is this president needs a good intervention. I'm not sure who can bring it on but someone in his family or close friends, someone's got to sit down with him and say 'stop.'"

Durbin and Feinstein had taken different stances on Barrett's confirmation. While Durbin condemned the choice of Barrett as a "partisan power grab," Feinstein appeared to be more conciliatory toward South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, the Republican chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. When Barrett's confirmation hearings ended in October, Feinstein praised how Graham had conducted the hearings.

"This has been one of the best set of hearings that I've participated in and I want to thank you for your fairness and the opportunity of going back and forth," Feinstein said. She also received criticism from some Democrats after hugging Graham when the hearings had concluded. Neither Feinstein nor Graham were wearing face masks at the time despite the threat of the community transmission of COVID-19.

When asked for comment, Graham's office directed Newsweek to his appearance on Fox News on Monday. "Dianne Feinstein stepped down today as the ranking member because apparently I gave her a hug and that's an unpardonable sin," Graham said during an appearance on Hannity, "so they literally ran Dianne Feinstein, who's a great person, out of her job because she said something nice about me."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters in October that he had conducted a "long and serious talk" with Feinstein after the Barrett hearings. Schumer did not elaborate on the subject of the conversation.

Schumer praised Feinstein in a Monday statement, saying that her experience would be an "asset for our caucus, California, and the country as we begin a new term with the new president."