California Senator Dianne Feinstein announced on Monday that she plans to step down from her top Democrat spot on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Feinstein said in a statement that she would instead focus more on the natural disasters ravaging her state, “existential threats” that urgently need her attention, according to The Hill. But there are a few other reasons why it’s high time for Feinstein to vacate her position on the committee, many of which have to do with her love of civility politics and institutional norms at the expense of actually leading the party during critical moments.
Take the recent example of the Amy Coney Barrett Supreme Court hearings. Some members of the party—and certainly many Democratic voters—wanted to see Democrats use every tactic at their disposal to block Barrett’s confirmation. But Feinstein made it clear that her intention was to make things go as smoothly as possible, tossing Barrett softball questions and asking about her family. When the hearings concluded, paving the way for a Senate vote that would undoubtedly favor Barrett, Feinstein remarked, “This has been one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in” and embraced Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham.
Her handling of the proceedings spurred criticism from other top Democrats, as well as national reproductive rights organizations like NARAL Pro-Choice for America, whose leaders were dismayed that Feinstein would put up such little resistance to a Republican power grab with Roe v. Wade on the line.
“Amy Barrett and this power grab pose a grave threat to every freedom and right we hold dear and tears the very fabric of our democracy,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said at the time. “Americans―whose lives hang in the balance―deserve leadership that underscores how unprecedented, shameful and wrong this process is. ... As such, we believe the committee needs new leadership.”
It seems clear enough that Feinstein was more or less forced to resign her post. And it’s for the best, especially since Senate Democrats could be in the minority once again, and will need to be aggressive if they hope to reverse Trump’s agenda and implement even a sliver of Biden’s.
“Going forward, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee must be led by someone who will not wishfully cling to a bygone era of civility and decorum that Republicans abandoned long ago,” Brian Fallon, the executive director of the courts-focused progressive advocacy group Demand Justice, told CNN. “The next top Democrat on the committee must be someone who is willing to fight for President-elect Biden’s nominees no matter what, and who will pursue bold action to restore balance to our courts.”
Dianne Feinstein: Goodbye and good luck!