Big Name Pops Up as Possible Feinstein Replacement

'Floated in California circle' as debate continues on whether 89-year-old senator should resign: Oprah
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 25, 2023 9:25 AM CDT
Should Feinstein Resign? The Public (and Hillary) Weigh In
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is assisted by staff at the Capitol in Washington on May 10 as she returns to the Senate after a more than two-month absence.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

From a recent "concerning" exchange with a journalist, to the odd revelation that Nancy Pelosi's daughter is serving as her aide, Sen. Dianne Feinstein continues to spur questions on whether she should step down after a debilitating bout of shingles and related conditions. One person on the side of "stay" is former Senate colleague Hillary Clinton, who says the 89-year-old Democrat shouldn't resign—not necessarily because Clinton thinks Feinstein is in the best of health, but because she's afraid the GOP would exploit her absence. "Here's the dilemma: The Republicans will not agree to add someone else to the Judiciary Committee if she retires," Clinton told Time on Monday. "I want you to think about how crummy that is." So, in terms of retirement, per Clinton, "right now, she can't. Because if we're going to get judges confirmed, which is one of the most important continuing obligations that we have, then we cannot afford to have her seat vacant." More:

  • 2 big "nopes" on Clinton's take: They come via two opinion pieces, by Jim Newell (who was the reporter who had the "concerning" exchange with Feinstein) for Slate and Gail Collins for the New York Times. "No, Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein is allowed to resign," Newell insists, especially if the senator is in "constant pain" and "sharp mental decline." He's also "skeptical" about "preemptively [surrendering] to a move of Republican procedural extremism that Republicans themselves are saying they wouldn't pursue." Collins, for her part, says Feinstein "is giving old age a bad name" and cites other examples of individuals who ended up "sticking around for too long," including the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sen. Strom Thurmond, who was still in DC at age 100.
  • From Feinstein's own party: Newsweek notes that fellow Democrats have also climbed aboard the Feinstein-should-retire train, including Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips. The congressman writes for the Daily Beast that Feinstein "risks tarnishing her remarkable legacy and the sacred oath she took as a United States senator," but also that "this is about more than one individual—it's about an institution that too often fails to place the people we serve over the politics of parties." Phillips cites the ongoing George Santos drama as just one example.
  • Public's take: A new poll from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies and Los Angeles Times finds that most Californians across the ideological spectrum—nearly two-thirds—think it's time Feinstein steps down, per Politico. That includes 52% of surveyed Democrats.

  • A "familiar horror": Writing for the Boston Globe, Renee Graham notes that what Feinstein is going through is a "painful dilemma" all too recognizable to families across America—and it's one that should prompt compassion for Feinstein's situation. "Yes, she should resign, but speak with empathy about her decline," Graham writes. "Someday you may be the one tasked with taking a loved one's keys away—or someone will suddenly realize that it's time to take the keys away from you."
  • Photographer's "game of cat and mouse": That's how LA Times political journalist Kent Nishimura describes his recent attempts to capture photos of Feinstein, whom he says is perpetually shielded by aides and others. He notes that some of their maneuvers—trying to keep the media from documenting Feinstein's daily arrival on Capitol Hill and "using the Capitol police to chase journalists out of hallways and public spaces"—amounts to an "unprecedented act of restricting press freedom."
  • If not Feinstein, who? The AP dives into the tough question now facing California Gov. Gavin Newsom: Who would replace Feinstein, who turns 90 next month, if her seat becomes vacant? One name that's has "been floated in California circles": Oprah Winfrey. It's not clear if Newsom is seriously considering the media mogul, though the AP notes that in 2021, Newsom promised he would appoint a Black woman if Feinstein's seat opened up during his tenure.
(More Dianne Feinstein stories.)

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