Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) announced on Monday that she would step down as ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, following criticism by progressive groups and even some of her colleagues during the confirmation process of Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
“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,” Feinstein 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.”
Democrats vociferously opposed the confirmation of Barrett, who is pro-life, alleging that her appointment to the Supreme Court would threaten abortion rights. However, at the conclusion of the confirmation hearings Feinstein congratulated Judiciary Committee head Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) on “one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in.”
Progressive group Demand Justice, which advocates for the appointment of liberal federal judges, slammed Feinstein following those remarks.
“It’s time for Sen. Feinstein to step down from her leadership position on the Senate Judiciary Committee. If she won’t, her colleagues need to intervene,” Demand Justice executive director Brian Fallon told the Huffington Post at the time. Chief counsel Chris Kang commented that Feinstein “doesn’t seem to be fighting as hard as we would have hoped.”
Anti-abortion group NARAL Pro-Choice America also condemned Feinstein at the conclusion of the Barrett hearings.
Democratic senators have privately complained that at 87 years old, Feinstein’s age may be affecting her job performance, Politico reported in late October. Speaking on condition of anonymity, three Democratic senators said Feinstein made missteps during the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh and that they were afraid she would err during Barrett’s confirmation as well.
“She’s not sure what she’s doing,” one of the senators told Politico.
In comments to Fox News Monday night, Graham said progressives treated Feinstein’s warm remarks as “an unpardonable sin. So they literally ran Dianne Feinstein, who’s a great person, out of her job because she said something nice about me.”