Top Democrats refuse to stand by Dianne Feinstein after praising GOP handling of Barrett hearings

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Feinstein’s comments, praising Judicial Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham last week after four days of confirmation hearings, infuriated Democrats and Liberal activists who sought to stage a unified attack on proceedings they deemed a sham. Two progressive groups, including the abortion rights lobby NARAL, demanded that she be removed as the leading Democrat on the committee, while GOP leaders have repeatedly emphasized her comments as they ran for get Barrett’s confirmation eight days before election day.

On Tuesday, the top two Senate Democrats would not say whether they trusted Feinstein.

“I had a long and serious discussion with Senator Feinstein,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters when asked if he is seeking changes at the top of the powerful committee. . “That’s all I’m going to say about it now.

Asked by CNN after his press conference if he trusted Feinstein, the New York Democrat did not respond, referring to his comments at his press conference.

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second Senate Democrat, who typically engages in prolonged exchanges with reporters, also declined to comment on CNN on Feinstein.“I’m not going to comment,” Durbin said when asked if he trusted his leadership on the panel.

Later appearing on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper,” Durbin tried to avoid weighing in on Feinstein but ultimately appeared to object to Feinstein’s comments praising Graham at the end of the hearings.

“I found his statement and his questions to be good throughout,” Durbin said of his longtime colleague. “I sat next to her throughout the hearing. I stayed at the hearing for the four days. I think the Democrats really made a strong point. The gunshot at the end may have misled what the rest of the committee thought. ”

Feinstein, 87, is coming under increasing scrutiny for his role at the top of the panel given his more distinguished political style while serving on perhaps the most partisan committee in the entire Senate. But as the oldest senator in the chamber, she has also faced growing questions on Capitol Hill about whether she can take on the responsibilities of the post.

Removing Feinstein from the post will not be an easy task. The Senate operates on a seniority-based system, and Feinstein – who has had a long career, served on the panel for about a quarter of a century, and is revered by many of her colleagues – would be the first woman to chair the Judicial Committee if Democrats take control of the chamber in next month’s election.

Still, Schumer would be under pressure from the left not to give him the committee chair, and he will likely face calls to strike a deal and give him a place atop another influential panel.

During last week’s confirmation process, Feinstein criticized the GOP’s unusually quick delay in getting Barrett’s confirmation, and she challenged Barrett to explain her views on abortion rights, the control guns and health care, among other issues.

Yet she has also repeatedly praised Barrett and her family, angering fellow Democrats, who said such comments helped soften Barrett’s image and portray her as a sympathetic candidate.

Democrats were particularly angered by Feinstein’s remarks at the end of the hearings, where she turned to Graham and said, “This is one of the best hearings I’ve been to. She shook Graham’s hand and then hugged the Republican, who is fighting in South Carolina to survive re-election in one of the toughest Senate races of his career.

When approached on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Feinstein declined to comment on Schumer’s remark.

Several Democrats on the Judiciary Committee were also unwilling to engage in controversy.

Senator Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii who sits on the panel, said Feinstein and the rest of the Democrats in the hearing made it clear “the danger” Barrett poses to the Affordable Care Act, among others. “At the end of the day, Dianne was kind.

When asked if she trusted Feinstein to stay in the job, Hirono replied, “That’s all I’m going to say about it. ”

This story was updated with additional developments on Tuesday.

CNN’s Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

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