Oct 15, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Feinstein draws progressive fury after praising Graham at close of Barrett hearings

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, was widely criticized by liberal groups on Thursday after she gave Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) a hug and called Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearings “one of the best" that she's participated in.

Why it matters: Democrats have cast the Republican effort to confirm Barrett in an election year as "illegitimate," warning that it will shatter norms and transform the court for decades.

  • The 87-year-old Feinstein's amenable approach to the hearing has drawn widespread frustration among liberals who were seeking more aggressive opposition.
  • Some critics pointed out on Twitter that Graham is in a highly competitive re-election race with Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison, and that Feinstein's praise for the top Trump ally could have an impact.

What happened: "Chairman, I just want to thank you," Feinstein said in her closing statement. "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."

  • "It leaves one with a lot of hopes, a lot of questions, and even some ideas of perhaps some good bipartisan legislation we can put together to make this country even better. So thank you so much for your leadership."
  • Graham replied: "I know we have very different views about the judge and whether we should be doing this or not. But having said all that, to my Democratic colleagues, you have challenged the judge, you have challenged us, and I accept those challenges as being sincere and not personal."

What they're saying: “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," said Brian Fallon, executive director of the judicial advocacy group Demand Justice.

  • "She has undercut Democrats' position at every step of this process, from undermining calls for filibuster and Court reform straight through to thanking Republicans for the most egregious partisan power grab in the modern history of the Supreme Court."
  • "If Senate Democrats are going to get their act together on the courts going forward, they cannot be led by someone who treats Sunrise activists with contempt and the Republican theft of a Supreme Court seat with kid gloves.”

The progressive organizing group Indivisible tweeted: "Nothing says "this process is an illegitimate sham" quite like hugging it out with the guy who's in charge of the illegitimate sham."

  • "Senator Feinstein's behavior today was a perfect summation of why we can't just elect Democrats — we need to hold them accountable too."

The big picture: Feinstein has long been a target of progressive criticism, perhaps most notably when she told children organized by the Sunrise Movement in a viral video last year that the Green New Deal was "impractical."

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