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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."
A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

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."

Go deeper

Updated Mar 24, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden Cabinet tracker: Which nominees have been confirmed

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Jan. 16 in Wilmington, Delaware. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

All of President Biden's Cabinet nominees have now been confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The big picture: Biden now has known, trusted people around him, many from the Obama administration, to help implement his policies and turn away from the tumultuous Trump years.

CCP releases two jailed Canadians after Huawei CFO deal with DOJ

Photo: Sheldon Cooper/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Two Canadians imprisoned by the Chinese government for over 1,000 days have been released and are expected to arrive in Canada on Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday.

Why it matters: Their release comes hours after Huawei Technologies CFO Meng Wanzhou reached a deal with the U.S. Department of Justice that resolves the criminal charges against her and could pave the way for her to return to China.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Arizona GOP's private recount of 2020 election confirms Biden's win

Contractors working on behalf of the GOP examine and recount 2020 ballots at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix in May. Photo: Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

In an odd coda to the 2020 election, private contractors conducting a GOP-commissioned recount in Arizona confirmed President Biden’s win in Maricopa County.

Why it matters: The unofficial, party-driven recount has been heavily covered on cable news as part of former President Trump's continued effort to sow doubt about the election result.