Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he had a “serious” conversation with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) after progressive groups decried her handling of last week’s confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
“I’ve had a long and serious talk with Sen. Feinstein and that’s all I’ll say about it right now,” Schumer told HuffPost at a press conference on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, called the hearings “one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in” and at one point credited Barrett for her testimony, undercutting Democrats’ attempts to portray the hearings as “illegitimate” and a “sham” being rushed by Republicans on the eve of the upcoming presidential election. Feinstein also praised Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the chairman of the committee, for his leadership throughout the process.
Several progressive groups, including abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America and judicial advocacy group Demand Justice, called for Feinstein to be replaced as the top Democrat on the committee.
“Amy Barrett and this power grab pose a grave threat to every freedom and right we hold dear and tears the very fabric of our democracy. Americans ― whose lives hang in the balance ― deserve leadership that underscores how unprecedented, shameful and wrong this process is,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement on Friday.
Another prominent California Democrat who has been mentioned as a possible Senate candidate, Rep. Katie Porter, also said she disagreed with Feinstein’s assessment of the Barrett hearings.
“I disagree strongly with Sen. Feinstein that that set of hearings was one of the best or was even acceptable,” Porter said in an interview with HuffPost last week. “I think Amy Coney Barrett did not answer basic questions about her beliefs and stonewalled repeatedly. We got many fewer direct answers than we have out of most Supreme Court hearings.”
Feinstein declined to answer questions about her conversation with Schumer and the criticism from progressives on Tuesday.
“Thank you very much,” the senator told HuffPost before walking into an elevator.
Feinstein is in line to take charge of the Judiciary Committee as chairwoman if Democrats win control of the Senate next year. The 87-year-old senator, who is serving her fifth term in the upper chamber, has faced questions from her colleagues about her ability to lead her party through the high-stakes Supreme Court battle and future judicial fights.
Republican leaders on Tuesday cited Feinstein’s comments from last week praising Graham’s handling of the hearings as further evidence why Barrett should be confirmed to the Supreme Court.
“She was very impressed with the nominee and thought that the hearing was conducted in a very fair and balanced way. I agree with her on that point. I think she’s absolutely right,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters.
Other GOP senators on the Judiciary Committee defended Feinstein, criticizing liberals for attacking a senator who they say was merely being civil to a member of the opposing party.
“She’s such an outstanding legislator. It’s totally unjustified,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who is the second oldest sitting member of the Senate. “She’s only three months older than I am. And I haven’t announced that I’m not running for reelection.”
“They didn’t lay a glove on the judge so they’re showing their frustration on people like Sen. Feinstein,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) added of the backlash.
Graham, meanwhile, said he was “shocked and sad” to hear of the attacks on his fellow committee member.
“For some people, it’s not whether you agree with them, you have to hate the people they hate,” Graham said. “I feel terrible for her. She’s a good person.”
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