Dianne Feinstein is ‘open’ to filibuster reform, citing GOP ‘abuse’ of the Senate procedure

Dianne Feinstein
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) speaks during the confirmation hearing for then-Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen on January 19, 2021.

  • Dianne Feinstein said that she would be “open” to possible changes with the legislative filibuster.
  • The position is stark turnaround for the longtime Senate institutionalist.
  • Feinstein said that she is concerned about Republican ‘abuse’ of the procedural tool.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California on Friday said that she would be “open” to possible changes with the legislative filibuster, a departure from the longtime senator’s institutionalist leanings.

Feinstein, who was first elected to the Senate in 1992, has been leery of dramatically altering the procedural tool, instead pushing for bipartisan consensus on issues like gun control and the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

However, she said that if Senate Republicans “abuse the filibuster,” her position might shift.

“Ideally the Senate can reach bipartisan agreement on those issues, as well as on a voting rights bill,” she said in a statement. “But if that proves impossible and Republicans continue to abuse the filibuster by requiring cloture votes, I’m open to changing the way the Senate filibuster rules are used.”

Feinstein noted that President Joe Biden, who represented Delaware in the Senate for 36 years and has defended the Senate’s deliberative processes, including the filibuster, has himself come out in favor of a “talking filibuster.”

“I don’t think that you have to eliminate the filibuster; you have to do it, what it used to be when I first got to the Senate back in the old days,” Biden said in an ABC News interview earlier this week. “You had to stand up and command the floor, and you had to keep talking.”

Read more: https://www.businessinsider.com/biden-best-friends-congress-delaware-delegation-coons-carper-rochester-2021-3

Feinstein said that Biden’s idea was “worth discussing.”

She added: “I don’t want to turn away from Senate traditions, but I also don’t believe one party should be able to prevent votes on important bills by abusing the filibuster.”

While it isn’t Biden’s “preference” to end the filibuster, Senate Democrats are facing a raft of House-approved bills that include the sweeping voting reform bill known as H.R. 1 and the earliest elements of immigration reform, which are almost certain to be blocked by Senate Republicans.

The Senate is evenly split between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, with Democrats holding a majority due to Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote.

However, the Senate has a 60-vote threshold to advance legislation, and with the Republican caucus dominated by conservative lawmakers and the party still smarting over former President Donald Trump’s 2020 loss, legislative buy-in from the GOP on comprehensive bills will be difficult to come by.

Feinstein’s statement comes after she recently expressed concern about Democrats nuking the filibuster and Republicans enacting far-reaching legislation on the opposite political spectrum if they were to regain a majority in the Senate.

“I would say I’m undecided,” Feinstein told The Hill, adding that a GOP Senate majority “is a factor, one of the reasons why I’m hesitant.”

While many Senate Democrats have mulled over eliminating the filibuster, Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia have committed to keeping the procedure in place.

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Chuck Schumer had to tell Dianne Feinstein that she should step down as the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee twice because she forgot the first conversation they had, new report alleges

dianne feinstein
US Sen. Dianne Feinstein speaks as Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, Sen. Patrick Leahy, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal listen during a news conference in front of the US Capitol after a boycott of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the US Supreme Court on October 22, 2020 in Washington, DC.

  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer reportedly told Sen. Diane Feinstein, the oldest member of the US Senate, to step aside as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, according to a new report from the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer. 
  • Feinstein whose mental capacity has been questioned recently forgot the first conversation, sources told the New Yorker. 
  • She recently announced that she’d be stepping down as the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer reportedly spoke with Sen. Diane Feinstein twice to ask her to step aside from her leadership role on the Judiciary Committee on her own, but she forgot the first conversation, sources aware of the exchange told the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer. 

Feinstein had recently announced that she would be stepping down as the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee after she faced backlash from progressives for not being aggressive enough in the hearings to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. 

The US Senator from California, who is the oldest member of the Senate, was also mocked online after she asked Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey the same question twice during a hearing last month, prompting conversation on her mental capacity. 

Schumer wanted Feinstein to step aside from the committee on her own accord to preserve her dignity, according to Mayer’s report. Feinstein forgot the initial conversation with Schumer which prompted him to speak with her on the topic again, the report said. Efforts were also made to enlist her husband, Richard Blum for help, the New Yorker reported. 

 Read more: Meet Donald Trump’s new nemeses: The 15 prosecutors and investigators from New York who are primed to pepper the ex-president with history-making civil and criminal probes

One source told the New Yorker that Feinstein “wasn’t really all that aware of the extent to which she’d been compromised,” and that “it was hurtful and distressing to have it pointed out.”

Other aides told the New Yorker that Feinstein was “struggling” and having a hard time retaining short term memory. 

Neither Feinstein’s nor Schumer’s office responded to Business Insider’s request for comment at the time of publication. 

Read the full New Yorker story here »

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