Sen. Dick Durbin seeking top Democratic spot on Senate Judiciary Committee

Sen. Dick Durbin seeking top Democratic spot on Senate Judiciary Committee

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said he will seek to replace Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., as leader of the Senate Judiciary Committee next year. | Susan Walsh/Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Monday said she will step down from her Senate Judiciary Committee leadership role next year.

WASHINGTON — After Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., announced Monday she will step down from her Judiciary Committee leadership role next year, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said he will seek to replace her — with his seniority putting him next in line for the spot.

The announcement of Feinstein, 87, comes in the wake of criticisms that she was not tough enough in handling the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett and other judicial nominations the Republicans have been jamming through the Senate.

Her hugging of Judiciary Committee Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at the end of the Barrett hearing was a sort of last straw for several progressive groups.

Feinstein said in a statement, “California is a huge state confronting two existential threats — wildfire and drought — that are only getting worse with climate change. In the next Congress, I plan to increase my attention on those two crucial issues. I also believe that defeating COVID-19, combating climate change and protecting access to health care are critical national priorities that require even more concentration.

“After serving as the lead Democrat on the Judiciary Committee for four years, I will not seek the chairmanship or ranking member position in the next Congress.”

She will remain a member of the committee.

Durbin said in a statement, “I intend to seek the top Democratic position on the Judiciary Committee in the 117th Congress.

“I have served on the Committee for 22 years, and I am its most senior member who does not currently serve atop another Senate Committee. We have to roll up our sleeves and get to work on undoing the damage of the last four years and protecting fundamental civil and human rights.

“For the last four years, Republicans leading the Senate Judiciary Committee have turned a blind eye to the worst abuses of the Trump era. While President Trump assaulted the Constitution, the Judiciary Committee abdicated its oversight responsibilities and became little more than a conveyor belt to rubberstamp ideological and largely underqualified judicial nominees. The to-do list for the Senate Judiciary Committee is long, and of critical importance to the future progress of our country.”

Durbin already holds a major leadership position — he is the number two Democrat in the Senate. He has been the Democratic Whip — a reference to the chore of rounding up votes — since 2005.

On Nov. 10, Democratic senators voted to retain Democratic Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Durbin in their roles after the next Congress is sworn-in next year.

The Senate Democratic rules do not prohibit a member from serving as the top member on a committee or subcommittee and holding a party leadership role at the same time.

Seniority plays a major role in passing the baton on committees.

After Feinstein, the next in line on the Judiciary panel is Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, who already is the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee and is not going to switch. Then it’s Durbin, and after him, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.

Control of the Senate is up for grabs, with the outcome depending on the Jan. 5 Georgia runoff election with two Senate seats in play.

If the Democrats win both seats they will flip the Senate with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris providing the tie-breaking vote.

If the Democrats take control, they will chair all of the committees and have the power to confirm Biden’s judicial appointments.

WHINING WILLIE WILSON

Durbin won another term with 54.6% of the vote, according to the Associated Press. Yet Scott Winslow, a spokesman for serial candidate Willie Wilson, with 4% of the vote, suggested to Illinois Playbook that his “gut” told him Wilson should have done better in the Black wards of Chicago and there was “something wrong with the numbers.”

Winslow provided not a crumb of evidence for his allegation.

Wilson failed to win the 5% vote needed to establish the independent “Willie Wilson Party” he created.

On Nov. 13, Wilson filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections papers to create the “Independent Democratic Organization” political action committee.

Durbin’s campaign manager, Greg Bales, said in a statement, ”In a move straight from Donald Trump’s playbook, Willie Wilson’s spokesman is baselessly attempting to cast doubt on the results of the Illinois election.

“We have come to expect these irresponsible allegations from the fraud in the White House— and now Wilson’s camp is parroting Trump and his Republican cronies. Candidates should remember this should they ever consider accepting support from Wilson’s new alleged ‘Democratic’ PAC in the future.”