Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is out as the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee amid recent criticism from members of her own party, as reported by Fox News.
Seeking to replace the 87-year-old senator is Sen. Dick Durbin (D-NY), who currently serves as minority whip.
“We have to roll up our sleeves”
In addition to losing a longtime fixture on the influential committee, Democrats will likely encounter some debate regarding the possible need to find a new minority whip if Durbin is successful in his bid to replace Feinstein.
A statement on Monday made his intentions clear.
“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,” he explained.
Widely respected within his own party, Durbin appears qualified to replace Feinstein and Senate Democrats would be hard-pressed to deny him the position.
“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,” he concluded.
Senate majority hangs in the balance
Despite the arguments in his favor, one potential obstacle in his path lies in disagreement over whether he should be permitted to maintain his position as minority whip if he takes over as a ranking member of a top Senate committee.
Furthermore, Durbin might not be pursuing this leadership position without any opposition. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) is reportedly in a position to replace Feinstein, though his relatively lower profile might impede his chances.
These assumptions stem from the forecast that the Senate will remain under GOP control, though the majority is still up for grabs ahead of two Georgia run-off elections that will decide the ultimate partisan makeup.
The outcome of these races could be a factor in the Democratic Party’s plan for replacing Feinstein. If Democrats remain in the minority, they could opt to keep Durbin as the minority whip while elevating someone like Whitehouse to the committee leadership role.
Should Democrats eke out a narrow governing majority, however, losing Durbin as minority whip could be of less concern without the need for his impassioned voice of opposition to GOP leaders.