Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) should not resign from office, arguing that Republicans probably would block Democrats from filling a vacancy on the Judiciary Committee and stall President Biden’s judicial nominees.
“Here’s the dilemma: The Republicans will not agree to add someone else to the Judiciary Committee if she retires,” Clinton told Time magazine on Monday during an interview with Charlotte Alter at the Chicago Humanities Festival. “I want you to think about how crummy that is. So I don’t know what’s in her heart about whether she really would or wouldn’t, but right now, she can’t. Because if we’re going to get judges confirmed, which is one of the most important continuing obligations that we have, then we cannot afford to have her seat vacant.”
Feinstein, the oldest senator at 89, recently returned to the Senate after a two-month absence. She is recovering from shingles, encephalitis and Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which causes facial paralysis. She has announced that she will not seek another term next year.
During her absence, some Democrats called for Feinstein to resign from her seat, a move she rebuffed. She did agree to have her seat on the Judiciary Committee filled temporarily, but Republicans blocked Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) from replacing her on the panel in April with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.).
Several of Biden’s nominees were held up during Feinstein’s absence.
Clinton, 75, acknowledged that Feinstein has suffered several health setbacks that have kept her away from Washington
Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, added that things would be different if Republicans were to “do the decent thing and say: ‘Well, this woman was gravely ill, she had just lost her husband to cancer … of course we will let you fill this position if she retires.’”
“But they won’t say that,” she said. “So what are we supposed to do? All these people pushing her to retire: Fine, we get no more judges? I don’t think that’s a good trade-off.”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), in a tweet, agreed with Clinton’s assessment.
“Hillary gets it: the same rule Republicans used to block replacing Dianne on Judiciary while she was ill can also be used if she fully resigns from committee or from Senate,” Whitehouse said.
While Clinton and other Democrats argue that Republicans probably would not allow a new senator to be seated on the Judiciary Committee if Feinstein resigns, Senate Republicans have not explicitly made such a threat.
Some Republicans, including Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), said at the time that if Feinstein were replaced by a new senator, that would be a different situation and suggested it would not draw the same opposition.
However, Republicans led by then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked President Barack Obama from filling a vacancy on the Supreme Court after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016.
A spokesman for Feinstein declined to comment on Clinton’s remarks.
In the same Time interview, Clinton was asked whether Democratic leadership is getting too old.
“I do not believe in broad questions about age,” Clinton said. “If you don’t want to vote for somebody, don’t vote for them. But don’t impose some artificial check on the voters. I don’t buy this whole debate. And, frankly, a lot of the people pushing it, I don’t understand what their real agenda is, because part of it is a bank shot against Joe Biden. And I think Joe Biden has done a very good job.”