California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein will become the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, making her the point-person on judicial confirmations for Senate Democrats.
The ranking member refers to the most senior member of the minority party on a given committee.
Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, the former ranking member, left his post on Judiciary to take a spot on the powerful Appropriations Committee. In her new post, Feinstein will play a major role in vetting President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees to the federal courts (including the U.S. Supreme Court), coordinating messaging and outreach on judicial selection, and brokering deals on confirmations. The Judiciary Committee is chaired by Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley.
“One of our first orders of business will be the consideration of a new attorney general and a new Supreme Court justice,” she wrote of the committee’s agenda. “After the unprecedented and disrespectful treatment of Merrick Garland—a moderate judge who should have been quickly confirmed—the committee will pay very close attention to proposed nominees to ensure the fundamental constitutional rights of Americans are protected.” (RELATED: Here Are The Early Favorites For Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee)
“When President-elect Trump is willing to support responsible policies and nominees, I’ll hear him out, but this committee has a vital role to protect the Constitution and scrutinize policies, senior officials and judges very carefully, and that’s what we intend to do,” she continued. “We simply won’t stand aside and watch the tremendous successes achieved over the past eight years be swept away or allow our nation’s most vulnerable populations to be targeted.”
Feinstein first joined the committee after Justice Clarence Thomas’s contentious confirmation battle in 1992. She is the first woman to assume the ranking member post on the committee. In addition to confirming nominees for the U.S. Department of Justice and the Supreme Court, there are currently 13 vacancies on the federal appeals courts.
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