This caused some grumbling about whether this was too much for a senator, even though Durbin doesn’t currently have a challenger to the Justice Committee position. The next Democrat, Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island senator, said Tuesday he expects the inheritance issue to be decided by the House of Representatives, adding, “I hold the House of Representatives’ decision.”
Durbin is popular on the House of Representatives and, due to his seniority, may already be closing the job. But some prominent progressors are urging Whitehouse to get a job because of his reputation as a political brawler – the latest example of the party fighting for its future in the post-Trump era.
“Nothing personal against Durbin, but with Feinstein’s departure, I think we need new blood, new style, and approaches. Senator Whitehouse could breathe new energy into the committee. ”Said Faiz Shakir, who led Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and was an assistant to former Democratic leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, described Whitehouse as “one of the most strategic and skillful fighters in the democratic Caucasus,” saying he assumes Durbin would be “very happy to have a leading role in justice as Senator Whitehouse. . ”
Brian Fallon, who led the progressive Demand Justice group, also praised Whitehouse after Feinstein announced his plans. Fallon called on Feinstein to continue the confirmatory hearings of Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court.
No Democrat in the Judiciary has commented on this story, which is a sign of sensitivity to the issue. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.), who once served on the Justice Committee, did not even publicly discuss the gap beyond Feinstein’s praise.
Senate Democrats have a hard time negotiating the matter during the Thanksgiving break. But there will likely be a conversation among lawmakers about whether the party should also lead a decision-making committee in 2nd place.
“A conversation is needed,” said Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), A No. 3 Democrat in the Senate. “Obviously, we have a lot of great talent on our board and our voices that need to be listened to and used in leadership to be as effective as possible.”
Some progressive groups are left out. Nan Aron, chairman of the Alliance for Justice Liberal Group, said he would support either Durbin or Whitehouse, classifying both as “failed”. Meagan Hatcher-Mays, Indivisible’s director of democracy policy, did not take a position, but said Feinstein’s successor has a high job.
“What can’t happen is a return to the old bad times when Democrats played with outdated rules that were easily exploited by Republicans,” Hatcher-Mays said.
Durbin is one of the most spectacular Democrats on issues overseen by the committee, including immigration and criminal justice reform. Vanita Gupta, chief civil rights officer under President Barack Obama, who now chairs the Civil and Human Rights Leadership Conference, praised Durbin’s plans to get to work and called him a “champion of civil and human rights”.
Several assistants said Durbin would not have issued a statement Monday night announcing that he would continue this work if he did not already have the support to win. After all, he is the party’s chief vote counter.
“I’ve been a member of the committee for 22 years, and I’m the oldest member who doesn’t currently serve on top of another senate committee,” Durbin said shortly after Feinstein’s announcement. “We need to raise our fingers and get to work on repairing the damage of the last four years and protecting fundamental civil and human rights.”
Durbin is a pleasant and well-liked member of the Democratic Caucasus, with deep ties to Republicans – a valuable commodity in a divided government. He is one of the Capitolium’s most eloquent senators, often dealing with journalists at length for a day, pushing the party’s message in his sheer style. Having served in both the House and the Senate, he knows every nook and cranny of the Capitol; sometimes he leaves his security details as he walks around the rooms.
Durbin boasts a long liberal record, but Whitehouse is a more militant fighter on the Judiciary Committee. A former Rhode Island lawyer, Whitehouse’s close ally in Schumer, has made attacks on dark money in politics a signature issue. If Whitehouse takes on the top job, it would increase the likelihood that Democrats would embrace the GOP’s hard-line tactics. Democrats continue to push for the GOP to block the Supreme Court’s vacancy under Obama and rush through Barrett’s Day ahead of the presidential election.
Republicans “set a very clear precedent:“ If we can, we will, ”Whitehouse said in an interview this month. “If you live by the rule,‘ If we know, we’ll do it, ’you’ve lost your position to come back later if you’re never in the majority and say to another majority,‘ Yes, I know, but you shouldn’t. “
Durbin or Whitehouse could become president if Democrats win two runs of the Georgian Senate on January 5th. Even in the minority, the Supreme Judicial Democrat must work closely with incumbent President Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to process Biden’s judicial candidates and reverse the oversized stamp of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the courts.
Durbin has previously made an agreement with Grassley, most recently in 2018 on a new criminal justice reform law. The top position of the Committee on Justice would also serve as the long-term goal for Durbin, the largest platform to pursue immigration reform to date.
As a whip, Durbin already has a spacious office on the third floor of the Capitol with stunning views of Washington and a security detail. He has been in the position since 2005, impressively in the long run.
This is partly because Democrats treat old age differently than Senate Republicans, who limit leadership positions, presidential positions, and the role of members in three full cycles — with the exception of the party leader. When Senator John Thune (RS.D.) won the whip in 2019, he resigned as chairman of the Senate Trade Committee.
It is not clear whether Democrats are willing to reform such rules. And these decisions, including committee positions, could be delayed until the Georgia elections in January.
Durbin had faced uncertainty before. In 2016, Murray refused to rule out a whip race until the party’s leadership election. Schumer and Durbin, on the other hand, became embroiled in a long controversy over whether they had reached an agreement to support each other in the two most important workplaces of the electorate. While Durbin lagged behind Schumer in becoming party leader, he was in 2nd place all the way.
Eventually, Democrats may choose to experience the tension of the committee struggle as Biden prepares to occupy the White House. Some outside groups can never be satisfied anyway. The Sunrise movement on Tuesday reiterated its call for Feinstein to resign from the Senate and not just resign from the Justice Committee.
Evan Weber, the group’s political director, did not directly support Durbin’s alternative, but called on “Chuck Schumer and the Senate Democrats to put an end to the senior leadership’s committee leadership”.