Who will replace Dianne Feinstein? Here's what happens after the senator's death, and what it means for Democrats.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein's death will temporarily narrow Senate Democrats' razor-thin majority.

  • California's Gavin Newsom previously said he would name a Black woman as Feinstein's replacement.

  • Newsom said he wouldn't name a replacement who wants to win a full term.

This story was originally published on September 29, 2023.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has died after months of health struggles, meaning Gov. Gavin Newsom of California is now expected to appoint her replacement.

What happens next?

By law, Newsom is responsible for appointing her replacement. Before her death, he repeatedly said he would nominate a Black woman to serve out the remainder of Feinstein's term which ends in 2025. Following Vice President Kamala Harris' election, there are no Black women in the Senate. Newsom recently qualified his commitment by saying he only wanted a caretaker to serve out the time. Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee, a trailblazing Black lawmaker who's running to replace Feinstein, has expressed frustration over this limitation. Before Newsom qualified his vow, Lee was widely viewed as a leading candidate to replace Feinstein.

Newsom will probably move quickly. A rising star in the party, all eyes will be on him. He tapped Sen. Alex Padilla just more than a month after Election Day 2020 to replace Harris. It's likely he'll move as quickly, if not at an even quicker pace, given the months he's had to prepare for this possibility.

Senate Democrats' majority is going to narrow temporarily

Democrats now hold an effective 50-49 majority, including the three independent senators that caucus with them. The most pressing business before the Senate is making sure the federal government does not shut down at midnight on Sunday. There's strong bipartisan agreement that the best way would be to pass a stopgap measure, meaning it's unlikely that losing one vote will hurt Democrats immediately. But House Republicans appear unlikely to be able to pass a workable stopgap, meaning the government may shut down regardless of what the Senate does.

Feinstein also leaves seats open on powerful committees

As one of the most senior Democrats, Feinstein held seats on the powerful Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer would need to get the full chamber to approve her replacement(s). Traditionally speaking, the Senate approves those changes with little drama. But earlier this year, Senate Republicans blocked Democrats from temporarily removing Feinstein from the Judiciary panel as her health struggles delayed some of President Joe Biden's federal judicial nominees.

At the time, leading Republicans, including Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, told Insider they would block Democrats from replacing Feinstein on the Judiciary Committee if the time came.

For now, a vacancy would probably make it harder for Democrats to quickly confirm more lower-court nominees. Even in the event a Supreme Court justice was to die, Democrats could still force a full vote on a potential Biden nominee — this scenario played out when the committee held a tied vote on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Schumer used a procedural move to force Jackson's nomination out of the committee. She was, of course, later confirmed to the high court.

Californians are going to vote, a lot

According to state law, Californians will now vote four times next year over the future of one US Senate seat. Since Feinstein died more than 148 days before the next scheduled primary, California is set to hold a special election primary and a special election to fill out a portion of Feinstein's term that ends in 2025.

California has a so-called "jungle primary" system, meaning that the top two statewide or congressional candidates, regardless of party, face off in the general election.

Who is running to replace Feinstein?

Three major Democrats were already running to win a full term. They are Lee and two of her House Democratic colleagues, Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter. Before Feinstein's death, Schiff was leading the field. A former chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Schiff rose to national fame during Trump's first impeachment when he served as one of the House managers. His campaign also has a staggering $29.8 million on hand. Porter, a protege of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, went viral during the Trump administration for her use of a whiteboard as she grilled various top officials.

James Bradley, a corporate executive, is the leading Republican candidate. Some in the GOP have also pushed the former Los Angeles Dodgers great Steve Garvey to run.

Correction: October 2, 2023 — An earlier version of this story included a reference, later removed, to Sen. Joe Manchin that misidentified which state he represents. He's from West Virginia, not California.

Read the original article on Business Insider