Republicans sure don't sound like they're about to block Democrats from filling Dianne Feinstein's Judiciary Committee seat

  • Dianne Feinstein's seat on the Judiciary committee is now empty in the wake of her death.

  • Some fear that Republicans will block Democrats from replacing her — which they could try to do.

  • But several GOP senators told Insider on Friday that they have no interest in doing that.

In the wake of Sen. Dianne Feinstein's death, questions are swirling over how the California Democrat's now-empty seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee will be filled.

Some commentators have suggested that Republicans will try to block the appointment of a new Democratic senator to the committee, leaving it without a deadlocked 10-10 margin. That would allow the GOP to slow down — though not entirely halt — the confirmation of many of President Joe Biden's judicial nominees.

Could Republicans theoretically do this? Yes.

Do they sound like they're going to do it? Not really.

"Democrats have a majority in the Senate. They won the election, so they are entitled to a majority on all the committees," said Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, a Republican member of the Judiciary committee. "I don't know on what grounds you would say, 'well, not on Judiciary, though.'"

In order to change the membership of any Senate committee, the chamber has to pass a resolution to make that change official. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer can do so via a simple voice vote if no Republicans object to the change.

But all it takes is one Republican senator to object, forcing the whole chamber to vote on the matter.

In that case, 60 senators would need to vote to begin debate on the motion. That means that under the current 50-49 Democratic majority, at least 40 Senate Republicans could then vote against considering the resolution, effectively voting to keep the Judiciary committee deadlocked.

Yet when asked about the possibility by Insider on Friday, some appeared not to even realize they had that power.

"That would be up to Democrats," said Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. When informed that the GOP could have a say in the matter, Johnson was dismissive. "Whatever."

And plenty more indicated a lack of interest in waging a fight over the seat.

"I don't think anyone's going to do that," said Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. "Some Democrat's gonna fill that spot."

"I assume it will be handled the same way it has traditionally been handled," said Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

"I would probably fall in line with what past Senate protocol has been," said Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana.

Not every Republican was so firm.

Sen. JD Vance of Ohio said it was up to Republicans on the Judiciary Committee and that he would "probably support" whatever decision they made. Sen. Todd Young of Indiana said he hadn't "processed that." And Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said he hadn't "thought about it."

"That's not really in my bailiwick," said Paul. "I'm sorry that she died, that's what I've been thinking about."

It would be highly unprecedented for Republicans to pick this fight anyway. Typically, filling committee seats are a relatively uncontroversial matter.

Just this week, the Senate passed a committee resolution via voice vote without fanfare, naming Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland as the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the wake of the indictment of Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the panel's previous chair.

Republicans did, however, object to a prior effort to temporarily replace Feinstein's spot on the Judiciary committee in April when she was absent for months with a bout of shingles.

That triggered fears among Democrats that Republicans might take the unprecedented step of holding her seat open if she resigned, leading some to call on her to stay in office, whatever the cost.

"The fact is simple: If Senator Feinstein resigns, Mitch McConnell gets to decide whether Democrats have a Senate Judiciary majority," Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island said on Twitter in June.

Whitehouse even doubled down on that sentiment as he commemorated her death on Friday, writing in a tweet that she "hung in bravely" to "protect our Judiciary majority."

But Hawley argued that the circumstances had changed now that Feinstein is dead.

"My view at the time was, 'that's totally unprecedented, we don't do proxies,'" said Hawley. "What the Democrats really wanted was to force her off the committee completely. I'm not gonna be part of that."

"She's gone now, though," said Hawley. "She is no longer alive. There's going to be a new senator from California."


Read the original article on Business Insider