Sen. Dianne Feinstein does not plan to seek to become President Pro Tem of the U.S. Senate, a position that would put her third in the line of presidential succession.
Feinstein, 89, told the Washington Post last month that if Democrats won control of the Senate, she would not be interested in the job, which in recent decades has been held by the longest-serving member of the majority party. Her office reiterated that position to The Bee Tuesday.
Asked by The Bee Tuesday if she wants the position, she answered three times the same way: “I haven’t thought about it.”
Last month, though, she said, “I’ve never thought about being the president pro tempore and I have no interest in it at this time,” and her office said that statement remains valid now that Democrats will control the Senate next year.
Feinstein, a former San Francisco mayor, was first elected to the Senate in 1992. Earlier this month she became the longest serving woman in Senate history, surpassing Maryland’s Barbara Mikulski.
President pro tem is a largely ceremonial job, but important in the line of presidential succession. The officeholder’s duties usually include opening a Senate session but the position comes with little Senate clout.
Currently holding the job is Sen. Patrick Leahy, 82, D-Vermont, who is retiring.
The line of succession after President Joe Biden, who turns 80 next week, is Vice President Kamala Harris, 58, then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 82. If Republicans had taken control of the Senate next year, the president pro tem was expected to be Sen. Charles Grassley, 89, an Iowa Republican.
Should Pelosi or House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy become Speaker in January, and Feinstein took the pro tem job, the next three successors to Biden would all be Californians.
Whether Feinstein would take the job has been a delicate matter. She has struggled publicly at time with memory issues, and in 2020, she decided to step down as top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Some Democrats were aghast after her remarks following the hearing on President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nomination of Any Coney Barrett.
Feinstein praised how Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., conducted the hearing and embraced him. “This has been one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in,” Feinstein said then.
A few weeks later, she said she would not seek to remain as the committee’s top Democrat.
“California is a huge state confronting two existential threats — wildfire and drought — that are only getting worse with climate change,” she said at the time. “In the next Congress, I plan to increase my attention on those two crucial issues.”
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office Tuesday cited her statement to the Post, and said to its knowledge Schumer has not discussed the matter with her.
Asked if there has been any talk about Feinstein taking the position, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, a senior Judiciary Committee member, said “Not that I’m aware of.”
Next in line for the pro tem job is Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington. She’s 72 and has been particularly active in child care and family issues.
Feinstein continues to serve on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, where most spending decisions are made before being considered by the full Senate, as well as the Intelligence Committee.
- Sen. Feinstein could be 3rd in line to succeed Biden. But she’s not interested
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