Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the 87-year-old veteran Democrat, insisted on Tuesday that she is committed to serving out her full term in office even after California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he had a list of “multiple” potential replacements and would appoint a Black woman to replace her should she retire.
“There’s nothing to it,” Feinstein told CNN on Tuesday about Democratic governor’s remarks. “No,” she said when asked if she would retire before the end of her six-year term, which is set to expire at the end of 2024. “I have not discussed that with anybody, nobody has asked me any questions about it.”
“We’re very good friends. I don’t think he meant it the way some people thought,” Feinstein said when asked about the governor’s comments. The senator added, “You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.”
As she walked into the Senate chamber on Tuesday, Feinstein said “you’ll have to ask him” why Newsom said he already has names in mind to replace her.
Despite her stature within the party, Feinstein has faced growing questions about her ability to do her job, losing her post as the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee after her Democratic colleagues privately complained about her performance during the confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court last year. Had she held onto that post, she would have been the first woman to ever chair the Senate Judiciary Committee. But after discussions with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, Feinstein instead agreed to step aside from the powerful post, paving the way for the ascension of Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois to the chairmanship.
Feinstein rejected suggestions she’s not fit to do her job, telling CNN on Tuesday that she feels “absolutely” able to serve fully in her position, adding: “I think that’s pretty obvious.”
Newsom, who is facing a recall campaign, told MSNBC on Monday that he had “multiple names in mind” of Black women he would appoint to replace her until a special election was scheduled.
Newsom recently appointed former California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to fill Vice President Kamala Harris’s Senate seat, choosing the first Latino in state history for the role. The governor had been under intense pressure to choose a Black woman to replace Harris in light of the lack of diversity in the US Senate.
Prominent Black officials advocated for Newsom to pick either California Rep. Karen Bass, the then-chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, or Rep. Barbara Lee. Some social justice groups, including Black Lives Matter, have continued to press Newsom to not pick Rep. Adam Schiff for state attorney general, expecting that Health and Human Services secretary nominee Xavier Becerra will be confirmed.
Newsom said on ABC’s “The View” on Tuesday that he has “no expectation” that Feinstein will be “stepping aside,” and said that she is “lucid and focused” and “committed to the cause of fighting not only for our state as a representative and the senior senator of California, but this nation.”
In December, Feinstein defended her service, telling CNN when asked if she feels she’s still able to carry out her duties, “I do. I work hard. I have good staff. I think I am productive. And I represent the people of California as well as I possibly can.”
CNN’s Daniella Diaz and Alex Rogers contributed to this report.