DiFi and the Silly Season of Senate Committee Music Chairs

A little over an hour ago, there was some rather notable news tweeted out by CNN:

Intel cte’s @SenFeinstein will give up the chair and move to Judiciary, source tells @CapitolHillCNN. @SenatorReid to announce today

I have talked to both sources at both the Senate Judiciary Committee and Personnel offices and have yet to hear a denial. This is, then, significant news as to a complete reshuffling of key Majority Senate Leadership assuming it continues to bear out.

First off, a tenured Senator like Feinstein does not leave a high value Committee Chairmanship without another, or something higher, on the offer. CNN said she it is to “move to Judiciary”. But DiFi has long been a member of the SJC, that can only portend she will then become Chairman of Judiciary.

Ryan Grim at Huffington Post has also picked up this shuffle, and beat me to the punch by a few minutes:

If Feinstein does take over leadership of the Judiciary Committee, that could ease the passage in the Senate of a renewed assault weapons ban, which was passed under President Bill Clinton in 1994 but expired in 2004. The shooting rampage on Friday in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 children and six adults were murdered by a gunman with a military-style assault weapon and high-capacity magazines, has renewed calls for stricter gun control legislation.

On Tuesday, speaking in the Capitol before the party’s weekly caucus lunch, Feinstein told reporters who had asked her whether she will jump to Judiciary, “Keep tuned. I think it is [going to become open], and I think it’ll happen.”

On Monday, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) who was the chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, passed away at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Now that Inouye’s post is empty, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is rumored to be looking at taking over Appropriations — in turn opening up the leadership slot at Judiciary. Feinstein could then move from her current spot as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee to chair Judiciary.

That is good, fast reporting and coincides with what I can discern. And Appropriations Chair is a long time traditional home for the Senate Pro-Tem, which Pat Leahy became with yesterday’s passing of Inouye.

So, what about SSCI? Next in line would, by seniority, be Jay Rockefeller. But, as Mother Jones’ Nick Baumann pointed out, Rockefeller gave up leadership at Intel nearly three years ago to take over the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee helm, and there is no reason to think he would double back. That gave a brief glimmer of hope that Ron Wyden might get the nod at SSCI, but HuffPo’s Grim, in a tweet, thinks he is more likely to take over the helm of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for the outgoing Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, who did not seek reelection. That would mean the next senior Democrat on SSCI as Barbara Mikulski of Maryland.

Now, if I were Wyden, I would want the SSCI job over Energy. It is likely most progressives would like him there as well, which is why the smart money likely says Reid talks him into the Energy Chair.

So, we are into the Congressional equivalent of Formula One silly season; i.e. the end of the year shuffling of drivers before the season is really over. The one real wildcard here is Wyden.

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.
15 replies
  1. bmaz says:

    Note that for all the thinking that DiFi to SJC may help with gun reform, remember Pat Leahy was the one worried about electronic privacy and Feinstein may not prove nearly as concerned.

  2. Arbusto says:

    At least the dealings of the slime ball that is my Senator will be slightly more transparent at Judiciary.

  3. Kathleen says:

    Have so much respect for Leahy especially when he voted against the Iraq war resolution. Feinstein voted for and what were the articles written about her family and Iraq war profittering? During the Eric Holder hearing which I attended she had so much bling on that every time the lights hit her bling it was blinding in the audience. During that hearing Feinstein, Leahy, Feingold and Holder were saying “no one is above the law” so many times I lost count. Was sitting next to Colonel Anne Wright during that hearing and she was laughing as I marked on a sheet of paper how many times they were repeating that meaningless line

  4. JohnLopresti says:

    The Vermont senator must have a collection of chits to call in Appropriations in both congressional chambers. That’s to be a skirmished zone these next two years. Hopefully, Democrats are strategically adroit and sufficiently vocal in 2013 to ease the way to a more competitive House of Representatives the following autunm after elections.

    Wyden might carry some weight in the environmental legislation and regulation contexts. I hear Oregon has lots of wind potential, and possibly some potential to develop and deploy other sustainable new technologies not part of the petrol cycles of yore.

    Feinstein, of course, has a difficult history for second amendment issues. It’s quite personal for her. And she has been a noble soul in that regard. Yet, ask the locals who was it who showed up and was most cheerful every Fleet Week on the Bay, and anticipated the Blue Angels aerial display withal. As supe and mayor, Ms. Feinstein was a key personage at those events for years. I do not know her family history. She lived in a pretty house out toward the ocean, relatively modest by the standards of the nearby dwellings extending into a quite affluent enclave. It’s a very meditative part of the City. The ocean weather dominates all, the fogs, the mild sun, the quiet, the sense that the entire neighborhood actually is situated on a sentinel-like bluff eight miles from downtown; the little rolling mesa begins beyond the Golden Gate and descends to wild surf at the opening of the Bay where seals hang out and citizens have a few miles of sand beaches reaching south toward a much less urban Peninsula geography. The surname of the senator’s spouse also belonged to a quite famous icecream afternoon hangout long ago, in a neighborhood which morphed into some kind of a new lifestyle haven. Yet, I still have fond memories of a strawberry sundae amid amply educated, fur-wrapped damsels and rich folks with time before serious pursuits way far away in downtown where the monumental auditoriums serve the societal and political cognoscenti.

    FISA re-legislation, as I understand it, remains in negotiation stage. The torture program has ended under the first term of the President. Judge Lamberth’s September of GTMO and DoD for trying to make habeas counsel perform yet further contortions for delivery of Hamdan-case guarantees to ‘detainees’ remains viable, according to a fairly recent review by Steve Vladeck.

    Those are my reflections about the playbook the Nevada senator is developing. However, perhaps sharing some of bmaz’s concern, paramount for the Democratic party right now seems to be letting the President lead the way into a new generation of leadership to invigorate congress. It’s too easy to present the same antediluvian sparring partners from among the Democratic party membership of congress as the most effective opponents of the Paul Ryan and Karl Rove strategies emanating from the other side of the aisle. Ending civil rights protections and voter rights, as welll as environmental regulation, all efforts of the 1970s clearly are primary initiatives of the postTeaParty world of US conservatives. I like very much what some of Obama’s agencies have done in the world of finance, too. Mary Schapiro is moving along. But foreign-corrupt-practices-act-based activism of the current administration keeps trying to adjust and gain purchase on the ingenious world of global finance. Ryan’s coterie is not gonna destroy southern European economies thru defaulting on US debt and then label it some sloganized term like a cliff. Let’s see what the senators from Vermont and Nevada can do to present to the people what the Ryan-Rove schemes fundamentally try to do. It’s quite a few months since Shelby County Alabama launched its salvo onto the Scotus system, and TX has joined in. I believe two other states are into the fray, as well. These folks in one dimension are working to constrict ballot access, yet are asking CJ JGRobertsJr to parse modern history, especially a rendering of it as characterized in monopoly press…?who is trying to buy LA Times right now?…as proof prejudice has evanesced over the “generation” which grew up between the time of the Selma march in spring 1965 and the long lines at voting stations in FL, and OH in 2012. What delusion! I hope CJ Roberts reprises his jaunty independent spirit in NFIB v Sebelius, and gives justice Kennedy reason to examine a wide landscape of argument in the Shelby County attempt to justify artful gerrymandering.

    There’s lots more to the plans for next year in congres; and much of it is front-loaded, so to speak. First come senate rules, perhaps.

  5. orionATL says:

    i have zero respect for leighe for repeatedly allowing truly in competent rightt-wing judges to be appointed to appealsnpositions.

    leighe represents what daschle, lieberman, and obama represent – bumbling, incompetent, deal -seeking at any price.

    my guess is that feinstein is be
    sent over to run sjqq the admin can get tbe dozens of judicial appointments made that lq
    at have been hanging fire for several years of obama1.

    w

    w

    q
    q

  6. orionATL says:

    typing a comment on an amazon kindle fire is an exercise in total frustration
    .

    i have zero respect for leahy for repeatedly allowing truly incompetent right-wing judges to be appointed to appeals positions.

    leahy represents what daschle, lieberman, and obama represent – bumbling, incompetent, deal-seeking-at-any-price senators.

    my guess is that feinstein is being sent over to run sjcomm so the admin can get the dozens of judicial appointments made that lhave been hanging fire for several years of obama1.

    by inference, not personal knowledge, i’d guess this represents a grade of “d” or “f” for the bumbling avuncular senator.

    might he have alz?
    Leave a Reply

  7. P J Evans says:

    @orionATL:
    feinstein is much more likely to go along with the admin’s wishes (that is, to give them whatever they want, while providing legal fig leaves for them to hide behind).

  8. Vadranor says:

    Don’t forget that if John Kerry is appointed to State, that begins another chain reaction. The Senator on Foreign Affairs next in line is Barbara Boxer, who if she takes this helm would have to give up the Environment Committee. If she decided to keep Environment, the chairman of Foreign Relations would be Bob Menendez, with his ridiculous views on Cuba.

    If she does take the chair of Foreign Affairs, the next in line for Environment is Tom Carper, who would have to give up responsibility for Homeland Security/Governmental Affairs. Mark Pryor would be next in line for that committee.

  9. JohnLopresti says:

    @P J Evans: I agree with all the years of criticism of the current president for outdoing most historical moderates at their concession tradecraft. My perspectives mostly were regarding pending legislation. But the advent of the second term for Obama might have so many personnel roster changes that committee composition, at least until January 2015, will be a truly fun Formula One playground for pols with pole position inside the beltway. I remember bmaz’s reflecting quickly about personnel changes at Scotus during an Obama second term. JBalkin has written an interesting speculative meditation on judge Bork recently, during this week of the judge’s demise; there

  10. JohnLopresti says:

    I am glad for the discussions of senator Feinstein’s natural assets historically in her work on various committees; especially in the light of senator Leahy’s declaration of his intent to stay chair of senate judiciary committee. Maybe Obama’s second term will see another supreme court justice nomination process. That’s an encouraging prospect. I have not followed very closely sen Leahy’s work over the many years he’s been involved with SJC, but even with his standard New Englander traits of preferring to be a private person and taking a liberal political line that stays within the bounds of congressional tradition, I was happy to see the news he is staying in SJC. Feinstein could be too conservative an influence as leader of SJC, compared to Leahy. And, I remember the senator’s terse but difficult reply to EW which she reported from a hallway conversation about whether the perpetration of the anthrax poisoning enterprise was one or more than one person; Leahy simply agreed with EW, it’s too much of a stretch to let the record of the closed-case file remain as the sole version of how Leahy’s office got mailed anthrax powder. Leahy still believes iit was done by more than one individual.

    It’s probably one of those dossiers that will stay classified until several iterations of an initial 50-year sequestration. In the case of the Nixon materials that a college prof tried to pry loose with a foia recently, the way I recall the government classification based denials to produce the documents, the excuses involved more than just sullying the names of involved people who are still alive; it also alluded to the possible plight of relatives of deceaseed persons from the Watergate scandal.

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