Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Wednesday she would support a new investigation into Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh should Democrats take control of the Senate in November’s elections.
The senator, speaking at a candidates’ forum Wednesday at the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California in San Francisco, also promised to push for more lenient immigration laws in the next session of Congress, where she could become chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee should Democrats win a majority.
The California Democrat defended her handling of Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, saying she heeded Christine Blasey Ford’s wish to keep decades-old sexual assault allegations secret, but had to adjust when they became public.
Ms. Feinstein said her hands were tied by GOP control of the process but it would be worth revisiting the claims in a new Congress.
“Oh, I’d be in favor of opening up the allegations, absolutely,” she said.
The longtime senator is trying to fend off a challenge from her left in state Sen. Kevin de Leon, who generally shares the same stance on issues but has said voters should turn away from Ms. Feinstein’s experienced hand and seek new blood to resist Republicans.
“There has been no action for decades in Washington,” Mr. de Leon said.
Mr. de Leon cast himself as a fighter, saying he had to lead on issues such as climate change and immigration as the Senate leader in Sacramento because his federal counterparts have fallen short.
“I wish Democrats in Washington would fight like hell for Dreamers,” he said, referring to illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. He said they should fight just as hard as Republicans do for their “stupid wall.”
He also thinks President Trump has proven himself unfit for office.
“We have a president that makes Richard Nixon look like a choir boy by comparison,” Mr. de Leon said. “I’ve always said very clearly that I support impeachment, for the legal standards.”
Ms. Feinstein, by contrast, focused on breaking the “lock” that Republicans have on all levels of government, saying a Democratic takeover could lead to good legislation.
That includes a comprehensive immigration overhaul with legal status for millions of illegal immigrants. Such bills have had a tough time getting a supermajority in the Senate and clearing the House.
“We’ve been there before,” she said.
Mr. de Leon said he would like to see reform, too, but warned that Mr. Trump would be a roadblock who constantly moves the goalposts, like Lucy from “Peanuts” repeatedly pulling away the football at the last moment.
“Charlie Brown falls down, square on his butt,” he said.
The clearest break between the candidates was on health care, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the Reuters news agency Wednesday that Republicans may revisit repealing Obamacare if the GOP retains its majority.
Mr. de Leon defended his pursuit of a government-run, single-payer system that covers everyone, saying if Congress can find money for wars and sweeping tax cuts, it can expand health coverage, which he views as a human right.
“I believe in Medicare for all, not Medicare for some,” he said.
Ms. Feinstein said Congress should move incrementally, by approving a government-run “public option” to compete with private plans in the insurance market, expanding Obamacare’s taxpayer-funded subsidies, lowering Medicare eligibility age to 55 from 65 and using the program for seniors to negotiate down the cost of prescription drugs.
On national security, Ms. Feinstein said she is focused on surprise terror attacks, North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and finding out what happened to journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government who disappeared after entering the Saudi consultant in Istanbul and is feared to be dead.
She said “action must be taken” against the Saudis if they harmed him.
Mr. de Leon, meanwhile, looked backward, saying Ms. Feinstein’s vote for the Iraq War resolution in 2002 paved the way for regional instability and the rise of the Islamic State. He said the money that went toward Middle East wars should have been spent on health care, debt-free college and investments on clean energy.
“This is the mess that we’ve been left with,” he said. “It’s been the disenfranchisement of almost an entire generation of Americans.”