Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California announced Monday that she will no longer be the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee when the new Congress convenes in January.
“After serving as the lead Democrat on the Judiciary Committee for four years, I will not seek the chairmanship or ranking member position in the next Congress,” she said in a statement.
While she will remain on the Judiciary panel, she will not seek to be chairman of any other committee, she said.
Politico first reported the decision.
The 87-year-old senator had been derided by progressives by not taking a harder line against the nomination of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, drawing fire particularly for her praise of Chairman Lindsey Graham’s handling of the hearings and for giving the South Carolina Republican a hug.
Her statement did not mention the Barrett hearings, instead saying she wanted to focus on other issues.
“California is a huge state confronting two existential threats — wildfire and drought — that are only getting worse with climate change. In the next Congress, I plan to increase my attention on those two crucial issues. I also believe that defeating COVID-19, combating climate change and protecting access to health care are critical national priorities that require even more concentration,” Ms. Feinstein said.
Sen. Richard Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the chamber, said he will claim the lead Democrat slot on the panel.
He said the committee has work to do unwinding President Trump’s actions.
“While President Trump assaulted the Constitution, the Judiciary Committee abdicated its oversight responsibilities and became little more than a conveyor belt to rubberstamp ideological and largely underqualified judicial nominees. The to-do list for the Senate Judiciary Committee is long, and of critical importance to the future progress of our country,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, who had a “long and serious” talk with Ms. Feinstein after the Barrett hearings, thanked her for her time on the panel.
“I am deeply grateful for Senator Feinstein’s leadership and contributions to our caucus and country as the Ranking Member on the Senate Judiciary Committee over the last four years,” the New York Democrat wrote in a statement.
It’s still up in the air whether the plum position on the panel, which would oversee the judge choices of presumed President-elect Joseph R. Biden, would be as the chairman or as ranking member.
Control of the Senate turns on two runoff elections in Georgia in January, both of which Democrats must win.
• Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.