The former San Francisco Mayor, who brought the city together after the assassination of Harvey Milk and George Moscone, is causing new rifts in the Democratic Party — with a hug.
Senator Dianne Feinstein received widespread criticism today for praising, and, astonishingly, hugging Republican Senator Lindsey Graham at the close of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings on Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
What’s wrong with hugs?
Well, during a hugely significant Supreme Court confirmation hearing, in the midst of a hotly contested and volatile election season, and with COVID-19 spreading like wildfire, a lot.
At least that’s what progressive activists are saying about the mask-less hug, which capped several days of hearings that were far more cordial than many Democrats would have liked.
Following Feinstein’s performance at the hearings, a leading progressive judicial activist group, Demand Justice, said they could no longer support her as the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“It is time for Sen. Dianne Feinstein to step down from her position leading Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee,” reads a petition calling for her resignation by Demand Justice executive director Brian Fallon. “Sen. Feinstein has undercut Democrats’ position at every step of this process, from undermining calls for filibuster and Court reform straight through to thanking Republicans for the most egregious partisan power grab in the modern history of the Supreme Court.”
Democratic activists, including Demand Justice, have been pleading with Feinstein to use all the tools at her disposal to block the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, which is taking place just days before the Nov. 3 election. Instead, Feinstein has emphasized decorum and norms, working to ensure these hearings proceeded much like any other.
If Coney Barrett is confirmed, she would give conservatives a six-to-three advantage on the Court, setting the stage for major legal changes on issues like abortion, gay rights, guns, and campaign finance. The current nomination process has been all the more painful for Democrats in light of Republicans’ successful effort to block the confirmation of President Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee, Merrick Garland, a full eight months before the 2016 election.
In this context, many Democrats were not happy to hear Feinstein thank Graham, a close ally of President Trump, for his leadership during the hearings.
“This has been one of the best Senate hearings I have participated in,” Feinstein told Graham before their embrace. “Thank you for your fairness and opportunity of going back and forth. It leaves one with a lot of hopes.”
Feinstein’s kind words about Graham were immediately seized upon by Republican leaders hoping to aid Graham in his competitive Senate race against Democrat Jamie Harrison, according to The Hill.
Graham, who has been in contact with people who have the coronavirus, has refused to get tested himself in recent days, leading to concerns that the hug may have endangered the 87-year-old Feinstein.