Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s death does not appear likely to cost Senate Democrats their upper hand when it comes to President Joe Biden’s judicial nominations this Congress.
Democrats on the Judiciary Committee had a one-person majority with the California senator, and her absence earlier this year because of illness did delay committee votes on more controversial judicial nominees.
But several Senate Republicans on Friday gave no indication they would oppose a potential replacement for Feinstein on the Judiciary Committee, as they did earlier this year when she sought to temporarily step aside from the panel.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a committee member, said it’s a “prerogative of the Democratic leader to put who he wants on the Judiciary Committee.”
“The problem was there wasn’t a true vacancy before, and so there is now, sadly,” Cornyn said.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., also a committee member, said he would think that Democrats would be entitled to put somebody on the panel, “whether it’s somebody who comes off another committee or whether it’s the new senator from California.”
“So I don’t have a problem with that,” Hawley said.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the committee’s ranking Republican, had formally objected when Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer tried to make the temporary replacement earlier this year. Previously, Graham said circumstances would be different in the event of a resignation.
Asked on Friday how Feinstein’s passing might affect judicial nominations, Graham said he had not thought about the topic.
“I’m sure they’ll have a replacement coming,” Graham said.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said he hopes there will be continued cooperation from Republicans. And on the floor, he said, Democrats have Vice President Kamala Harris to break a tie.
The committee still voted to advance nominees when Feinstein was ill earlier this year. Last Thursday, with Feinstein voting by proxy, the committee voted to advance a district court nominee on a 13-8 vote and two circuit court nominees on 16-5 and 13-8 votes.
Also, there are already more than 30 judicial nominees who have been advanced from the committee and await action on the Senate floor.