Sen. Dianne Feinstein has no plans to become President Pro Tem of the U.S. Senate, which would have made her third in line for the presidential succession.
Feinstein, 89, told the Washington Post last month that if Democrats win control of the Senate, she would not be interested in the position held by the majority party’s longest-serving member in decades. Her office echoed that position to The Bee Tuesday.
Asked by The Bee Tuesday if she wanted the position, she gave the same answer three times: “I haven’t thought about it.”
However, she said last month, “I’ve never thought about being interim president, and I’m not interested in doing so at this point,” and her office said that statement stands now that Democrats will control the Senate in next year.
Feinstein, a former mayor of San Francisco, was first elected to the Senate in 1992. Earlier this month she became the woman with the longest tenure in Senate history, overtaking Maryland’s Barbara Mikulski.
The job of president is largely a ceremonial job, but an important one in the line of presidential succession. The presiding officer’s duties usually include opening the Senate, but the position has little influence on the Senate.
The position is currently held by retiring Sen. Patrick Leahy, 82, R-Vermont.
The line of succession after President Joe Biden, who turns 80 next week, is Vice President Kamala Harris, 58, followed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 82. If Republicans were to take control of the Senate next year, Sen. Charles Gresley, 89, Republican of Iowa, was expected to be the presidential nominee.
If Pelosi or House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy become speaker in January and Feinstein takes the job, Biden’s next three successors will be Californians.
Whether Feinstein would take the job was a delicate question. She has publicly struggled with memory problems at one time, and in 2020 decided to step down as the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Some Democrats were horrified by her comments following President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nomination hearing for Annie Connie Barrett.
Feinstein praised the way Chair Lindsay Graham, RSC, conducted the hearing and hugged him. “It was one of the best hearings I’ve been a part of,” Feinstein said.
A few weeks later she said she will not search remain the committee’s top Democrat.
“California is a huge state facing two existential threats — wildfire and drought — that are only getting worse with climate change,” she said at the time. “At the next Congress, I plan to draw attention to these two critical issues.”
On Tuesday, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office quoted her statement to the Post and said that as far as he knew, Schumer had not discussed the matter with her.
Asked if there had been talk of Feinstein taking the post, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, the senior member of the Judiciary Committee, said: “I don’t know.”
Next in line for a professional job is Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington. She is 72 years old and is especially active in childcare and family issues.
Feinstein continues to serve on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, where most spending decisions come before the full Senate, as well as the Intelligence Committee.