California Senator Dianne Feinstein announced her stepping down from her position as the Senate Judiciary Committee’’s top Democrat on Monday after criticism of her actions and handling of the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Top Democrat

The 87-year-old senator said that she would no longer pursue the position in the next Congress and did not explain the details why. However, she revealed she would focus on issues of wildfires, droughts, and the effects of climate change. Feinstein noted that these issues are major concerns in her home state.

Feinstein said she plans to continue servicing the country on the Judiciary, Appropriations, and intelligence panels. However, she noted that she would no longer seek the position of top Democrat on the committees.

In a statement, the senator said, “I will continue to do my utmost to bring about positive change in the coming years.” Feinstein has held the position of top Democrat in the Judiciary Committee since 2017.

The Senate’s No.2 Democrat, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, said he aimed to replace Feinstein as the top Democrat of the committee. Currently, Durbin is the third-highest seniority on the panel, tailing Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, who is the appropriations committee’s top Democrat.

During the Barrett hearings, Durbin organized the Democratic response and strategized an effort to deal with the criticism of the nominee. Every day, he led news conferences in between the hearings attended by other Democrats while Feinstein was usually absent.

In a statement, Durbin said, “We have to roll up our sleeves and get to work on undoing the damage of the last four years and protecting fundamental civil and human rights.” His office noted he was free to both be the top Democrat on Judiciary while simultaneously serving his position’s duties.

Powerful presence

First elected in 1992, Feinstein has been a dominant presence within the Democratic Party and was the former chairwoman of the intelligence panel. She continued to support bipartisanship despite the continuous growth of liberals within her state.

Heightened tensions during the Barrett hearings stopped when Feinstein conducted a simple gesture of embracing Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham to mark the end of the proceedings. Additionally, Feinstein thanked Graham for a job well done despite the Democrats severely opposing Barrett’s nomination to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

At the end of the hearing, Feinstein said, “This has been one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in.” Some influential liberals quickly saw her actions as being doubtful of whether she was right for the job at hand.

The executive director of Demand Justice, Brian Fallon, said the time for Feinstein to resign from her leadership position has come. He added that if she did not voluntarily go, her colleagues would have intervened, the San Francisco Gate reported.

Some fellow Democrats were also disturbed with Feinstein’s actions during Barrett’s first confirmation hearing for an appeal’s court held in 2017. The senator said that Barrett’s defiance to abortion stemmed from her religious background. Feinstein continued to question if Barret’s doctrine would influence her on the bench and said, “dogma lives loudly within you.”

Republicans quickly capitalized on Feinstein’s statement, saying that it was offensive to devout Catholics. The consequences of the senator’s words caused Barrett to quickly gain influence and rise in the ranks of Supreme Court nominees.

Graham also took advantage of Feinstein’s grateful words at the end of Barrett’s hearings and using them to disparage Democrats. She said that being kind to others and the actions that they took is what the Democrats are using to force Feinstein out of office.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer expressed his gratitude to Feinstein for her extended leadership and contributions to the nation. He said that her experience and long relationship with President-elect Joe Biden would continue to support the caucus and the nation.