Who would replace Feinstein? Has Newsom tied own hands?

  • With Feinstein not well, Newsom may have to appoint someone to her seat
  • In 2021, Newsom pledged to appoint a Black woman if the seat became vacant
  • Cross: It only makes sense that diversity would be reflected in the Senate

(NewsNation) — U.S. Sen Dianne Feinstein’s ongoing medical issues may mean that California Gov. Gavin Newsom would get to appoint someone else to complete her term. NewsNation host Dan Abrams says Newsom may already have his hands tied on who he can pick, based on his own political pledges.

In 2021, Newsom vowed that if Feinstein’s seat became vacant, he would appoint a Black woman to the position.

At the time, MSNBC’s Joy Reid asked: “If, in fact, Dianne Feinstein were to retire, will you nominate an African American woman to restore the seat that Kamala Harris is no longer in the United States Senate? And do you have a name in mind?”

Newsom replied: “We have multiple names in mind. And the answer is yes.”

Abrams pointed out that President Joe Biden made an “almost identical pledge” during his 2020 presidential campaign before nominating Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.

“I said at the time, Brown Jackson is objectively as qualified as anyone in the country for the position with a Democrat in the White House. But by promising a person of a particular race and gender, I believe that detracted from the appointment,” Abrams said. “I believe it does a disservice to qualified people.”

He continued: “When that person gets appointed, it no longer feels like it was based on merit. It feels like a quota pick.”

Democratic strategist Ameshia Cross finds it “very hopeful” that Newsom would choose a Black woman to fill Feinstein’s seat should a vacancy occur.

“I think that when we look at California, one of the most diverse states in America, it only makes sense that the diversity is reflected in the Senate,” Cross told Abrams. “Many Black voters and many Black people and Black organizations were quite frankly upset with Newsom for appointing Alex Padilla after the vice president ascended to that role, because they felt as though this was a seat that was held by a Black woman.”

She added: “I do think there’s something to be said about ensuring that the Senate reflects those who are actually the voters.”

Much remains unknown about the status of Feinstein’s growing list of health struggles. As the oldest member of Congress, she turns 90 next month and has given no sign she may resign in her current term. She announced that she will not run for reelection in 2024.

The race to fill Feinstein’s seat when her term ends in January 2025 is already underway in California. U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, who is Black, is running against two white Democratic representatives — Katie Porter and Adam Schiff.

Newsom reportedly has the authority to name a successor when filling a Senate vacancy. He could select one of the Senate candidates or pick a temporary caretaker, someone who holds the seat but is not a candidate.

In a recent interview, Newsom said he hopes he never has to make a decision to fill Feinstein’s seat.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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