DiFi incurs fellow Dems’ wrath

feinstein.jpgA lot of Democrats are angry today at U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who yesterday voted with nine Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans to send to a floor vote Leslie Southwick‘s nomination to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Without her vote, the nomination wouldn’t have advanced.

Organizations such as the Congressional Black Caucus, People for the American Way and the Alliance for Justice have ardently opposed Southwick’s appointment due to what they call his disturbing record on civil rights and social justice issues.

The Hill reports that Feinstein — who’d voted against both of Bush’s nominees to the Supreme Court — came under intense pressure to vote for Southwick from Republicans who serve with her on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

One Capitol Hill staffer told me Feinstein wouldn’t return the Congressional Black Caucus’ calls, which sought a chance to express the caucus’ concerns to her, but did find the time to meet personally with Southwick. The CBC held a news conference yestereday decrying the vote, and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland was among those who spoke:

lee3.jpg“As a Californian and as a person of color, I am doubly disappointed that a Senator from my home state, Senator Feinstein, would vote with the Republicans to bring the Southwick nomination to the Senate floor.

“Numerous concerns have been raised about Judge Southwick’s commitment to equal justice.

“I have profound concerns about the commitment to equal justice and dignity of anyone who thinks that it is EVER acceptable for someone to refer to someone else using the ‘n-word.’

“The idea of elevating such a person to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is, quite frankly, unacceptable.

“Given the diversity of the region that the Fifth Circuit represents, given the fact that ALL of the nominees over the last 22 years have been white, given the fact that there is only one black member of the court and he is only the second since the court was created in 1869 – given all of these facts, I believe that it is doubly unacceptable to elevate such a person to this court.”

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, reportedly said she believes this vote should hurt Feinstein electorally. But seeing as how Feinstein remains perhaps the most popular California Democrat in elected office — elected to a third term last year with 76 percent of the vote, and with an all-time-high 61 percent approval rating clocked by the Field Poll in March — I seriously doubt it.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.