Why? Because she just stepped up to an important job, that’s why.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., today nominated U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to chair the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in the 111th Congress, replacing U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., as he moves over to lead the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. (U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., would succeed Feinstein in her current chairmanship at the Rules and Administration Committee.)
The Intelligence Committee oversees the nation’s 16 intelligence agencies, authorizes the nation’s intelligence budget, and writes the laws for the conduct and management of intelligence operations. Its 15 members are selected by the Senate leadership; Feinstein has served on it for eight years, would be the first woman to chair the committee in its 32-year history, and said today she’s “honored to be nominated.”
“I look forward to working with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle,” she said in her news release. “This is a critical task at a critical time in our nation’s history. With the United States fighting two wars, and facing multiple threats around the globe, it’s essential to the nation that our intelligence agencies gather reliable information, and do so in a manner that comports with our laws and our national values.”
Feinstein thanked Rockefeller for his service, saying “oversight of the intelligence community improved under his leadership” she she’s glad he’ll stay on as a committee member. She also announced that David Grannis, her Intelligence Committee designee since March 2005, would become the new staff director; Grannis used to work for the House Select Committee on Homeland Security and for Rep. Jane Harman, D-El Segundo.
This isn’t final yet; this is Reid’s recommendation to the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, and final approval will be ratified with an organizing resolution when the Senate returns to session in January. That said, it seems unlikely it won’t go through.
Feinstein’s statement said her first priorities would include “working with the Obama Administration to end the practice of coercive interrogations and creating a uniform standard for interrogations throughout the U.S. government; ending the use of contractors in interrogations; granting the International Committee of the Red Cross access to detainees; and closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility within one year.”
Expect outcries from all those who blasted Feinstein late last year for her crucial Judiciary Committee vote supporting Michael Mukasey’s confirmation as Attorney General, despite what many heard as his waffling statements on the legality of using torture techniques such as waterboarding as interrogation methods. Ditto from those who blasted her vote this past July on granting immunity to telecommunications companies that had cooperated with the Bush Administration’s secret domestic wiretapping operations.
On the California political front, I’ve heard many pundits say the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nomination would be Feinstein’s if she wanted it, and most likely Jerry Brown‘s otherwise; no offense to Gavin Newsom, John Garamendi and the rest of the Democrats said to be in the race, but it’s hard to see how any of them hold a candle to Feinstein’s or Brown’s name recognition and fundraising ability, no matter her past votes. But I never thought she’d want it; even without this news, there was a lot to keep her in the Senate (and a lot to dissuade anyone from wanting to be governor of California). Today, I think I hear champagne corks popping from the direction of Jerry Brown’s house…