McConnell open to Feinstein joining Republican caucus

A Kentucky-based political operative with longtime ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tells The Chronicle that McConnell is “very open to the idea” of California Senator Diane Feinstein joining the Republican caucus “particularly in an evenly divided chamber”.

Feinstein has been the target of left-wing criticism over her collegial handling of the Senate confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett in her role as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee. The episode prompted Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to publicly admonish her for not more aggressively undermining Barrett’s nomination — essentially threatening to dethrone her from the chairmanship of that committee if the Democrats retake the Senate.

At 87 years old, and with four more years in her current term, Feinstein is unlikely to retain the Democratic Party’s nomination in 2024. But California Republicans — who nominated a Democrat to run on the party’s line for United States Senate in the last election cycle — would “eagerly welcome” Feinstein (“with her 28 years of seniority”) on its ballot line.

The centrist Democrat and former Mayor of San Francisco is finding that her bipartisan style and collegial way of approaching Senate business put her increasingly out of step with the left flank of the party.

McConnell has already reached out to a handful of influential California Republicans to gauge their feedback. Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina, and Peter Thiel are “ecstatically supportive” of extending a formal and public invitation to Feinstein — “presuming key GOP staff additions at her field offices”.

The Senate is very evenly divided, and depending on the outcome of the election, control of the chamber could hinge on Feinstein’s single vote.

If the GOP only holds 49 seats and Feinstein is willing to swing control of the chamber to the Republicans, she would have the leverage to demand whatever she would like in such an arrangement — perhaps the Chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee or a power sharing arrangement with McConnell that makes her the “defacto co-Leader” of the majority.

For a Republican Party that is looking for a way to be more relevant in California’s statewide elections, the situation could be a godsend.

“Having the powers of incumbency, including a state organization and all of the staff, donor, and constituent services infrastructure that brings to the table, is no small advantage,” the political operative explains. “It will also allow Republicans to select Feinstein’s eventual Republican successor, presumably in 2030, and to situate her at Feinstein’s apprentice in the office.”

Feinstein’s embrace of Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham at the conclusion of Senate confirmation hearings of Amy Coney Barrett infuriated left wing members of the Democrat caucus.

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