Vice President Kamala Harris is open to the idea of returning to the United States Senate to serve the remainder of Senator Dianne Feinstein‘s term, a White House staffer tells The Chronicle.
Feinstein, now 89, is not in good health and intends to retire shortly after the new year. In recent days, rumors of her retirement plans have been percolating on Capitol Hill. Her current term ends in 2024.
California Governor Gavin Newsom would make the appointment to fill the Senate vacancy, and he has already agreed to the arrangement following discussions with a White House emissary earlier this week.
The move would not preclude Harris from seeking the presidency in 2024, in the likely event that Joe Biden chooses not to seek a second term. Harris’ strategists believe that a less visible and scrutinized role will better prepare Harris for a future national campaign, more likely in 2028.
In recent weeks, White House operatives have been looking for a way to replace Harris as a Vice President given her waning popularity and preference to avoid taking on difficult issues.
Nominating a replacement Vice President would come with its own difficulties. Confirmation in a narrowly divided Senate will require that the nominee is able to cultivate a bipartisan consensus around his or her ability to serve competently as President — which is a high bar that most politicians currently on the national scene fail.
There will also be infighting among powerful influencers inside the party trying to promote one potential nominee over another, looking to help choose the party’s heir apparent.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, and California Governor Gavin Newsom are frequently floated as contenders for the position among operatives advocating a nominee capable of leading the party into the 2024 election cycle.
Another faction of party operatives believes that Biden should nominate a seasoned statesman to serve in the role as a competent operator but who is devoid of electoral ambitions. Doing so would leave the party nominating process open for contenders to emerge out of Iowa and New Hampshire, as they have traditionally. They float names like former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, and Representative James Clyburn.