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Senate Democrats Face Power Struggle for Top Judiciary Job

  • November 27, 2020

His push has brought him support from those on the left who believe Democrats have not been aggressive enough in challenging Republicans over the judiciary. But they also see Mr. Whitehouse, who was just elected to his third term, as someone who would bring a new perspective at the top of the committee.

“I think it needs a little bit of fresh air, new energy,” said Faiz Shakir, a former top Senate aide and progressive activist who served as the presidential campaign manager for Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Mr. Shakir said his backing of Mr. Whitehouse was not a personal complaint against Mr. Durbin, but that the Rhode Island Democrat had “earned credibility” with his work.

“Giving him the opportunity to lead a committee, I think, would be a good changing of the guard for Senate Democrats to present,” Mr. Shakir said.

Mr. Durbin credited Mr. Whitehouse with doing “excellent work” on exposing the spending behind judicial nominations.

“It’s an important issue, and I’m glad he is raising it,” said Mr. Durbin, who has been highly critical of the Republican handling of confirmations and said he would pursue a reset should Democrats win the majority.

“There clearly has to be a balancing of the courts,” he said. “Most Americans are not looking for all Democrats or all Republicans.”

Mr. Durbin said he believed the committee had drifted from its former role as a Senate powerhouse, and he wanted to reinvigorate it. If given the leadership spot, he said, he would try to refocus the committee on voting rights, executive branch oversight, antitrust efforts and opposing liability immunity that Republicans are pursuing in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

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