Regardless of the fate of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, the Senate should censure the ranking Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee, Dianne Feinstein. Her deception and maneuvering, condemned across the political spectrum, seriously interfered with the Senate’s performance of its constitutional duty to review judicial nominations, and unquestionably has brought the Senate into “dishonor and disrepute,” the standard that governs these matters. As a matter of institutional integrity, the Senate cannot let this wrong go unaddressed.
Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution provides that each House of the Congress may “punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour.” Nine times in American history the Senate has used that power to censure one of its members. Feinstein has richly earned the right to join this inglorious company.
The senior senator from California not only disgraced herself personally in the underhanded and disingenuous way she dealt with the sex-assault charge against Judge Kavanaugh, but she also misused her position on the Judiciary Committee and broke faith with her fellow committee members. She was further, to quote the San Francisco Chronicle, no less, “unfair” to Judge Kavanaugh — manipulating the public disclosure of the charge so as to maximize the adverse publicity Judge Kavanaugh received and minimize the judge’s opportunity to defend himself. Censure is appropriate in this case for the Senate to defend its procedures and institutional reputation.
By her own account, Feinstein was aware of the charge shortly after President Trump nominated Kavanaugh, nearly two months before her committee opened its hearings. She came into possession of the letter making the charge by virtue of her position on the Judiciary Committee. We don’t know what contact she had thereafter with the accuser or the accuser’s Democrat-activist Washington lawyer — but we do know that Feinstein kept the information from her Senate colleagues, ensuring it was untested and unmentioned in the committee’s hearings. This, even though the hearings were accompanied by loud complaints from Democrats that the administration’s document production was insufficient. Indeed, as this is being written, while yet another Judiciary Committee hearing has been scheduled, she still has not released the unredacted text of the letter that made the charge.
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