By EMMA BROWN
This week here at home, Macy’s announced 1,400 layoffs in San Francisco, the Board of Supes continued scratching their heads about how to close the city’s $576 million budget gap, and California state employees took their first biweekly forced day off. Meanwhile, in DC, the Senate bickered over how to stimulate the ever-shrinking economy.
“I come from a state which has more people unemployed today than the population of over a dozen states,” Feinstein said, urging her Senate colleagues to be both generous and quick. “I think as we dither, Rome burns.”
DiFi pushed this week for more public works money—for highways, public transit and water infrastructure, especially—but she lost that battle. The Senate rejected her amendment, co-sponsored with Washington Senator Patty Murray, to increase spending on those projects by $25 billion. Then, a group of centrist Dems and Repubs released a compromise bill that cuts a total of $110 billion, including $40 billion in aid to states—and tilts the bill, Feinstein thought, too far toward tax cuts.
“It’s supposed to be a stimulus bill. If this ends up being a tax cut [bill] I won’t vote for it,” she told her fellow senators on Friday.
You gotta love her—sticking to her guns despite pressure from Majority Leader Harry Reid and President O himself to pass the bill quickly. Or at least sticking for a few hours—later that same day, Dianne caved. The vote will likely be Tuesday and she’ll vote yea.
As intelligence committee chair, Feinstein presided this week over two rounds of interrogation of Leon Panetta, former California congressman and Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, now Obama’s nominee to head up the CIA. At first, Dianne opposed it, citing his inexperience in the spy world. She’s since softened—it took more than a few days— and says she’ll vote for him.
On Friday, she asked him how he’d prevent future massive screw ups like the one that led Congress—or at least most in Congress—to vote to go to war with Iraq expecting the vote would save us from WMDs.
“I voted to support the war because of that,” Feinstein said in late January, “and I have to live with that vote for the rest of my life. And I don’t want it to ever happen again.” She reiterated during Panetta’s hearing: “I cast a vote [for the Iraq war] that I will have to live with every day of my life. I think about it every day.” (Of course, not everyone was fooled by the WMD scare tactics. Barbara Lee and 23 other members of Congress voted against the 2002 resolution, as did Senator Barbara Boxer.)
Panetta said his CIA would rely less on outside contractors and do more to ensure that agents understand the cultures they are working in—an excellent goal for folks working, after all, in intelligence.
In other news, Feinstein asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates to review possible “burrowing” in his Office of Detainee Affairs. Burrowing, in this case, has nothing to do with ground squirrels or other small mammals—it’s the sneaky practice of hiring political appointees into career positions that endure beyond a change in administrations. It’s not all that uncommon, but since the policy on Guantanamo and torture has shifted so drastically under Obama, it’s particularly troubling that Bush-moles could be hiding out in the office that deals with detainees.
Lastly, DiFi came out a clear frontrunner in early polling on California’s gubernatorial race, leading second-place Jerry Brown, 70 years old, by a full 22 points. But will the 75-year-old Feinstein run?
“I take my new duty as chairman of the [intel] committee seriously. I want to see how it goes,” she told MSNBC this week. On the other hand, she said, she’s “really concerned” about the state.
The bottom line? “I’m one of those people that never says never. And that’s just about the situation.”
Dianne voted with the majority of the Senate to confirm Eric Holder as Secretary of Justice. Otherwise, votes this week were on amendments to the stimulus package.