A key Senate retirement could move 88-year-old Dianne Feinstein into the No. 3 spot in the presidential line of succession if Democrats keep control of the Senate — except she would be 89 if and when this happens.
It would be like the climactic episode of HBO’s Succession, except if Logan Roy’s job ended up going to Sophia from The Golden Girls. Should the Democrats keep their razor-thin margin of control in the Senate after the 2022 midterm elections, the Los Angeles Times reports that cognitively declining and constantly Republican-enabling 88-year-old California senator Dianne Feinstein would likely be placed No. 3 in the presidential line of succession.
Sen. Patrick Leahy announces his retirement. If Democrats keep control of the Senate after 2022 election, @SenFeinstein would be Senate president pro tempore, putting her third in the line of succession.— Jennifer Haberkorn (@jenhab) November 15, 2021
How could this happen? Well on Monday, Vermont senator and frequent Batman movie extra Patrick Leahy announced he would retire at the end of his current term. Leahy is the longest-tenured current serving senator (46 years!) and as the longest-tenured Democrat in the Senate, he is afforded the obscure but important title of Senate president pro tempore.
If Leahy’s gone, the longest-serving Democrat in the Senate becomes Feinstein. And if the Dems hold that chamber and elect Feinstein president pro tempore, she becomes third in the presidential line of succession (after the Vice President and Speaker of the House).
Sen. Patrick Leahy's announcement that he will not seek reelection will mean that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (whose current term is completed in 2024) will be the highest-ranking Senate Democrat in seniority in the 117th Congress, the first woman to achieve this distinction.— Charlotte Clymer 🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) November 15, 2021
Should this happen, Feinstein would be the first woman, and as the Jewish News of Northern California points out, the first Jew to hold that position. That’s great and all, except for the fact that we’re talking about Dianne Feinstein here.
We are moving closer to the President Dianne Feinstein timeline— Esteban (@Esteban_KJulien) November 15, 2021
These are all theoreticals. Democrats don’t have to elect the longest-tenured senator as president pro tempore, it’s just an unwritten tradition that they always do. And maybe the Democrats don't even hang on to the Senate. But even though it currently seems likely the Dems will be redistricted out of their House majority, a slew of Republican Senate retirements gives Democrats pretty good odds of keeping that chamber. Even if the Republicans win the House, this would not affect Feinstein’s possible No. 3 spot in the presidential line of succession.
The only question is how many times her staff would have to explain to her the reality of what was happening.
Related: Feinstein’s Approval Rating Hits an All-Time Low of Just 35% [SFist]
Image: WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 28: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., attends the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Dirksen Senate Office Building on April 28, 2021 in Washington, DC. Ketanji Brown Jackson, nominee to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit, and Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, nominee to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Seventh Circuit, testified on the first panel. (Photo By Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images)