Without offering a hint as to her plans, Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Wednesday lamented the departure of longtime congressional colleagues from California -- including retiring Reps. Henry Waxman and George Miller --and said their institutional knowledge and ability to compromise in Washington would be missed.
“They were creative people who could put things together and who could negotiate compromise and get it done,” she said in an interview after speaking Wednesday at a Century City dinner gathering of the Pacific Council on International Policy. “You have to have some institutional knowledge, you have to know how to, how the government runs. When you hear some of the campaign speeches people make, it’s all ideology.”
Feinstein cited Miller and Waxman--who announced their pending retirements in recent weeks--and former Rep. Howard Berman, who lost in 2012 when his district was collapsed with that of Rep. Brad Sherman, who defeated Berman after a nasty electoral fight.
Earlier, in a question-and-answer session with about 120 people, the 22-year Democratic senator from San Francisco said the atmosphere in Washington had grown less hospitable to compromise and negotiation largely because of the tea party and unrestrained campaign spending.
“To a great extent, politics had changed and this state is a wonder because we don’t have a big tea party base, but in my view, the tea party and campaign spending that allows very few people to spend huge amounts of money to defeat candidates they don’t like – those are two things that have changed the American political scene,” Feinstein said in response to a question.
She said it’s more difficult to pass crucial legislation with members of the opposing party, largely because of the tea party’s sway in the House of Representatives. (Democrats like Feinstein control the Senate, though their reign is threatened in November.)
“You’re going to have to give and I’m going to have to give to get there,” Feinstein said. “It’s called compromise. It’s called compromise. It’s not a dirty word. It’s how you move the government. If you can’t do that, you have stasis.”
Such frustrations have driven others in Washington to retire, leading to obvious questions about Feinstein’s future. The 80-year-old, who has served in the Senate since 1992, was noncommittal about whether she would seek another term in 2018. (California’s other senator, Barbara Boxer, faces a similar decision before the 2016 reelection campaign).
“I just ran in 2012. I’m one year and two months into the term. So who knows?” Feinstein said in the interview, adding that she would not make a decision for a few years. “I mean, I’m enjoying what I’m doing, I’m challenged by it. It’s what I do. It’s what I spend all my time on.”