Feinstein poised to move into presidential line of succession if Democrats keep Senate

Sen. Dianne Feinstein approaches an escalator with a man
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) speaks with Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) on Aug. 3 in Washington.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

The Senate’s longest-serving Democrat announced Monday he won’t run for reelection next year, a decision that would move California Sen. Dianne Feinstein into the role and potentially into the presidential line of succession.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) chose to retire after serving eight terms in the Senate.

Leahy’s departure from the Senate, expected in early 2023, would make Feinstein the longest-serving Democratic senator. If Democrats retain control of the Senate after the 2022 midterm election, she would be poised to become the Senate president pro tempore, the first woman to hold the constitutionally designed post.


The president pro tempore is elected by the Senate, but for decades the position has gone to the senior-most member of the majority party. The office holder is third in the presidential line of succession after the vice president and speaker of the House.

Along with Vice President Kamala Harris, if Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) were to remain in her post — she has previously said she would not serve as speaker beyond 2022 — it would put three California women in the top three presidential succession slots.

Because of the line of succession, the president pro tempore is one of a few members of Congress who get a full-time security detail.

The job comes with other official responsibilities, such as making appointments to various national boards. The president pro tempore presides over the Senate when the vice president is not there, but the person has typically given the duty to more junior members of the Senate.

Feinstein was first elected to the Senate in 1992. Her current term, her fifth full term, is due to end in early 2025.

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LA Times Today: The future of Senator Diane Feinstein

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