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Pelosi to back Schiff for Senate seat if Feinstein doesn’t run

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) on Capitol Hill last month. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the former House speaker, on Thursday threw her support behind Rep. Adam B. Schiff in what is shaping up as a competitive 2024 Senate race in California if Sen. Dianne Feinstein chooses not to run.

“If Senator Feinstein decides to seek reelection, she has my whole-hearted support,” Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “If she decides not to run, I will be supporting House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, who knows well the nexus between a strong Democracy and a strong economy.”

Schiff (D-Calif.), who served as chairman of the intelligence panel when the House was under Democratic control, announced his Senate bid last week.

The 89-year-old Feinstein (D-Calif.) has not yet announced whether she plans to seek a sixth full term next year.

That has not stopped others from angling for her seat. Besides Schiff, Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) has already announced a bid, and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) is among others who could announce soon.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Pelosi said she and Feinstein are “friends, neighbors, political allies and all the rest.” But she noted her endorsement of Schiff was predicated on Feinstein’s plans, and that she wanted to support Schiff because “the field was not waiting … everyone was just going out there.”

Feinstein, a former mayor of San Francisco, has been a trailblazer, elected to the Senate in 1992 amid the outrage among women over the Senate’s treatment of Anita Hill, who accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment when he was a nominee. Thomas denied the charges.

In her statement, Pelosi praised Feinstein, saying she has long been “a champion for Democracy and working families.”

As the oldest sitting senator, Feinstein has for years waved off questions about her age and ability to serve but has also relinquished some key roles in recent years. She stepped down as the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee before the 117th Congress. Last year, Feinstein declined consideration to become president pro tempore of the Senate, a position that traditionally goes to the most senior senator of the party in power and is third in line to the presidency. The role instead went to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

Pelosi also noted that she supported Schiff in his first race for Congress in 2000.

“I have known his commitment to putting the American Dream in place for everyone,” Pelosi said. “Adam has dedicated his life to public service. Every time I have asked Adam to take on the tough fight against extremist forces, he has responded with integrity, strength and success.”

Schiff, 62, served as impeachment manager in 2020 during the proceedings involving President Donald Trump and was a member of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Schiff represents a large swath of greater Los Angeles, including the San Gabriel Valley. Previously, he served as a state senator and an assistant U.S. attorney, where he prosecuted FBI agent Richard Miller for espionage.

Schiff gained national attention for his emotional closing statement at Trump’s first impeachment trial, in which he urged members of Congress to remove Trump from office because he could still do “a lot of damage” in the months before the election.

Schiff’s role in the first impeachment trial remains an issue more than three years later. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) recently blocked Schiff from serving on the Intelligence Committee again, saying he could not “put partisan loyalty ahead of national security.”

Schiff told reporters later that his “cardinal sin appears to be that I led the impeachment of [McCarthy’s] master in Mar-a-Lago,” a reference to Trump and his Florida estate.

“He will do the former president’s bidding,” Schiff said. “He’s entirely reliant on the former president, and this is something the former president wants.”

Liz Goodwin and Amy B Wang contributed to this report.