The San Diego Union-Tribune

January 25, 2005

Feinstein does not see GOP's gains as a threat to her tenure in Senate

By Toby Eckert
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE


WASHINGTON – Sen. Dianne Feinstein said yesterday there is "no doubt" she will run for re-election in 2006.

"I'm in good health. I enjoy what I do," the 71-year-old Democrat told reporters during a wide-ranging discussion.

Feinstein won the seat in a 1992 special election after then-Sen. Pete Wilson was elected governor. She narrowly won a full term in 1994 and wasre-elected in 2000 by a wide margin over then-Rep. Tom Campbell.

Most analysts do not consider Feinstein vulnerable.

"If Gov. Schwarzenegger decided to run for the Senate or some other celebrity decides to run, that's one option. The other is somebody who isn't considered a credible candidate," said Republican strategist Dan Schnur.

Feinstein said that the larger Senate majority Republicans gained after the November election did not make her contemplate retirement.

"The beauty of the Senate, as opposed to the House, is the minority does have rights," she said, pointing to rules that require a 60-vote majority on many controversial issues.

The Senate has 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats and one independent.

Feinstein is a member of several key committees, including appropriations and judiciary, and could play a role in several prominent issues being debated by Congress, including Social Security reform.

Feinstein floated a plan to give the Social Security trustees the authority to review the system every five years, using independent actuaries to determine "whether the system needs tweaking, either on the revenue side or the benefits side."

Congress would take an up or down vote on the recommendations, similar to the process used to determine the fate of military bases.

President Bush wants to make far-reaching changes in Social Security, including allowing workers to divert a portion of their payroll taxes to individual investment accounts.

Feinstein rejected Bush's contention that Social Security is in crisis.

"I think to put this out there as a financial crisis right now is misleading," she said, adding that she would only consider individual accounts "as an addition" to the regular benefit program, not a replacement.

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