Washington (CNN) — Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said Sunday that California Gov. Gavin Newsom should “absolutely” appoint Rep. Barbara Lee to the Senate should Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s seat become vacant before the end of her term.
“I absolutely think he should appoint Barbara Lee. But we will see,” Bass told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”
Newsom has pledged to appoint a Black woman to the Senate in case of a vacancy.
Bass and Lee were longtime Democratic colleagues in the House – both have chaired the Congressional Black Caucus – before Bass was elected LA mayor last year. Bass has already endorsed Lee’s bid to succeed Feinstein, who is not seeking reelection next year.
Bass pointed out Sunday that Lee had been under consideration to fill Kamala Harris’ Senate seat, which became vacant in 2021 when she assumed her role as vice president. Newsom, however, ultimately picked California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who became the state’s first Latino senator.
Feinstein, who was first elected to the Senate in 1992, returned to the Capitol last month after an extended absence while recovering from shingles. During her absence, the 89-year-old senator faced calls to resign from some fellow Democrats in the House, with many pointing to the delay in advancing certain judicial nominees of President Joe Biden that her absence had caused.
But Bass noted Sunday that with Feinstein still in office, “It’s not an issue right now.” Pressed by Tapper if the senator should be in office, Bass said, “That’s her decision.”
“I worry about her. I worry about her health. But, ultimately, of course, that’s her decision to make,” the mayor said.
Newsom is under enormous pressure to stick to his pledge to appoint a Black woman to the Senate. In 2021, the governor said, “The answer is yes,” when asked on MSNBC if he would appoint a Black woman should Feinstein’s seat become open.
But choosing Lee wouldn’t be a simple choice for Newsom. The US Senate race is already underway, with Lee and fellow House Democrats Adam Schiff and Katie Porter representing various factions of the Democratic Party in the race. Another Democrat, tech executive Lexi Reese, recently filed paperwork to run for Senate.
There are currently three Black men in the Senate and no Black women in the legislative body that is made up of 100 officials. Throughout history, there have been eleven Black senators in total, including two Black female senators – Harris and former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.
In her interview with Tapper, Bass spoke about the pushback former President Barack Obama has received over his call for the Republican Party to acknowledge issues of racial inequality in the US instead of espousing rhetoric that opportunities in the country are equal and fair.
“What President Obama was talking about was basically our history,” Bass said. “We are in a period right now where there are certain states, certain cities, where they literally do not want to tell the truths about US History.”
“What’s great about our country is everything, the whole package. You can’t just talk about the nice stories – George Washington’s cherry tree but not the 350 enslaved individuals that he had. All of it is the American story, and it all needs to be told, because we’re not going to overcome the problems if we cannot even reflect on how we got where we are,” Bass continued.
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, a GOP presidential contender whom Obama had mentioned by name in his remarks, said Sunday that there was “no higher compliment than to be attacked by President Obama.”
“Whenever the Democrats feel threatened, they pull out, drag out the former president and have him make some negative comments about someone running, hoping that their numbers go down,” Scott told Fox News. “The truth of my life disproves the lies of the radical left.”
Scott had earlier responded on Twitter to Obama’s comments, saying, “Let us not forget we are a land of opportunity, not a land of oppression.”
This story has been updated with additional details.