April 13, 2024
U.S. Senate Appointee Laphonza Butler is set to be sworn in at the nation's Capitol at 3 p.m. Eastern, noon Pacific time.

Laphonza Butler, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pick to be appointed to the seat of late U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, is scheduled to be sworn in at noon Pacific time Tuesday on the Senate floor by Vice President Kamala Harris.

The historic appointment of Butler, who will become the Senate’s only Black woman and just the third to serve as one of the chamber’s 100 members, will be broadcast on C-SPAN, the Cable Satellite Public Affairs Network, and livestreamed on the Senate’s floor webcast.

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Newsom on Sunday announced his selection of Butler, president of EMILY’s List, an organization that helps elect Democratic women who support abortion rights, to fill the seat of Feinstein, 90, who had become an icon in Democratic politics and served more than three decades before she died during her final term last week.

Butler, a longtime labor leader, will be the first openly LGBTQ person to represent California in the Senate, Newsom’s office said. She will also be the first Black lesbian to openly serve in Congress in American history and the second Black woman to represent California in the Senate following Harris.

Feinstein’s death forced an uncomfortable decision on Newsom to appoint a successor amid a fierce battle now underway among top Democratic House Reps. Adam Schiff of Burbank, Katie Porter of Irvine and Barbara Lee of Oakland to succeed her when her term expires in 2025.

Newsom, who had taken some criticism from Black leaders for appointing Alex Padilla to Harris’ Senate seat after she became vice president in 2021, soon after pledged to appoint a Black woman to replace Feinstein, whose health was failing, if she didn’t finish her term.

But that was before the race for Feinstein’s seat got underway early this year. Last month, Newsom said he would keep his promise to appoint a Black woman but she would be an “interim” replacement who wouldn’t run for a full term to avoid influencing the March 5 primary election.

Schiff has led the race for a full term in polls and fundraising, followed by Porter and Lee, the only Black woman in the race. Newsom’s interim appointment comments angered Lee, who is Black, and her progressive backers who’d urged Newsom to keep his promise by appointing her.

But on Monday, political analysts were calling Newsom’s choice of Butler politically savvy, keeping his promise while muting his critics within Black and progressive circles. Among those who praised his choice of Butler were the Congressional Black Caucus, the California Legislative Black Caucus and the NAACP of California and Hawaii.

“We commend Gov. Newsom for addressing Senate representation gaps and eagerly support our future Senator in her congressional journey,” said NAACP California Hawaii President Rick Callender.