WASHINGTON – Sen. Dianne Feinstein is under fire after video shows her arguing with children who visited her office in hopes of swaying her vote on climate change legislation.
The children were with the Sunrise Movement, a climate advocacy organization, and approached Feinstein in hopes she would support the Green New Deal, an ambitious proposal from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that includes an overhaul of U.S. energy that seeks to stall the effects of climate change.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I know what I’m doing,” the California Democrat told a young girl at one point while debating with the group.
The children wrote a letter to Feinstein on a poster board decorated with hard-drawn animals and flowers, asking that she support the Green New Deal.
After one of the children asked that she vote yes on the proposal, Feinstein said, “OK, I’ll tell you what. We have our own Green New Deal,” a mention of a climate proposal she said she’s planning to introduce the Republican-controlled Senate.
She explained that the Green New Deal legislation that was rolled out in the House didn’t have a chance of passing in the Republican-controlled Senate and told the group her bill was more moderate in hopes of attracting some support from conservatives.
The children kept pressing her, one young girl telling the senator, “the government is supposed to be for the people, and by the people, and all for the people.”
Feinstein replied, saying, “You know what’s interesting about this group? I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I know what I’m doing. You come in here, and you say it has to be my way or the highway. I don’t respond to that.”
She pointed out that she just won an election by “almost a million vote plurality,” adding, “I know what I’m doing. So, you know, maybe people should listen a little bit.”
One teen girl told the senator that “we’re the people who voted you” and pleaded for Feinstein to change her mind on supporting the Green New Deal.
The senator asked her age. After the teen said she was 16 and couldn’t yet vote, Feinstein deadpanned, “Well, you didn’t vote for me.”
Feinstein, in a statement to USA TODAY, did not apologize but said she wanted the children who visited her office to know they were heard and called the debate “spirited.”
“I want the children to know they were heard loud and clear. I have been and remain committed to doing everything I can to enact real, meaningful climate change legislation,” Feinstein said.
She continued: “We had a spirited discussion and I presented the group with my draft resolution that provides specific responses to the climate change crisis, which I plan to introduce soon. I always welcome the opportunity to hear from Californians who feel passionately about this issue and it remains a top priority of mine.”
Many on social media seemed surprised with Feinstein’s comments and reaction to the young activists, saying she did not handle the back-and-forth appropriately. Others, including many conservatives, applauded her.
“I find it hard to believe that this isn’t an SNL or The Onion sketch – did Senator Feinstein really speak like that to a bunch of kids? ‘I know what I’m doing’ and ‘you didn’t vote for me’ – are you fricking kidding me? Beyond parody,” wrote Mehdi Hasan, a columnist for The Intercept.
Waleed Shahid, a former staffer for Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders agreed, writing on Twitter that Feinstein should do some “soul searching.”
“After the way she treated those children from @SunriseMvmt, Feinstein should maybe do some soul searching and reflect on if she can genuinely represent the people of California or not,” he said on Twitter.
Republicans, including Ben Shapiro and Mike Cernovich, two conservative commentators, applauded Feinstein.
“WTF I love Dianne Feinstein now,” Shapiro wrote on Twitter.