Today on CNN’s State of the Union, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) spoke to CNN’s Dana Bash about the stalemate in Washington over Department of Homeland Security funding and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to Congress.
On Netanyahu’s claim that he speaks for the entire Jewish community: “I think it's a rather arrogant statement. I think the Jewish community is like any other community. There are different points of view. So, I - I think that arrogance does not befit Israel, candidly. I think Israel is a nation that needs to be protected, that needs to stand free, that hopefully can work constructively with Palestinians to have a side-by-side state, and to put an end to the bitterness that has plagued this whole area.”
On Netanyahu’s speech to Congress: “I intend to go. And I will listen respectively - respectfully. I don't intend to jump up and down.”
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BASH: And joining me now is Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee.
Senator, thank you very much for joining me.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: You're welcome.
BASH: Let's just start with the chaotic situation when it comes to funding the Department of Homeland Security.
Can you understand the Republican perspective at all, that they believe that the president just defied the Constitution with his immigration plan and they want to hold him accountable?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I have no problem with them passing a bill that - which they can do. We passed an immigration bill by a huge vote, two-thirds. It went over to the House. The House took no position.
And now what they have done is, they have put a president's executive order on top of a must-pass national security bill. And that's their strategy, to ram it through.
Well, our position is, it should be a clean bill, and it should fund the department through the fiscal year. You can't keep doing these things by continuing resolutions, because the department loses money, particularly for local law enforcement grants.
BASH: And can you see - can you see, at the end of next week, Senate Democrats allowing anything other than a clean bill?
BASH: Are you going to compromise at all on that?
FEINSTEIN: I do not believe that will happen. We want a clean bill. We have passed, taken votes on a clean bill. It's well known. And I see nothing else happening, other than a clean bill.
BASH: You have been in - you have been in Congress for a long time. Have you seen it this dysfunctional before?
FEINSTEIN: Well, what I have seen over the last few years is a growing need of a minority to impose their view, regardless of what the situation is.
I think most of us are accustomed to sitting down, we work out a compromise, which is not a dirty word, because, in a two-party system, you have to, if you're going to make progress. Otherwise, you have stasis or gridlock. And so we have had more gridlock.
And appropriation bills, when I first came, no one put major bills on appropriation bills. And the committee was sacrosanct. Nobody amended bills. The committee always supported their own committee's views.
BASH: And now it's obviously...
FEINSTEIN: And now it's different. BASH: Yes.
FEINSTEIN: So it's very hard to make that change and keep the regular order of government going, and, secondly, not risk a shutdown, which has happened in the past.
BASH: It sure has.
Let's turn to what's going to happen on Tuesday, which is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu coming and speaking before a joint meeting of Congress.
You and your fellow Democratic Senator Dick Durbin invited the prime minister to speak to a group of Democrats. And he declined that invitation.
What do you make of that?
FEINSTEIN: Well, what I - I - he obviously just didn't want to meet.
I mean, we will be meeting, because...
BASH: And why do you think that is?
FEINSTEIN: ... the leadership of the committees is meeting with him. And so that will be an opportunity to meet with him.
But I hope, since he is coming, I intend to go. And I will listen respectively - respectfully. I don't intend to jump up and down. And I hope he will speak about what happens if there isn't an agreement. I hope he will speak about it, what happens if the United States isn't part of the agreement...
BASH: On Iran?
FEINSTEIN: ... on Iran, but the agreement takes place, because this isn't just the United States. It's the big powers. It's Russia. It's China. It's the United Kingdom. It's France. It's Germany.
That's what the P5-plus-one is, and the United States. So, they could conceivably agree. We could conceivably, if he - if Netanyahu's view prevails and the view of some of my colleagues present real problems.
The president, I believe, has - this is not a treaty - has the right to do an agreement.
BASH: Let me - let me read to you a statement that Netanyahu made as he was about to board his plane, which, I should say, he's on now, making his way to Washington.
He said: "As the prime minister of Israel, it is my obligation to worry about the security of Israel. And, therefore, we are totally against the agreement that is coming together between Iran and the powers that can endanger our existence." When you have the Israeli prime minister arguing that this is going to endanger his existence, hard to fight that.
FEINSTEIN: Well, he did that in 2011. I was present for that speech.
And he said they would never accept the '67 borders.
BASH: But you just disagree with this?
FEINSTEIN: I disagree with it, very strongly.
I happen to believe Israel is a lot safer with an agreement that's agreed to by all of the big powers, including ourselves, than it is if there is no agreement and if Iran decides to break out. Then Israel attacks Iran. Iran attacks back. What happens? What happens?
And - and, you know, we have a Middle East that's coming apart now. We have got ISIL and ISIS. They occupy a third of the territory of Syria. They occupy about nine or 10 cities in Iraq. They are forming their own government. They are occupying land, which is a new thing for a terrorist group.
And you have Yemen in trouble. You have Egypt in transition. You have Libya close to a civil war. And you have Jordan and Lebanon in danger.
BASH: Let me just ask you one more question about the Israeli prime minister's speech.
You are a Jewish-American. You are - and a Democratic senator, so you have a lot of different sort of personal constituencies, if you will. When Netanyahu says he's coming to speak, he says he speaks for all Jews. Does he speak for you?
FEINSTEIN: No, he doesn't speak for me on this. He doesn't at all speak for me on this.
BASH: So, does that bother you when he says he speaks for all Jews?
FEINSTEIN: Yes. I think it's a rather arrogant statement.
I think the Jewish community is like any other community. There are different points of view. So, I - I think that arrogance does not befit Israel, candidly. I think Israel is a nation that needs to be protected, that needs to stand free, that hopefully can work constructively with Palestinians to have a side-by-side state, and to put an end to the bitterness that has plagued this whole area.
BASH: Do you think, by speaking to Congress two weeks before his election, that is a sign of arrogance?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I think it is certainly a sign of a political move. Now, whether this political move can be effective or not, I don't know. But it's not helpful. And it's not helpful to attack our president. He is our president. And this brings the country together.
BASH: I have to ask you about what's going on in Russia.
Vladimir Putin - I should say that there are protests going on, on the streets of Moscow right now because Vladimir Putin's chief rival, Boris Nemtsov, was shot in the back walking down the street.
Do you think that Vladimir Putin was behind this?
FEINSTEIN: Oh, I have no way of knowing.
It's hard for me to believe it. This is a man that has 80 percent favorability rating, has very strong support from his people, has his clandestine army invading the Ukraine. Right now, there is the Minsk settlement about to go in - well, it's in effect. But the troops are beginning to pull back from both borders.
BASH: Are you worried that...
FEINSTEIN: So, this is a terrible time for this to happen.
BASH: I was going to say, do you worry that this could destabilize all of that, the talks with the Ukraine?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I don't think it will. It could.
BASH: And just kind of big picture, very quickly, I just want to quickly ask you about - you mentioned ISIS.
The fact that we learned Jihadi John's identity this week, and the fact that he is an example of Westerners being radicalized - you obviously know all the intelligence. What can you tell us about - right now about your fear about Westerners and their involvement in what's going on in the Middle East with ISIS terrorists?
FEINSTEIN: Westerners and their involvement. You mean missionaries and others that are there?
BASH: Correct, radicalized risk...
FEINSTEIN: Well, my understanding...
BASH: ... Americans?
FEINSTEIN: ... is that ISIS has over 200 hostages now in various places.
I think people should be very careful. I think this is a group that has to be defeated. And I think we're on our way to doing it. The bombing runs have been successful. They have taken out a lot of military equipment, training camps, and I think are making a dent.
I think we will have an authorization to use military force before us. I'm one that will support it. The president's proposal is three years. It's not an enduring operation. I think that language needs to be looked at a little bit. But I think we need to participate in this effort.
I believe that ISIS and ISIL is really a world threat. And you either fight them there or we will fight them here one day.
BASH: Senator Dianne Feinstein, thank you for your time, as always.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Dana.
BASH: Appreciate it.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you.
BASH: Appreciate it.