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Dianne Feinstein returns to Senate as calls for her resignation pile up

 May 10, 2023

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the oldest member of Congress, returned to the Senate this week after a nearly three-month absence that caused her to miss close to 100 votes.

Feinstein, 89, experienced a prolonged absence that sparked calls for her resignation from both Republicans and Democrats, the Daily Mail reported.

Feinstein's Absence and Its Impact

Feinstein, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, missed nearly 100 votes over the last several months.

Her absence on the powerful committee held up President Biden's judicial nominations as Republicans refused to give the nominees a majority vote for confirmation.

Feinstein's spokesman, Adam Russell, confirmed her return to Washington, D.C., on a chartered private plane from California.

Calls for Resignation

Feinstein's age and frailty have been the subject of Washington rumors and calls for her to step down accelerated during her months-long absence as she recovered from shingles.

California Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17), a progressive, was the first to call for Feinstein's resignation, saying in mid-April, “This is a moment of crisis for women’s rights and voting rights. It’s unacceptable for Sen. Feinstein to miss vote after vote to confirm judges who will uphold reproductive rights,” as reported by the Associated Press.

New York progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) said it was time for the 89-year-old Democratic senator to retire amid her lengthy absence from Congress.

Ocasio-Cortez is the latest member of Feinstein's own party to call for her to go, and she shrugged off complaints that such messages were sexist. "I think criticisms of that stance as 'anti-feminist' are a farce," she wrote on the new social media platform Bluesky.

Additional Voices

Former President Barack Obama's speechwriter Jon Lovett called on Feinstein to resign due to her prolonged absence. "Dianne Feinstein should no longer be in the Senate," Lovett said on his 'Pod Save America podcast last month.

GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley has also called on Feinstein to resign. In a Fox News op-ed last week, Haley wrote, "She's missed months of votes and clearly can no longer do her job. I agree with several congressional Democrats who say Feinstein should resign immediately and let someone else who is able to do the job take over."

Feinstein's Response

Feinstein slammed critics urging her to resign, insisting that her absence from Capitol Hill was not the reason for a slowdown in judicial appointments.

"While the Senate Judiciary Committee has advanced eight strong nominees during my absence, I'm disappointed that Republicans on the committee are blocking a few from moving forward," she said. "I'm confident that when I return to the Senate, we will be able to move the remaining qualified nominees out of committee quickly and to the Senate floor for a vote."

Senate Majority Leader's Support

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) welcomed Feinstein's return to the Senate, saying, "I'm glad that my friend Dianne is back in the Senate and ready to roll up her sleeves and get to work. After talking with her multiple times over the past few weeks, it's clear she's back where she wants to be."

Feinstein has already announced her retirement in 2024. Democratic California Reps. Katie Porter, Adam Schiff, and Barbara Lee have expressed their intentions to replace her in the Senate.

Political Career

Feinstein became the first woman to serve as president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in the 1970s and the first female mayor of San Francisco. She was elected to the Senate in 1992.

In the Senate, she broke barriers as the first woman to lead the Senate Intelligence Committee and the first woman to serve as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.