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Second Democrat calls on Feinstein to resign from Senate

By Sarah May
|
April 13, 2023

Amid her extended absence from Washington, D.C. following a shingles diagnosis earlier this year, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is now facing calls from Democratic Party colleagues to submit her resignation, as Fox News reports.

Though the 89-year-old lawmaker already announced her decision not to seek another term in 2024, the persistent health issues that have prevented her return to the nation's capital and existing concerns about her cognitive abilities have led some on the left to request that she step down from the role she has held for more than three decades.

Khanna, Phillips speak out

Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17) took to social media Wednesday to express his desire to see the ailing senator bow out once and for all, saying, “It's time for [Feinstein] to resign. We need to put the country ahead of personal loyalty.”

“While she has had a lifetime of public service, it is obvious she can no longer fulfill her duties. Not speaking out undermines our credibility as elected representatives of the people,” Khanna added.

Joining the growing chorus of critics was Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips (MN-03), who tweeted his agreement with Khanna, writing, “Senator Feinstein is a remarkable American whose contributions to our country are immeasurable.”

“But I believe it's now a dereliction of duty to remain in the Senate and a dereliction of duty for those who agree to remain quiet,” Phillips concluded.

Temporary replacement requested

As NPR notes, Feinstein has not cast a vote in the upper chamber since Feb. 16, and her absence from proceedings of the Judiciary Committee on which she sits has been particularly problematic for Democrats.

Former Obama administration speechwriter Jon Lovett explained earlier this week that Feinstein's resignation is needed for precisely that reason, saying that “because she is not in the Judiciary Committee, [Illinois Sen. Dick] Durbin has said that it has made it basically impossible to move a lot of these lower court nominees to the Senate for a vote.”

As a result of the growing furor, Feinstein indicated on Wednesday night that she would ask Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to temporarily replace her on the panel, as the Daily Wire explained.

“I understand that my absence could delay the important work of the Judiciary Committee, so I've asked Leader Schumer to ask the Senate to allow another Democratic senator to temporarily serve until I'm able to resume my committee work,” Feinstein said. As Roll Call reported, a Schumer spokesperson indicated the senator's willingness to do just that, though unanimous consent of the chamber is needed if a host of potential procedural problems with such an appointment are to be avoided.

Pelosi dissents

As calls for Feinstein's resignation began to grow on Wednesday, Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi (CA-11) expressed frustration about what she appeared to view as a double standard, according to The Hill.

“It's interesting to me. I don't know what political agendas are at work that are going after Sen. Feinstein in that way,” Pelosi began.

The former House speaker added, “I've never seen them go after a man who was sick in the Senate in that way.”

Citing what she sees as Feinstein's long career as a “champion” for their shared home state of California, Pelosi declared, “She deserves the respect to get well and be back on duty.”

Lingering questions

As Fox News noted, Feinstein's ability to fulfill her duties in the Senate were called into question even before her February shingles diagnosis.

Despite having announced her decision to retire rather than seek reelection in 2024, Feinstein appeared unaware of the fact when questioned by a group of reporters back in February, spurring questions about her current mental acuity.

In the very same week, the senator evinced confusion as to whether she had voted to approve a nominee to the federal judiciary.

With significant concerns mounting about her physical as well as her cognitive fitness for continued service, whether Feinstein will be able to mount the Senate return she seems to desire is something that remains to be seen.