Two House Democrats called on Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to resign on Wednesday, a stunning move underscoring the rising concern over her prolonged absence from the Senate.
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) was the first Democrat to publicly call for the 89-year-old Senate stalwart to step down, despite her plans to retire at the end of her term in 2024.
“It’s time for @SenFeinstein 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 wrote on Twitter.
Shortly after Khanna said Feinstein should step aside, Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) followed suit.
“I agree with @RoKhanna. 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,” he wrote on Twitter in response to Khanna’s tweet.
Feinstein remains out of Washington while recovering from shingles, and her absence has stalled the confirmation of President Biden’s judicial appointments due to her seat on the Judiciary Committee.
In a statement released shortly after Khanna and Phillips made their comments, Feinstein said she asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) “to allow another Democratic senator to temporarily serve” on the Judiciary panel “until I’m able to resume my committee work.”
She did not provide a timeline for her return to the Capitol, only saying that she will go back to Washington when her medical team says it is safe for her to travel. She noted that her return has been delayed because of “continued complications” related to her diagnosis.
“When I was first diagnosed with shingles, I expected to return by the end of the March work period. Unfortunately, my return to Washington has been delayed due to continued complications related to my diagnosis,” Feinstein said. “I intend to return as soon as possible once my medical team advises that it’s safe for me to travel. In the meantime, I remain committed to the job and will continue to work from home in San Francisco.”
Feinstein announced in early March that she had been hospitalized after being diagnosed with shingles in February. The California Democrat said she was released from the hospital days later, but she has not returned to the Senate since.
A competitive race is already underway to succeed Feinstein, who has represented California in the Senate since 1992, with Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) among those vying for the seat.
California Gov. Gavin Newson (D) pledged in March 2021 that he would appoint a Black woman if Feinstein were to retire before the end of her term.
The calls for resignation from Khanna and Phillips come one day after Jon Lovett — the co-founder of Crooked Media and a former speechwriter for former President Obama — said Feinstein should step aside. He also said “more people should be calling on her to resign.”
The Senate reconvenes on Monday after a two-week recess.
While Feinstein’s timeline for returning to the Senate remains unknown, Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) — who had been absent for more than two months after being hospitalized for clinical depression — is expected to be back in Washington on Monday.
Fetterman’s office announced on Feb. 15 that the freshman senator had checked into Walter Reed Medical Center to receive treatment for clinical depression. He was discharged on March 31.
Feinstein’s absence, however, has posed specific challenges for the Democratic caucus since the Californian sits on the Judiciary Committee. Without her vote, the panel is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans and nominees have remained in limbo. The panel has been forced to postpone a number of markups.
On the GOP side of the chamber, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has remained out of the Capitol after suffering a concussion following a fall. He was hospitalized the night of March 8 and was discharged days later. On March 25, he announced that he finished inpatient therapy and would work from home for a few days.
When he will return to the Capitol, however, remains unknown.
Updated at 8:26 p.m.