Democrats Appear Split On How To Handle Sen. Dianne Feinstein's Absence

“If you’re gonna sign up to do these jobs, show up,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, who was one of the first lawmakers to call for Feinstein's resignation.

Democrats appear divided on whether Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) should resign given her lengthy absence from the Senate that could prove to be a challenge for President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda amid the party’s narrow majority in the chamber.

Feinstein, 89, who is recovering at home in San Francisco after being hospitalized with a case of shingles, last week asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to appoint a replacement for her on the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee after many of her colleagues voiced concern that her absence could stand in the way of confirming Biden’s judicial nominees.

However, the move would require GOP approval, and it’s still unclear whether Republicans would be prepared to grant the request.

In the meantime, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), one of the first Democrats to ask for Feinstein’s resignation, on Sunday said his calls for her to step aside come out of respect for the American people who expect their officials who seek elected office to be up to the task.

“If you’re gonna sign up to do these jobs, show up,” Khanna told “Fox News Sunday.”

Feinstein has so far missed 60 votes this year.

Khanna also drew a contrast between the cases of Feinstein and Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), who recently left a hospital after spending six weeks getting inpatient treatment for clinical depression and is expected to return to the Senate this week. Fetterman suffered a stroke while he was campaigning last year.

“It’s one thing to take medical leave and come back, it’s another thing when you’re just not doing the job,” Khanna said, adding that Feinstein has not clarified when she would be in a position to return to Washington.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who sits on the Judiciary Committee, said while she takes Feinstein at her word that she plans to return to Washington, Democrats have many crucial votes coming up, including on the debt ceiling, that would require the California senator’s presence.

Democrats have a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate, while Republicans control the House of Representatives.

“If this goes on month after month after month, then she’s going to have to make a decision with her family and her friends about what her future holds because this isn’t just about California, it’s also about the nation,” Klobuchar told ABC’s “This Week.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who caucuses with Democrats, said Feinstein should be the one to determine her future in the position.

“The decision about whether somebody should resign, rests on that individual themselves,” Sanders told MSNBC’s “Inside With Jen Psaki” Sunday. “I don’t think she should be forced out.”

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) went a step further than Sanders, describing the calls for Feinstein to leave the Senate as sexist and politically motivated.

“I’ve never seen them go after a man who was sick in the Senate in that way,” Pelosi said.

The questions around Feinstein also appear to pose a challenge for California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who would be the one to appoint her replacement should Feinstein resign.

Feinstein’s current term ends in January 2025. She is not seeking reelection.

Newsom in 2021 pledged to nominated a Black woman in her place if she stepped down, and many have already suggested Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who is already running for Feinstein’s Senate seat in 2024, should be picked.

Yet, such a move could alienate the other candidates in the race, Reps. Katie Porter and Adam Schiff.

Khanna, who is backing Lee in 2024 and is serving as a co-chair on her campaign, said Newsom would also have the choice to appoint a caretaker.

“He doesn’t have to appoint someone in the current race, and I would support the governor doing that,” Khanna told Fox News.

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