WASHINGTON ― Prominent progressives are calling for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to resign or step down from her post on the Senate Judiciary Committee out of concern that her absence will stall the confirmation of President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees.
“We need to put the country ahead of personal loyalty,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) tweeted on Wednesday, calling on Feinstein to resign. “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.”
Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) later tweeted his support of Khanna’s concerns, calling Feinstein’s continued tenure “a dereliction of duty”:
Feinstein, 89, was hospitalized in early March after a bout of shingles. The longest-serving California senator, who announced her retirement at the end of 2024, was released from the hospital a week later and is recovering in San Francisco. She said at the time she expected to make a full recovery and hoped to return to the Senate “as soon as possible.”
However, Democrats close to Feinstein and some Democratic congressional aides are concerned she may never come back to Washington, according to Politico.
Feinstein’s absence ― her last vote in the Senate was Feb. 16 ― has already stalled the committee vote on one of Biden nominees to a federal appeals court. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told CNN recently that a prolonged absence from one of his members could have bigger ramifications on the Democrats’ ability to confirm judges.
Feinstein’s office told HuffPost on Wednesday that they don’t yet have an update on when the senator will return to the Senate. The chamber has been on a two-week recess and is scheduled to gavel back into session on Monday.
Indivisible, a progressive advocacy group, called on Feinstein to step down from the Judiciary Committee so that Democrats are able to confirm more judges and fight back against GOP efforts to restrict abortion, such as the ruling from a Texas district court suspending abortion pill mifepristone nationwide.
“If Sen. Feinstein isn’t able to be present for critical votes on these issues, then she should step down from the committee so that business can continue without any further delay,” Ezra Levin, co-executive director for Indivisible, said in a statement to HuffPost. “As we saw in the mifepristone case out of Texas, the types of judges who make up our federal judiciary is existential to our fundamental rights.”
Jon Lovett, “Pod Save America” host and former Obama speechwriter, also argued that Feinstein should step down before her planned 2024 retirement.
“Because she is not in the Judiciary Committee ... it has made it basically impossible to move a lot of these lower court nominees to the Senate for a vote,” Lovett said on a podcast episode this week.
“Dianne Feinstein should no longer be in the Senate. She should resign, and more people should be calling on her to resign,” he added.
Prominent legal scholars similarly weighed in on the matter this week.
“Schumer needs to remove Feinstein from the Judiciary Committee and replace her ASAP,” tweeted Norm Ornstein, a resident scholar at American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.
Feinstein announced her retirement in February after growing questions about her mental acuity, including among her fellow Senate Democrats.
Three California Democrats in the House have already said they plan to run for her seat: Reps. Barbara Lee, Adam Schiff, and Katie Porter.
If Feinstein resigns, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has vowed to appoint a Black woman to replace her in the Senate. That could be Lee, who is the highest-ranking Black woman appointed to Democratic House leadership.
Senate Democrats aren’t pushing Feinstein out the door quite yet, at least not publicly. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), asked about calls for Feinstein to step aside by WPRI’s Ted Nesi on Tuesday, said she was entitled to making a decision about her future on her own.
CORRECTION: A prior version of this story referred to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse with the wrong first name.