Dianne Feinstein to give up Judiciary Committee seat; Rep. Khanna, others call for resignation


Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she will temporarily give up her seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee in an announcement that came just hours after her fellow California Democrat Rep. Ro Khanna called on her to resign on Wednesday (April 12, 2023).

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was hospitalized in March for shingles and was released in early March. But she has yet to return to Capitol Hill. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Demetrius Freeman
Congressman Ro Khanna. Photo: @khanna.house.gov

Feinstein, who at 89 is the oldest member of the Senate, drew criticisms from some Democrats who noted her absence from the Senate for nearly two months, after being hospitalized for shingles treatment in early March, has contributed to a confirmation slowdown of President Biden’s judicial nominees. She has not cast a vote since announcing she will not run for reelection in 2024.

In a statement released Wednesday night, Feinstein provided no timeline for her return to the Capitol, which she said “has been delayed due to continued complications related to my diagnosis.” She said she planned to “work from home” until her medical team said it was safe for her to travel.

But Feinstein conceded that she understood her absence could “delay” the work of the powerful Judiciary Committee, which she once was poised to chair.

“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.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he would ask the Senate next week to temporarily replace Feinstein on the committee.

Most committee assignments for both Republicans and Democrats are done by unanimous voice votes on the Senate floor. It’s unclear whether Republicans would unanimously allow this particular replacement to go through without objections, however, given the leverage Feinstein’s absence has given them over judicial nominations. Replacing her would then take 60 votes to approve, which means at least 10 Republicans would need to back the measure.

Feinstein’s announcement came hours after Khanna, in a tweet, said “it’s time for [her] to resign.”

“We need to put the country ahead of personal loyalty,” Khanna said. “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.”

Feinstein’s absence has slowed confirmation of Biden’s judicial nominees – one of the few pieces of the president’s agenda that congressional Democrats can act on in this session, given that the House is in Republicans’ hands. When asked in a CNN interview Monday if the absence of Feinstein, who has missed at least 60 votes this year, affects his ability to get Biden’s nominees through Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin III (D-Ill.) said, “Of course it does.”

In a statement to The Washington Post, Khanna said Feinstein is slowing Democrats’ attempts to protect their priorities in courts nationwide.

“We have a crisis in the judiciary right now when women’s rights and voting rights are under assault,” Khanna said. “We have a Senator who is missing vote after vote to confirm judges who will uphold reproductive rights. [In] this historic moment where we must stand up to extremist judges, Senator Feinstein needs to step aside.”

Jon Lovett, a former speechwriter for President Barack Obama and a Democratic commentator, shared sentiments similar to Khanna’s on his podcast Tuesday, saying Feinstein is preventing Democrats “from being able to confirm judges.”

“As sad as it is to see someone who has had an incredibly storied and important career . . . [Feinstein] should no longer be in the Senate,” Lovett said. “She should resign.”

Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) retweeted Khanna’s post Wednesday evening and said Feinstein’s continued absence is a “dereliction of duty.”

While Feinstein previously said she will not resign before her term is up, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said in 2021 he would appoint a Black woman to fill the role if Feinstein were to step down before 2024.

A number of Democrats have already lined up in the race to succeed Feinstein, among them Rep. Barbara Lee – who has Khanna’s backing in the race. Khanna himself was at one point named in lists of potential candidates, but he said in March that he would not seek the Senate seat in California.

Other Democrats who have announced candidacies for the seat include Reps. Katie Porter and Adam B. Schiff.

Feinstein has long fought back against allegations – some coming from her own colleagues – that she is no longer fit to serve. She has faced questions about and media coverage of the perceived decline in her mental acuity.

“The real question is whether I’m still an effective representative for 40 million Californians, and the record shows that I am,” she said in a statement to The Post in response to an April 2022 article from the San Francisco Chronicle that reported four Senate colleagues – three of them Democrats – and three of the lawmaker’s former staffers and a California Democrat in the House said her memory is rapidly deteriorating.



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