Fellow Democrats Call for Sen. Dianne Feinstein to Resign Amid Ongoing Health Issues

Fellow Democrats Call for Sen. Dianne Feinstein to Resign Amid Ongoing Health Issues
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) leaves the Senate Democrats weekly policy lunch at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on July 20, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)
Katabella Roberts

Democrats are calling on Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to retire early after more than 30 years in the Senate due to concerns over the impacts of her lengthy absence as she battles ongoing health issues.

Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) took to Twitter on April 12 to call on the 89-year-old to step down, claiming that she is no longer able to fulfill her duties.

Feinstein, who is recovering from shingles, had already announced in February that she would not seek reelection in 2024.
“It’s time for @SenFeinstein to resign,” Khanna wrote. “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.”
The California lawmaker elaborated on his calls for Feinstein to step down in a statement to NBC News, pointing to her key role on the Judiciary Committee and how her absence is delaying President Joe Biden’s judicial nominations in the chamber.
“We have a crisis in the judiciary with extremist judges stripping away women’s rights. You can’t preach on television about the danger of these judges and then sit silently as Senator Feinstein misses vote after vote to confirm pro-choice judges,” Khanna said. “It’s time for California officials who care deeply about reproductive rights to call on her to step down at this moment in history.”

‘Dereliction of Duty’

Separately, Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota wrote on Twitter, “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.”

Feinstein was first elected to the Senate in 1992 and is the longest-serving senator in the history of her state, the longest-serving female senator in U.S. history, and the oldest sitting member of the Senate.

However, she has not cast a vote in the Senate since mid-February after being diagnosed with shingles, a viral infection that triggers a painful rash and blisters on one side of the body.

Shingles are not life-threatening and most people usually recover within two to four weeks, although elderly people with compromised immune systems are more at risk of serious complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Feinstein Fires Back

In a statement at the time of her diagnosis, Feinstein had said she was receiving treatment in San Francisco and expected to fully recover and return to the Senate within a month but is yet to return.

Responding to the calls from Reps. Khanna and Phillips on Wednesday for her to retire early, Feinstein released a statement assuring that she plans to return to her duties in the Capitol as soon as possible. However, she stopped short of providing a specific date.

“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," the California Democrat said in a statement.

“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,” she continued.

The lawmaker also acknowledged that her absence could “delay the important work of the Judiciary Committee” and said she had asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) “to allow another Democratic senator to temporarily serve” on the Judiciary panel until she is able to resume her committee work.

A spokesperson for Schumer said in a statement Wednesday night that per Feinstein’s wishes, the New York Democrat “will ask the Senate next week to allow another Democratic Senator to temporarily serve on the Judiciary Committee.”
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