WASHINGTON -- Senator Dianne feinstein resisted calls for her resignation Wednesday but requested to step aside from the Judiciary Committee indefinitely to recover from shingles. This was in response to growing pressure from Democrats, who publicly expressed concerns about her ability to do her job.
Ms. Feinstein is a California Democrat aged 89 who has been absent from the Senate since February when she was diagnosed. Sen. Feinstein's absence has been a problem for Senate Democrats and has impeded their ability to advance with the judicial nominations. As it became apparent that Feinstein was not going to be returning to the Senate after a two week recess, the pressure on Feinstein to resign has increased.
She said that she wouldn't do it, but she offered a temporary solution by saying she would ask for a temporary replacement.
Ms. Feinstein stated that she understood that my absence could affect the important work of Judiciary Committee. This statement was made Wednesday night after two House Democrats publicly called for her to resign from the Senate. "So I asked Leader Schumer to request that the Senate allow another Democratic senator temporarily serve until my committee work can resume."
A spokesperson for Senator Chuck Schumer (Democrat of New York) said that Mr. Schumer would request that the Senate grant the request next week.
To replace Ms. Feinstein, Democrats would have to pass a resolution. This would require bipartisan support from either the Senate unanimous consent or 60 votes. It is unclear whether Republicans who would like to halt President Biden's nominations for judicial posts would support such an initiative.
Ms. Feinstein missed 58 Senate votes in February. Democrats didn't want to go into spring and summer without being able to continue with judicial nominations. A tie vote in the Senate on a nomination means that it fails and can't be brought to the floor under current rules.
"I'm anxious because I can't really get a markup for new judge nominees till she's here," Senator Richard J. Durbin (Democrat of Illinois, chairman of the Judiciary Committee) told Politico last month.
Ms. Feinstein's growing cognitive and memory problems have raised concerns among her colleagues. She announced earlier this year she wouldn't seek re-election in 2024 but that she planned to complete her term.
However, her recent health crisis has prompted at least one Democrat to call for her resignation from her home state.
Rep. Ro Khanna (Democrat of California) tweeted Wednesday that "We must put the country before personal loyalty." She demanded her resignation. "While she has been in public service for a lifetime, it is clear that she cannot fulfill her duties." Our credibility as elected representatives of people is undermined if we don't speak out.
In a tweet, Representative Dean Phillips, a Minnesota Democrat, echoed this sentiment, stating that Ms. Feinstein's continued presence in the Senate was a dereliction of duty'
The Judiciary Committee has a full spring agenda. A full committee hearing will be held by Mr. Durbin to discuss the consequences of Roe v. Wade's Supreme Court decision. He also promised to take action to address a ProPublica report that Justice Clarence Thomas had for years accepted luxury travel on private jets and yachts from a conservative donor, which he did not disclose. If Republicans mount challenges, and Democrats need votes to stop them from doing so, Ms. Feinstein's absence could complicate much of this work.
Wednesday's admission by Ms. Feinstein was a recognition that her recovery is taking longer than she expected.
She stated that she expected to be back by March's end after being first diagnosed with Shingles. "Unfortunately, I have been delayed in my return to Washington due to complications that continue to plague my diagnosis.
She stated that she would still like to return to Senate 'as soon possible' after her doctors cleared her to travel. She made it clear she didn't intend to resign.
She stated, "I am committed to the job and will continue working from home in San Francisco."
Many of her left-leaning colleagues have been annoyed by her desire to keep her job despite memory and health issues. Ms. Feinstein had previously agreed to be sidelined by her party amid concerns.
She agreed to resign her top Democratic position on the Judiciary Committee in 2020 amid growing pressure from progressives, who claimed she wasn't up to the task.