After months of tense silence and off-the-record quotes, a sitting congressman is publicly calling for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to step down.
“It’s time for @SenFeinstein to resign,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) tweeted Wednesday. “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.”
Feinstein has been absent from Washington since February after falling ill with shingles, and has missed nearly 60 votes. She also sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and her absence has left President Joe Biden’s nominees stranded as they wait for a committee vote. Aides are becoming worried that she won’t ever return to Washington, per a Politico report.
Even before the diagnosis, it was a well-known if uncomfortable reality on Capitol Hill that Feinstein was slowing down and showing her 89 years of age. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) took her place as chair of the Judiciary Committee after Feinstein attracted criticism and scrutiny for her cozy relationship with Republicans during Justice Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearings.
Feinstein has had a storied and trailblazing career, the first woman to be elected senator from California, and the first woman to chair various high-profile Senate committees. Her legacy increased the discomfort some of her colleagues have expressed in more aggressively pushing her to resign.
Many of the sitting lawmakers running for her seat in 2024 — including Reps. Katie Porter (D-CA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) — didn’t wait for her to make a decision on retirement, preemptively announcing their bids (though Schiff said his was contingent on her stepping down).
If she does step down, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) would appoint her replacement. He vowed in 2021 to pick a Black woman, which could give Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), also running for the seat, the edge.
Khanna considered entering the crowded field, but ultimately opted not to run, throwing his support to Lee.