Schumer Quickly Promises Action On Feinstein’s Request To Temporarily Step Down From Judiciary Committee

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 14: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) leaves the Senate Chamber following a vote at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
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After two Democratic congressmen called for her resignation Wednesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said that she’d asked to be temporarily replaced on the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

“I understand that my absence could delay the important work of the Judiciary Committee,” she said in a statement Wednesday night. “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.”

She pushed back at calls for her to leave the Senate altogether. 

“I intend to return as soon as possible once my medical team advises that it’s safe for me to travel,” she added. “In the meantime, I remain committed to the job and will continue to work from home in San Francisco.”

There had already been grumbling about Feinstein, who is 89, losing her ability to do the job. She was replaced by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) as chair of the Judiciary Committee after attracting criticism for her friendliness with Republicans during Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing. She fell ill with shingles this February, and hasn’t returned to the Senate since. She’s missed nearly 60 votes. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) quickly replied to her request Wednesday night. 

“Per Sen. Feinstein’s wishes, Majority Leader Schumer will ask the Senate next week to allow another Democratic Senator to temporarily serve on the Judiciary Committee,” a Schumer spokesperson said. 

Tension over Feinstein came to a boiling point as Biden administration judicial nominees started piling up, her absence preventing them from getting a vote out of committee. 

Democrats will now need to pass a resolution to replace her on the committee — either with unanimous consent, or with Republican help to get to 60 votes. If Republicans choose to, they could try to obstruct this procedure to further hold up Biden judges. 

The race for Feinstein’s seat in 2024 — she has said she will not run — is playing into the dynamic as well. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) was the first to call for her resignation Wednesday. He’s supporting Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) in her bid for the seat. Should Feinstein resign, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) would appoint her replacement. He’s already promised to pick a Black woman should the opportunity arise, potentially giving Lee the jump on the race. 

Reps. Katie Porter (D-CA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) are also running for the seat. 

Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) echoed Khanna’s call. 

“Senator Feinstein is a remarkable American whose contributions to our country are immeasurable,” he tweeted. “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.”

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