WASHINGTON — Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., faces calls to resign from fellow Democrats in Congress after a lengthy absence from the Senate due to health issues.
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., became the first member of Congress to call on Feinstein to resign late Wednesday afternoon.
"It’s time for @SenFeinstein to resign," he tweeted. "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."
Khanna elaborated in a message to NBC News: "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."
"It’s time for California officials who care deeply about reproductive rights to call on her to step down at this moment in history," he said.
Concerns are growing that Feinstein's prolonged absence is hindering Senate Democrats, particularly when it comes to confirming judges, given her pivotal vote on the Judiciary Committee.
Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., quickly chimed in to say he agrees with Khanna. "Senator Feinstein is a remarkable American whose contributions to our country are immeasurable," Phillips 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."
Feinstein, 89, who has not voted in the Senate since Feb. 16, said early March she had been diagnosed with shingles.
On Wednesday, after calls for her resignation, she issued a statement but did not provide a timetable for returning to Washington.
“I intend to return as soon as possible once my medical team advises that it’s safe for me to travel,” she said.
“I understand that my absence could delay the important work of the Judiciary Committee, 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 added.
A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement Wednesday night that the New York Democrat “will ask the Senate next week to allow another Democratic Senator to temporarily serve on the Judiciary Committee.”
Getting the Senate to agree, however, could require either unanimous consent or 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.
Feinstein, who was first elected to the Senate in 1992, has said she won't run for re-election, but she still has 20 months left in her term. Khanna has endorsed Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., to replace her.
Lee is competing with other prominent California House Democrats, Adam Schiff and Katie Porter. Lee could be a major beneficiary if Feinstein decides to step aside early, as Gov. Gavin Newsom has said he'll appoint a Black woman to the seat if Feinstein decides to retire early and creates a vacancy.