LOS ANGELES (AP) — Recovering U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California asked to be temporarily replaced on the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, shortly after two House Democrats called on her to resign after her prolonged absence from Washington. .
In a statement, the longtime Democratic senator said her recovery from a case of shingles she disclosed in early March had been delayed due to complications. She did not provide a date for her return to the Senate and said she had asked Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to ask the Senate to allow another Democratic senator to take her seat on the committee until she can come back.
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“I intend to return as soon as possible once my medical team tells me it’s safe to travel,” Feinstein said. “In the meantime, I remain committed to work and will continue to work from my home in San Francisco.”
Feinstein’s decision to seek a replacement on the committee during his recovery comes amid growing anxiety within his party that his long absence has hurt Democratic efforts to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominees to federal courts in a closely held chamber. divided.
She is the oldest member of Congress, at 89.
California Rep. Ro Khanna, one of two House Democrats who on Wednesday called for Feinstein’s resignation, said in a statement Wednesday, “This is a time of crisis for women’s rights and the right to vote. It is unacceptable that Senator Feinstein is missing vote after vote to confirm the judges who will defend reproductive rights.
Khanna, a California progressive, tweeted that Feinstein should step down. She announced in February that she would not run again in 2024, opening her seat for the first time in more than 30 years.
“We must put country before personal loyalty,” wrote Khanna, who supported Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee’s Senate campaign. “While she has had her whole life in public service, it is obvious that she can no longer fulfill her duties.”
Shortly after, Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota tweeted that he agreed with Khanna.
Feinstein, he writes, “is a remarkable American whose contributions to our country are immeasurable. But I believe it is now a dereliction of duty to remain in the Senate and a dereliction of duty for those who agree to remain silent.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday from Ireland, where President Joe Biden was visiting, that Biden and first lady Jill Biden “wish Senator Feinstein the best and a speedy recovery”. She said Biden was “deeply grateful for his support” of his judicial nominees and “respects and appreciates his commitment to public service.”
The senator, who turns 90 in June, has faced questions about her cognitive health and memory in recent years, despite defending her effectiveness representing a state that is home to nearly 40 million people.
Already, Democratic Representatives Lee, Katie Porter and Adam Schiff have launched Senate campaigns to succeed Feinstein.
If Feinstein decides to step down while in office, it would be up to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom to fill the vacancy, potentially revamping the highly competitive race. Newsom said in 2021 he would nominate a black woman to fill the seat if Feinstein steps down.
Lee is black, and becoming the starter could be a decisive advantage in the contest, but it’s unclear if Newsom would consider Lee, given her candidacy. Porter and Schiff are white.
Newsom declined through a spokesperson to comment on Khanna’s statement.
“The governor is not calling on him to resign,” spokesman Anthony York said in an email.
Ahead of calls for his resignation, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, acknowledged in remarks to CNN that Feinstein’s absence had slowed their effort to confirm nominees on the tightly divided panel. .
“I cannot consider the nominees under these circumstances because a tie vote is a losing vote in committee,” Durbin said.
Feinstein had a groundbreaking political career and broke down gender barriers from San Francisco City Hall to the halls of Capitol Hill.
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She was the first woman to serve as chair of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in the 1970s and San Francisco’s first female mayor. She rose to the position after the November 1978 assassinations of then-mayor George Moscone and city supervisor Harvey Milk by a former supervisor, Dan White. Feinstein found Milk’s body.
In the Senate, she was the first woman to head the Senate Intelligence Committee and the first woman to serve as the first Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. She gained a reputation as a pragmatic centrist who marked political battles on issues ranging from reproductive rights to environmental protection.