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Concerns rise over Sen. Feinstein's lengthy absence from Congress

Feinstein already announced she will not run for reelection next year. But some prominent Democrats have called on her to leave office before then.
Concerns rise over Sen. Feinstein's lengthy absence from Congress
Posted at 5:08 PM, Apr 13, 2023

Nearly six months into the 118th Congress, several Senators have been absent from Capitol Hill and missing votes.

Both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senator John Fetterman, D-Pa., have been on medical leave for weeks, but are expected back when the Senate returns next week. But California's senior U.S. Senator, Dianne Feinstein, remains out with no date set to come back.

This week, a growing number of Democrats are calling on Sen. Feinstein to step down after months of being away from Washington.

The 89-year-old Senator hasn't voted or given a speech on the Senate floor since February, when she was hospitalized with a case of shingles. Her absence has created a backlog of President Joe Biden's judicial nominees in the Senate Judiciary Committee, in which she serves as a senior member.

Feinstein, who turns 90 in June, has already announced she will not run for reelection next year. But some prominent Democrats have called on her to leave office before then.

SEE MORE: Sen. McConnell released from inpatient rehab facility after fall

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., who last month ruled out a bid to succeed Feinstein, tweeted this week in part: "It's time for Sen. Feinstein to resign."

Feinstein "should not be in the Senate," Jon Lovett, a former speechwriter to President Obama and a co-host of the popular left-leaning podcast "Pod Save America," said Tuesday.

Feinstein "is now preventing us from being able to confirm judges," said Lovett on his podcast.

It's not the first time Feinstein's fitness to serve has been called into question. A series of articles in recent years have called into question her mental fitness.

Feinstein is the oldest serving U.S. Senator.

Already, a trio of prominent current Democratic Representatives — Adam Schiff, Katie Porter, and Barbara Lee — have thrown their hats in the ring to succeed Sen. Feinstein.

This week, Eric Early, a perennial Republican candidate in California, also entered the race. 

Early faces an uphill battle, as a Republican has not won statewide in California since then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger won his re-election bid in 2006.

SEE MORE: Sen. Fetterman discharged from Walter Reed after depression treatment

In a statement Wednesday night, Feinstein confirmed there was no set date for her to return to Washington, as she continues to recover from a case of shingles.

In her absence, Feinstein announced she "asked Leader Schumer to ask the Senate to allow another Democratic senator to temporarily serve" on the Judiciary Committee in order to allow Biden's judicial confirmations to resume.

A spokesperson for the Majority Leader told Scripps News he plans to take steps when the Senate returns mid-April "to allow another Democratic Senator to temporarily serve on the Judiciary Committee."

If Feinstein were to resign before her term ends on January 3, 2025, it would be up to Governor Gavin Newsom to fill the vacancy.

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