May 29, 2023


Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Wednesday night that she had asked to be “temporarily” replaced on the Senate Judiciary Committee while she is recovering from shingles, but the California Democrat remained committed to returning to the Senate amid pressure by some in her party to step down.

“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,” the 89-year-old Feinstein said in a statement.

Feinstein said she had expected to return to Washington “by the end of the March work period,” but that her return had been “delayed due to continued complications related to my diagnosis.” She planned to return, she said, “as soon as possible once my medical team advises that it’s safe for me to travel.”

A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday night that “per Sen. Feinstein’s wishes,” he would “ask the Senate next week to allow another Democratic Senator to temporarily serve on the Judiciary Committee.”

In order to replace her on the committee, a resolution would need to be agreed upon to name another member to the panel. Typically, members are named to committees as part of an organizing resolution at the beginning of a new Senate session.

The process at the start of a new Congress typically happens without incident. Leaders agree and the resolution is adopted by unanimous consent.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin recently acknowledged to CNN that Feinstein’s absence had slowed down the party’s push to confirm nominees.

Asked if her absence has longer ramifications for the Democrats’ ability to confirm nominees, the Illinois Democrat said, “Yes, of course it does,” pointing to the long process of getting nominees scheduled for votes during precious floor time.

Earlier Wednesday, in a rare instance of lawmakers urging a member of their own party to step down from Congress, Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna of California and Dean Phillips of Minnesota called for Feinstein’s resignation on Twitter.

“She has been an icon on issues of gun violence and women’s rights, but it has become painfully obvious to many of us in California that she is no longer able to fulfill her duties as she doesn’t have a clear return date,” Khanna, who co-chairs Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee’s campaign to fill Feinstein’s Senate seat in 2024, told Don Lemon on “CNN This Morning” Thursday. “We haven’t been able to confirm judges at a time where women’s rights and voting rights are under assault.”

“And so, as someone from California, I felt an obligation to say what so many colleagues are saying in private. The time has come for her to gracefully step down and have a dignified end to a very distinguished political career,” he added.

In early March, Feinstein said that she had been hospitalized and was receiving treatment for shingles. On March 7, she said on Twitter that she was recovering at home as she continued to receive treatment, and that she looked forward to returning to the Senate “as soon as possible.”

Multiple sources told CNN earlier Wednesday that there has not been a specific date set for her return.

The senator announced in February that she would not run for reelection, and a number of Democrats have already launched campaigns for Feinstein’s seat in 2024 in what is shaping up to be a competitive primary.

This headline and story have been updated with additional developments.


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