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Rep. Tlaib joins list of Democrats calling on Sen. Feinstein to resign

89-year-old Democrat's office has not set a return date after battling shingles

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., said Friday on Twitter, “Sen. Feinstein must step down."
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., said Friday on Twitter, “Sen. Feinstein must step down." (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Rashida Tlaib is the latest Democratic lawmaker to urge Sen. Dianne Feinstein to resign, warning her absence has allowed Republicans to pass legislation and block President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees.

“Because Sen. Feinstein was absent, Republicans are passing legislation through the Senate, undermining the right of our residents to breathe clean air,” the Michigan Democrat said in a Friday tweet. “And with a far-right judiciary targeting our human rights, we are unable to confirm judges.

“Sen. Feinstein must step down,” added Tlaib, a member of the influential progressive group known as “the squad.”

The 89-year-old Feinstein has been out since early March, when she was hospitalized with shingles. Though no longer in the hospital, Feinstein’s office has yet to announce a return-to-work date. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., recently said he hopes she will return to the Senate “soon.”

But Schumer this week was unable to provide reporters an updated timetable on Feinstein’s return, complicating Democrats’ plans to spend much of this year processing Biden judicial picks.

One of the GOP measures that passed Wednesday is aimed at reversing a Biden administration rule intended to cut pollution from large trucks. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, mulling a reelection bid in deep red West Virginia, joined all GOP senators in supporting that measure.

Had Feinstein — or a replacement appointed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom — been present, Vice President Kamala Harris could have broken the tie with a vote to block the GOP bill.

President Joe Biden, however, can veto measures that Republicans pass.

Among other Democratic House members who have called for Feinstein to give up her seat is California Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna. In an April 12 tweet, he wrote “it is obvious she can no longer fulfill her duties.” Feinstein, who has announced she will not seek reelection, later in the day said she would temporarily give up her Judiciary Committee seat until she can return to work.

Khanna a few days later called on Newsom to appoint a “caretaker” senator to finish out Feinstein’s term — but that would require her resignation. Khanna’s office told CQ Roll Call he is not interested in being a temporary appointee, should Feinstein step aside; he previously announced he would not run for her seat in 2024 and endorsed California Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee. Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., also has said she should step down.

Senators from both parties have defended Feinstein, saying House members should keep their noses out of Senate business.

Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., earlier this month called Feinstein a “legend,” and advised on MSNBC that Khanna and other House members let senators make their own decisions.

But Republican senators criticized a move by Schumer to replace Feinstein on the Judiciary Committee with Maryland Democratic Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin.

“No, we’re not going to substitute a senator on a committee because I think that’s a bad precedent to set and what they want to do this for is to confirm four judges that I think are over the top,” said Senate Judiciary ranking member Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., before a floor vote on the committee swap proposal. “So that’s the motivation behind it. I … have voted for my fair share of Democratic judges, but I think it’d be a bad precedent to set.”

Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, another GOP Judiciary Committee member, said he was “not interested in helping them punish Senator Feinstein — that’s really what’s happening here.”

“They want her to resign. I mean, they forced her out of the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee,” he added. “They’re trying to force her to resign. You’ve got the congressman from her own state calling on her to resign. I mean, they’re trying to force her out of office, which is, you know, really, I think unseemly.”

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