Several female Democratic senators were put on the spot Sunday on whether Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., should resign from the Senate amid her ongoing health issues, with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., saying time is running out for the 89-year-old to return.
Klobuchar said on ABC’s “This Week” that Feinstein, who hasn’t voted since Feb. 16, “sure better” return to the Senate in time for the vote to raise the debt ceiling this summer.
“In this case, we are going to need her vote on the Senate floor eventually,” she said. “We have things like the debt ceiling coming up. But I think what we need to do is take her at her word, she’s recovering from shingles, and make sure she comes back. If this goes on month after month after month, then she’s going to have to make a decision with her family and her friends about what her future holds.”
“Because this isn’t just about California. It’s also about the nation,” she continued. “And we just can’t, with this one vote margin, and expect every other person to be there every single time. It’s going to become an issue as the months go by, but I’m taking her at her word that she’s going to return.”
Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuch and Tammy Baldwin (Fox News)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein makes her way to the Senate chambers at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 16, 2023. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
Feinstein, who has served in the Senate for over 30 years, was hospitalized for shingles last month and has faced other health issues, including concerning reports related to her mental fitness. She had previously faced calls to resign prior to announcing her intention not to run for re-election earlier this year.
Reps. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and Dean Phillips, D-Minn., have led the call for Feinstein to resign.
“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 said last week.
“Sen. Feinstein is a remarkable American whose contributions to our country are immeasurable,” Phillips said. “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,” he wrote.
Rep. Ro Khanna speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 12, 2022.. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Meanwhile, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY., took a similar tone as former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in suggesting sexism was at play in the calls against Feinstein.
“Her legacy and her depth of experience is valuable. And we have had so many senators who have had illnesses, whether it’s [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell’s illnesses, or senators who have had strokes. These are issues that – we’re human,” Gillibrand said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“And we believe that a senator should be able to make their own judgments about when they’re retiring and when they’re not, and they all deserve a chance to get better and come back to work,” she said. “She’s a team player, and she’s an extraordinary member of the Senate. It’s her right. She was voted by her state to be senator for six years, she has the right, in my opinion, to decide when she steps down.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaks at a campaign event for Gov. Kathy Hochul, Nov. 6, 2022, at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that “it’s up to Dianne Feinstein and her family to decide whether she wants to keep on serving.”
“I certainly wish Sen. Feinstein well, and I’m pleased that she has made the decision to have a fill-in on her seat on the Judiciary Committee,” Baldwin said. “I think that is really an important and responsible thing to do during her absence, because we have President Biden’s nominees waiting for hearings and votes, and we want to keep that moving. But I wish her well and hope she returns to the Senate very soon.”
Feinstein said in a statement Wednesday that she plans to temporarily step down from the Judiciary Committee.
“When I was first diagnosed with shingles, I expected to return by the end of the March work period,” Feinstein said. “Unfortunately, my return to Washington has been delayed due to continued complications related to my diagnosis.
“I intend to return as soon as possible once my medical team advises that it’s safe for me to travel. In the meantime, I remain committed to the job and will continue to work from home in San Francisco.”
Fox News’ Brandon Gillespie contributed to this report.