On Monday, Representatives Jamaal Bowman and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez expressed support for the resignation of Senator Dianne Feinstein, as the congressional veteran’s absence leaves key votes, including on juridical nominations, in limbo.
Last week, Representative Ro Khanna became the first Democrat to call for Feinstein’s resignation, with Minnesota Representative Dean Phillips echoing Khanna’s call shortly after.
“Yes, you know, she’s had a very long and stellar career, you know, but missing that many votes, you know, stops us from moving forward judge nominations,” Bowman cautiously told CNN’s Manu Raju.
Ocasio-Cortez echoed Bowman’s remorseful tone, saying that “it is unfortunately something that … is appropriate to consider in this case.”
The growing calls for Feinstein’s resignation comes amid the tanking of Senator Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer’s idealistic vision to keep Feinstein in office but find a replacement for her on the Judiciary Committee. Sixty senators would have to approve the Feinstein replacement, which means a few Republicans would have to join the effort. While there is precedent for unanimous support for committee reappropriation, enough key Senate Republicans have announced they are not interested in playing along this time. With Feinstein missing, the committee is split, and Biden’s judicial nominees will continue to be blocked.
Now the options are far and few between for Democrats. And the stakes are no less heightened with the backdrop of the scandalous financial entanglements of one of the most powerful jurists in the country, Clarence Thomas.
Though calls for Feinstein’s resignation continue to grow, both in and outside of government, some members of Congress have been less open to the idea. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said Monday that Feinstein was “voted by her state to be senator for six years; she has the right, in my opinion, to decide when she steps down.” Former Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi has insinuated the calls are rooted in sexism, saying she doesn’t “know what political agendas are at work that are going after Senator Feinstein.”
Meanwhile, most Democrats have been largely mum or deferential up to this point, allowing the likes of Khanna to be the lone voices against leadership that has relentlessly stood by Feinstein. But the growing calls may signal a sea change. Other members of Congress who have publicly been on the fence could be primed to come out in support of Feinstein gracefully resigning given the narrowing options.
On Sunday, Senator Amy Klobuchar told ABC that “if this goes on month after month after month, then she’s gonna 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.” Klobuchar, by no means someone who is routinely out of step with the party center, may be indicative of how many Democrats feel. Given the sparse options and less and less time to confirm judges (and how crucial courts have come to be: from abortion access and immigrant protection to labor and civil rights), Democrats can ride off the movement spurred by Khanna and Phillips, and now Ocasio-Cortez and Bowman, to encourage Feinstein to conclude her career in the best way possible.
Feinstein can resign of her own volition, focus on regaining her health without a timeline pressuring her, and enjoy her life after a long-storied career in the Senate. And to top it all off, she’ll leave a legacy that many politicians fail to secure: shedding a bit of ego and knowing when to leave.