Mitch McConnell sounded the death knell Tuesday on any chance of Dianne Feinstein staying in Congress. For once, Democrats should listen to him.
Feinstein hasn’t been in the Senate for more than six weeks due to complications from having shingles. Her absence has put many key votes, including judicial confirmations, on hold. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would grant her request to let another Democratic senator temporarily serve in her place on the Judiciary Committee.
A few Republicans have said they will refuse to let that happen, but McConnell put the final nail in that coffin Tuesday. “Senate Republicans will not take part in sidelining a temporarily absent colleague off a committee just so Democrats can force through their very worst nominees,” the chamber minority leader said in a floor speech.
Calls for Feinstein to step down have begun to grow, even within her own party. Representatives Jamaal Bowman and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tactfully urged the senator to resign on Monday, joining their colleagues Ro Khanna and Dean Phillips.
Feinstein announced in February that she would not run for reelection. She has had a long and storied career, but it has been sullied in recent years by reports that she is no longer mentally capable of serving.
If she does not step down now, she will effectively hand control of the Senate to Republicans. The GOP will be able to hold up votes and even determine the outcome of judicial nominations, which are becoming increasingly important as human rights battles play out in courts across the nation.
If Feinstein does resign, California Governor Gavin Newsom would appoint her replacement, and President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees would no longer be stuck in limbo with a split Judiciary Committee.
Some people have come to Feinstein’s defense. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said Monday that Feinstein “has the right…to decide when she steps down,” while former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blamed the calls to resign on sexism.
But as Senator Amy Klobuchar said Sunday, “this isn’t just about California, it’s also about the nation.” Feinstein’s final act of service to her country could be ceding power. It would be an act of service to herself to do so with her dignity intact.