BREAKING: CA Rep. Kiley Introduces Constitutional Amendment Requiring Election of U.S. Senators

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Over the last week, a growing number of Democrats have been openly pressuring Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to resign, since she has been physically unable to return to work following being hospitalized with shingles. Feinstein, a fixture in California politics, is revered among Democrats – or was until potential successors smelled blood in the water.

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Feinstein’s term is up in 2024, and she’s said she’s not seeking re-election (though there was some confusion around that statement). Democrat Rep. Katie Porter was the first to jump into the fray, and last week Republican Eric Early was the first Republican to declare his candidacy. Rep. Barbara Lee is also running, and that’s what’s likely behind calls from Rep. Ro Khanna (a Lee supporter) to loudly call for Feinstein’s resignation.

Why it matters: The 89-year-old Feinstein has missed 58 Senate votes since she was diagnosed with shingles in February. Her absence has been most acutely felt on the divided Senate Judiciary Committee, where Democrats are unable to advance judicial nominees who do not have Republican support.

Driving the news: “It’s time for Sen. Feinstein to resign. We need to put the country ahead of personal loyalty,” Khanna said Wednesday, becoming the first Democratic lawmaker to openly call for her to step down.

If Feinstein resigns before her term ends, under California law Gov. Gavin Newsom would have the power to appoint a replacement to serve until the next general election. Newsom already promised to appoint a black woman to the seat if Feinstein resigns before 2024. Since Lee (a black woman) has already declared her candidacy and has powerful endorsements, Newsom would be under massive pressure to appoint her.

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Newsom already appointed one of the state’s senators, Sen. Alex Padilla (D-because of course), and he likely relishes the idea of being able to appoint another since he uses them as political patronage jobs and ways to gain DEI brownie points.

California Republicans are getting weary of all of this appointing, which makes the climb toward electoral relevance in the state even more difficult.

Freshman Rep. Kevin Kiley (R-CA) has now introduced a Constitutional Amendment providing that “U.S. Senators, like Members of the House, must always be elected rather than appointed.”

It reads:

“Section 1. No person shall be a Senator from a state unless such person has been elected by the people thereof. When vacancies happen in the representation of any state in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies.

“Section 2. This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as a part of the Constitution.”

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This proposed amendment will almost certainly have no bearing on the Feinstein situation, but it’s still something that should be given serious consideration given our current patchwork of state laws regarding the replacement of U.S. Senators who have resigned or died in office.

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