NYT Editorial Board Says It: Time for Dianne Feinstein to Exit Stage Left

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

I can’t recall a single thing on which I’ve agreed with Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) politically, though I’m sure that somewhere along the line, there must have been at least one. That said, I’ll admit it’s rather difficult to envision a U.S. Senate without her. DiFi has served in the upper chamber since 1992. She’s also the oldest member, edging out Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) by roughly three months. But Grassley’s still got more than a step or two on Feinstein, whose failing health RedState has reported on extensively.

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She’s now been absent from the Senate for over two months. (Some might argue it’s been a good deal longer than that.) And because of her extended absence, several key votes and judicial nominations are being held up. The chorus of those suggesting — no longer delicately — that it’s past time for Feinstein to take a bow is growing — and that’s from her fellow Democrats and the media (if you’ll pardon the redundancy).

Now, in an article titled “Dianne Feinstein Has to Act,” the New York Times Editorial Board is adding its voice to the calls for DiFi to exit stage left:

At age 89, Ms. Feinstein is now the Senate’s oldest member, and health issues have kept her out of Washington and the Senate chamber for more than two months, at a time when vital legislation and judicial nominations are hanging on a knife’s edge. If she cannot fulfill her obligations to the Senate and to her constituents, she should resign and turn over her responsibilities to an appointed successor. If she is unable to reach that decision on her own, Mr. Schumer, the majority leader, and other Democratic senators should make it clear to her and the public how important it is that she do so.

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Of paramount concern to the Times? The votes being held hostage to her absence.

Senators play many roles in shaping legislation and policy, but they have one primary and inescapable duty: They must show up in person to vote in the chamber. If they cannot do that for extended periods, they are depriving their constituents — and California has 39 million of them — of a voice and of fundamental representation. In six elections, voters have sent Ms. Feinstein to Washington on a Democratic platform, and in the current term of Congress, that agenda consists of confirming judges nominated by the Biden administration and preserving a majority for important legislation in a closely divided Senate. Her absence is a failure that deprives American voters of full representation on legislation and appointments that will affect them for decades to come.

Without Ms. Feinstein’s presence at proceedings of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democrats have lacked a majority there and struggled at times to advance nominations to the floor. (Proxy voting is allowed in the committee, but a proxy cannot be the decisive vote if the committee is otherwise evenly divided, as it often is.) Currently, seven of President Biden’s judicial nominees are awaiting a vote in the committee, at a time when 9 percent of district and appellate court seats remain vacant. Ms. Feinstein offered to step away from the committee, but Republican senators blocked any effort at appointing a temporary replacement. Democrats are also likely to need all 51 members of their caucus if there is a vote to raise the debt ceiling, along with at least nine Republicans.

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Noting the longstanding Senate tradition of excusing extended absences (Virginia Sen. Carter Glass in the 1940s, South Dakota Sen. Karl Mundt in the late 1960s, South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond in the early 2000s), the Times editorial board says all good things must come to an end:

This Senate tradition should have been discarded long ago. Senate seats are not lifetime sinecures, and if members can’t effectively represent their constituents or work for the benefit of their country, they should not hesitate to turn the job over to someone who can. Ms. Feinstein owes California a responsible decision.

Of course, when and if Feinstein agrees to step aside (or is otherwise forced to), California Governor Gavin Newsom will get to appoint a successor to serve out the rest of her term. The three declared candidates for the 2024 Senate race are Democrat Representatives Katie Porter, Adam Schiff, and Barbara Lee. Notably, Newsom, in 2021, promised to appoint a Black woman to succeed Feinstein if she were to resign. One suspects Porter and Schiff may be hoping for a DiFi curtain call.

The opinions expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of RedState.com.

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