Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday defended ailing Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and characterized progressive demands for her resignation as sexist and politically motivated.
Feinstein, who sits on the powerful Judiciary Committee, was hospitalized with shingles last month and continues recovering at her home in San Francisco. Several Democrats have expressed concern that her lengthy absence is delaying the confirmation of President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees and jeopardizes the party’s narrow Senate majority. Feinstein has already missed 60 Senate votes this year.
Pelosi said Feinstein deserves the chance to recover and return to Washington.
“It’s interesting to me,” Pelosi told reporters. “I don’t know what political agendas are at work that are going after Sen. Feinstein in that way. I’ve never seen them go after a man who was sick in the Senate in that way.”
Feinstein on Wednesday asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to appoint a temporary replacement on the Judiciary Committee.
“Unfortunately, my return to Washington has been delayed due to continued complications related to my diagnosis,” she said. “I intend to return as soon as possible once my medical team advises that it’s safe for me to travel.”
Democrats who have called for Feinstein’s ouster include Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Dean Phillips (D-Minn.).
“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,” Phillips wrote on Twitter.
Feinstein, 89, announced earlier this year that she would retire when her current term ends in January 2025.
The race for a successor is already heating up, with Reps. Katie Porter, Barbara Lee and Adam Schiff confirming their candidacies. Pelosi has endorsed Schiff in the contest.