Gov. Gavin Newsom poured water Friday on suggestions that U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s slip and fall earlier this week is yet another sign the ailing 90-year-old lawmaker should resign and let him appoint a replacement.
Several liberal Democrats urged Feinstein’s ouster this spring as her months-long absence from the Senate Judiciary Committee due to shingles complications held up some Democratic judicial appointments. But Newsom noted Senate Republian Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has said he wouldn’t seat a Democratic replacement for Feinstein.
“I have to remind my friends that if she does resign and the governor — me — appoints someone, we may not get another federal judge out of the judiciary,” Newsom told reporters Friday at a briefing in the Capitol. “You think Mitch McConnell is going to allow that? You think for a second Mitch McConnell will allow another Democrat?”
McConnell in April said in response to suggestions for a temporary Democratic replacement for Feinstein on the Judiciary Committee that “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.”
Newsom went on Friday to praise Feinstein as an icon and an inspiration, and said her declining health as the Senate’s oldest sitting member has been difficult for him.
“On a personal level, this is hard,” Newsom said, recalling that she signed a book of Shakespeare for him when he was a college intern. “As a kid in San Francisco, she was my mentor, she had my back. What’s hard for me, she’s not going to run again, and I wish we were talking about her legacy and not a TMZ article that she had a slip and fall.”
Feinstein, a former San Francisco mayor who has championed gun restrictions and environmental protections over three decades as a senator, has been subject to mounting reports that she’s slipping mentally and her health is failing. California Democratic Reps. Katie Porter of Irvine and Adam Schiff of Burbank announced in January that they would run for Feinstein’s seat next year, before she said in February she wouldn’t seek re-election.
Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland joined the race shortly afterward.
Feinstein returned to the Senate in May in a wheelchair after more than two months recovering from shingles complications, during which critics including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman of New York and Dean Phillips of Minnesota said Feinstein should step down. Rep. Ro Khanna of Santa Clara, who is helping Lee’s Senate campaign, also has said she should resign.
TMZ reported Wednesday that Feinstein had fallen in her San Francisco home and went to a hospital. Feinstein’s office confirmed she had briefly gone to a hospital as a precaution after a minor fall in her home and that “all her scans were clear and she returned home.”
Newsom in March 2021 on MSNBC committed to naming a Black woman to the Senate if Feinstein stepped down. Lee is the most prominent Democratic Black woman in the race for Feinstein’s seat, though she has trailed Porter and Schiff in polls and fundraising.
But Newsom said Friday of Feinstein that “I wish her the best.”
“She deserves only the best,” Newsom said, “particularly at this stage in her career.”