Rep. Ro Khanna (D., Calif.) dismissed comments by Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) accusing those calling for 89-year-old senator Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) to step down of being sexist.
"This has nothing to do with gender," Khanna said Thursday when asked about Pelosi’s comments. Khanna was the first Democrat in Congress to call for the resignation of Feinstein, who has missed dozens of votes after being diagnosed with shingles in early March.
After Khanna was joined by other House Democrats, Pelosi came to Feinstein's defense.
"I don’t know what political agendas are at work that are going after Sen. Feinstein in that way," Pelosi told reporters on Wednesday. "I’ve never seen them go after a man who was sick in the Senate in that way."
Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) echoed Pelosi during an appearance Thursday on MSNBC, calling it "interesting" that male senators have not been called on to resign during extended absences from the chamber.
Feinstein has resisted the calls for her resignation while she recovers at home. She did ask to be temporarily removed from the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Democrats were upset her absence was holding up Biden’s judicial appointments.
Khanna earlier this week thanked Feinstein for "a lifetime of public service" but added that "it is obvious she can no longer fulfill her duties."
"She should know when it’s time to step aside," Khanna said.
It's not the first time Democrats have voiced concerned about Feinstein's health. In April 2022, four Democratic officials, including three senators, said her cognitive decline is too severe for her to finish her term. One member said they have known her for 15 years and had to reintroduce themselves during meetings.
Khanna also implied Pelosi has a political interest in Feinstein serving out the rest of her term, which would prevent Gov. Gavin Newsom (D., Calif.) from appointing a temporary replacement of his choosing.
"I know she’s very much for Adam Schiff getting that seat, but I don’t question people’s political motives," Khanna said. "This is simply about whether someone can do their jobs."