California Sen. Dianne Feinstein is facing further calls to resign after it was revealed she suffered additional health complications stemming from her shingles.
Feinstein, 89, was absent from Washington D.C. for more than two months while she recovered from shingles. She suffered an inflammation of the brain known as encephalitis because of the virus, and facial paralysis known as Ramsay Hunt syndrome.
Adam Russell, a spokesman for Feinstein, said in a statement to The New York Times and the Associated Press, that the encephalitis had “resolved itself shortly after she was released from the hospital in March.” However, the senator was still experiencing complications from Ramsay Hunt syndrome.
The previously undisclosed medical details regarding Feinstein came after she had already faced calls to leave office amid concerns about her mental and physical well-being. There are questions over whether she is still able to perform her duties.
During her absence from Washington D.C., Feinstein missed dozens of Senate votes. The Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Feinstein is a member, was also unable to confirm some of President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees because she was not present to vote.
Congressman Ro Khanna of California was one of the first Democrats to call on Feinstein to resign. He said in April that it is obvious she can “no longer fulfill her duties.” Khanna has now again stated that Feinstein should step down in the wake of the news of her encephalitis and Ramsay Hunt syndrome diagnosis.
“I have a lot of respect for Senator Feinstein and I am wishing her the best in her return and recovery. That being said, I stand by my call for her to resign,” Khanna said in a statement.
Susie Tompkins Buell, a major Democratic donor and a longtime Feinstein supporter, also said that now it is the time for the veteran lawmaker to resign.
“I admire the senator deeply, and I am sorry she is so not well,” Buell told The New York Times. “The Senate has critical, challenging work to do, and as the stakes are so high and she is not able to be present, to be informed and active, let alone have the rest she needs in order to recover, I feel she needs to step down. And yet she isn’t willing in this state of mind.”
While sharing a news article link detailing Feinstein’s illnesses, MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan tweeted: “The people around her should be ashamed, and [Senate Majority Leader Chuck] Schumer and [Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick] Durbin should be pressuring her today to resign/retire.”
New York attorney Joseph J. Saltarelli added: “Senator Feinstein’s refusal to resign, and unwillingness of most of her colleagues to criticize her for it, is emblematic of Senate existing as sort of American House of Lords; many senators view their positions as vested political sinecures rather than as servants of the people.”
When Feinstein returned to the Capitol on May 10, she required a wheelchair, one side of her face appeared partially paralyzed, and her left eye was almost entirely shut. Feinstein’s frail appearance led to concerns that her office was not fully disclosing the extent of her illness to the public during her two-month absence.
There were also further concerns about Feinstein’s mental well-being when she appeared to say that she had not been absent from the Senate while speaking to reporters in Washington D.C. “I haven’t been gone,” she said. “I haven’t been gone. I’ve been working.”
When asked if she meant she was working from her San Francisco home, as her office had said, Feinstein replied: “No, I’ve been here. I’ve been voting. Please, either know or don’t know.”
Elsewhere, the highly respected senator has received some bipartisan support amid the continuing calls for her to step down.
Speaking to reporters outside the Capitol on Thursday, GOP Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy said: “If you think [Feinstein] ought to resign… then by God, go to Amazon and buy a spine online and say it publicly.”
Ted Lieu, a House Democrat who represents California, also praised Feinstein’s return to the Senate, despite her frail appearance the previous week.
“Democrats don’t get in the way of conversations between patients and their doctors,” Lieu said on May 16. “Feinstein came back last week and she voted, and that was very good.”
Newsweek has emailed Feinstein’s office for further comment.