In a statement released Wednesday evening, Feinstein announced that she has asked Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to appoint a temporary replacement on the Senate Judiciary Committee to serve in her place until her return.
Schumer, D-N.Y., agreed to move forward with her request, which must be approved by the Senate.
California Rep. Ro Khanna earlier Wednesday became the first Democratic lawmaker to urge the longtime senator to step aside.
"We need to put the country ahead of personal loyalty," Khanna wrote in a Twitter post. "While she has had a lifetime of public service, it is obvious she can no longer fulfill her duties."
"Not speaking out undermines our credibility as elected representatives of the people," he added.
Feinstein has been absent from the Senate since mid-February as she recovers from a bout of shingles; her last recorded vote by the Senate clerk was February 16th.
In a statement to Spectrum News, Khanna specified that the need for Feinstein to step down was magnified by Texas Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk's ruling last week to reverse the FDA's approval of abortion medication mifepristone.
"The ruling by an extremist judge in Texas has made it clear that Democrats must act with speed and urgency to confirm judicial nominees who will protect the right to an abortion," Khanna said in the statement to Spectrum News. "Senator Feinstein is unable to fulfill her duties and for the good of the people, she should resign."
Shortly after Khanna's statement about Feinstein, Minnesota Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips took to Twitter to echo his colleague's sentiments.
"Senator Feinstein is a remarkable American whose contributions to our country are immeasurable," he said. "But 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."
Since the beginning of the year, Feinstein has missed 60 of the recorded 82 votes cast, or more than 70%.
In March, Feinstein confirmed to Spectrum News she had been diagnosed over the February recess with shingles, and that she was expected “to make a full recovery” from the virus, which causes painful rashes. She said "I hope to return to the Senate later this month."
Now well into April, her office told us Wednesday when asked if Senator Feinstein would be returning to Washington for votes Monday that they “don’t have an update at this time."
Her lengthy absence has already impacted a number of votes in the Senate, including confirmation of judicial nominees.
“I can’t consider nominees in these circumstances because a tie vote is a losing vote in committee,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told CNN this week.
Feinstein, who at 89 is currently the oldest member of the Senate, announced in February that she would retire following the conclusion of her term in 2024. Feinstein’s statement came amid increasing age-related speculation over her fitness for the job, as well as a number of proclaimed challenges for the seat by a handful of high-profile California Democratic politicians, including Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee.
On Wednesday evening, Feinstein released a statement saying that her lengthy absence has been "delayed due to continued complications related to my diagnosis," and that she intends to return to Washington as soon as possible, "once my medical team advises that it’s safe for me to travel," she said.
"I understand that my absence could delay the important work of the Judiciary Committee, so I’ve asked Leader Schumer to ask the Senate to allow another Democratic senator to temporarily serve until I’m able to resume my committee work," Feinstein added.
A Schumer spokesperson responded on Wednesday night, saying that Schumer "will ask the Senate next week to allow another Democratic Senator to temporarily serve on the Judiciary Committee" in accordance with Feinstein's request.