DES MOINES, Iowa — Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) defended his call for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to resign after former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) questioned the move. 

In an exclusive interview with The Hill, Khanna said that Feinstein is “simply unable now to fulfill her duties” and should step down. 

“My intent was not to make a splash, it was simply to say publicly what so many know privately,” Khanna said on Thursday afternoon, speaking in a wide-ranging interview in Des Moines. “While Sen. Feinstein has had an extraordinary, distinguished career, she’s simply unable now to fulfill her duties.”

“It’s sad to see,” he said. “It’s sad to see her in this state where she is missing votes, where we’re not being able to confirm judges because of her absence on the Judiciary Committee. I just think that we should have someone in that role who can do the job right now.”

On Wednesday, Pelosi questioned the rationale for Feinstein, a fellow member of the California congressional delegation, to step down from office. The 89-year-old Feinstein has stated she will not run for reelection in 2024 amid ongoing health concerns. 

“It’s interesting to me. I don’t know what political agendas are at work that are going after Sen. Feinstein in that way,” Pelosi told reporters, without mentioning Khanna by name. “I’ve never seen them go after a man who was sick in the Senate in that way.” 

Khanna became the first House Democrat to urge Feinstein to step down on Wednesday, followed by Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.). Pelosi’s comments came a few minutes before Khanna had tweeted his resignation remarks.

The Silicon Valley congressman defended his position, emphasizing the importance of getting judicial nominees confirmed in a timely manner, especially as Republicans look to make the courts a leading issue in 2024. 

Feinstein has missed a significant portion of votes as a member of the Judiciary Committee and this week said that she would seek out being “temporarily” replaced. 

“I don’t know what political agendas are at work with her comments,” Khanna said in response to Pelosi’s remarks. “I just know there are so many people who are really concerned about women’s rights, who are concerned about the Texas decision with the FDA. And what they want to know is why can’t we confirm these judges?”

“I’ve had so many women leaders and leaders of the reproductive rights movement reach out to me and respond to my call saying we need, at this historic moment, to have someone there to fill these judge positions.”

Updated: 2:21 p.m. ET