Feinstein Says She’ll Return to Senate but Gives No Date

May 5, 2023

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said Thursday she plans to return to the Senate, but she gave no firm date for her return.

“The Senate continues to swiftly confirm highly qualified individuals to the federal judiciary, including seven more judicial nominees who were confirmed this week. There has been no slowdown,” said the 89-year-old member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who’s been on medical leave since early March recovering from shingles. 

However, her assertion runs counter to that of Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL), who has stated that Feinstein’s absence had indeed slowed down Democrats’ efforts to confirm President Biden’s judicial nominees.

Without her vote, the Judiciary Committee is split evenly 9-9 between Democrats and Republicans.

Feinstein on Thursday blamed Republicans for federal judicial nominees being stuck in committee.

On April 18, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocked an attempt to temporarily replace Feinstein on the Judiciary Committee, as per her request, while she’s absent.

“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,” McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor. 

A small group of House Democrats have called for Feinstein to retire now rather than at the end of her latest term in 2024, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ro Khanna of California.

So far, though, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has been reluctant to join their chorus, as have other Democratic Senators.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has gone so far as to accuse those calling for Feinstein’s retirement of sexism.

“We have male members that have various challenges, and I’m not hearing anybody suggesting that they retire. I do think she has been treated unfairly. And so she’ll make the decision, and I will support that decision,” Stabenow said in April.

But Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who’s also on the Judiciary Committee warned  on April 16 that Feinstein’s absence reduces Democrats’ narrow majority in the chamber by one to 50-49, and Democrats may need her vote on critical issues like the debt ceiling.

In that same interview, though, Klobuchar came to Feinstein’s defense, saying, “Many people have been out, as you know, for periods of time when they’re sick, and they have come back..”

“In this case, we are going to need her vote on the Senate floor eventually,” Klobuchar also conceded, adding, “If this goes on month after month after month, then she’s going to have to make a decision with her family and her friends about what her future holds because this isn’t just about California, it’s also about the nation. And we just can’t, with this one vote margin, and expect every other person to be there every single time.”

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