Feinstein Returning To Senate After Long Absence Over Health

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) returned to Washington this week after the 89-year-old was sidelined for months due to illness. Her presence will be a welcome relief for Democrats, who need her vote to restore their 51-49 Senate majority.

She had been away from the Capitol since February battling a bout of shingles. There were calls from within her party for the senator to step down and allow someone else to take her role.

Her absence meant the Senate Judiciary Committee on which she serves was deadlocked. This allowed Republican members to block some of President Joe Biden’s most extreme nominees, and this angered many of her colleagues.

In particular it riled Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who called for her resignation.

Another of Feinstein’s party colleagues who should be expected to have her back, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), also stated that she needed to step aside.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) explained his worries if the California senator did not return to Washington soon. He held out hope for her to be back at work in Congress to assist with confirming judicial nominations.

Democrats also voiced concerns over the looming debt ceiling crisis. Her Senate vote may be crucial for Biden to attain his goal of increasing the nation’s debt limit without addressing runaway spending.

Even the New York Times, normally a dependable ally for the Democratic Party, published an editorial titled “Dianne Feinstein Has to Act.”

The writer opined that “if she cannot fulfill her obligations to the Senate and to her constituents, she should resign and turn over her responsibilities to an appointed successor.”

Feinstein’s office pushed back against the narrative of her own colleagues, issuing a statement declaring “there has been no slowdown.” She expressed her displeasure with Republicans holding up a handful of nominees but said she is confident progress will be made upon her return.

The statement also noted that the Senate has confirmed seven federal judicial nominees.

As for the GOP, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) declared that the only nominees who are being held up are the most liberal and radical.

Feinstein’s office announced near the end of 2022 that she will finish her term, which expires in 2024. She will not, however, run for reelection.