Sen. Diane Feinstein is back at work after a month’s absence

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein returned to the Senate on Wednesday after a two-and-a-half-month absence due to illness, giving most Democrats a a much-needed final vote as they seek to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominees and raise the nation’s debt ceiling in the coming weeks.

Noted to be extremely thin and frail, Feinstein uses a wheelchair to get around the Capitol as she continues to recover from a case of shingles. He missed the first Senate votes on Wednesday morning but arrived outside the Senate in a car for an afternoon vote, assisted in a wheelchair by aides and greeted by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer with a handshake and an affectionate pat on the back.

In a statement, Feinstein, 89, said she continues to recover from the effects of the shingles virus and will work on a reduced schedule. While he returned to Washington on Tuesday, he missed a vote Tuesday night and two votes Wednesday morning before returning for an afternoon vote to confirm an Education Department nominee.

“My doctors have advised me to work a lighter schedule when I return to the Senate,” Feinstein said in the statement. “I hope the issues go away as I continue to heal.”

Feinstein’s return after 10 weeks away from the Senate gives Democrats a better cushion as they navigate their narrow 51-49 majority. He asked Schumer to temporarily replace him on the Senate Judiciary Committee, where some of Biden’s judicial nominations have stalled without his tie-breaking vote. but Blocked by Republicans that request last month, giving Democrats few options to move nominees — and key bills, like a potential debt package — unless he backs down or resigns.

However, it’s unclear whether Feinstein will be able to attend every key vote. His office said that while he was initially diagnosed with shingles on February 26 and was briefly hospitalized, he still experienced side effects such as vision and balance impairment.

The illness comes after Feinstein has been frailer in recent years, and at times appeared dazed or confused when speaking to reporters at the Capitol. But he defended his effectiveness.

In her statement, Feinstein said the “most pressing” issue facing the Senate is raising the debt ceiling and avoiding default. “I also look forward to continuing my work on the Judiciary Committee considering the president’s judicial nominees,” he said.

Feinstein made the unusual request to be temporarily replaced on the panel after pressure from Democrats concerned about judicial nominees and amid some calls for her resignation. His office has not given a date for his return, causing headaches for Democrats who hope to use their majority to confirm as many of Biden’s judicial nominees as possible.

Republicans balked, saying they wouldn’t help Democrats confirm nominees who couldn’t act without bipartisan support. Schumer refused to hold a vote on Feinstein’s request after it became clear it would not pass.

He asked for a replacement after the Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., called on her to resign in the Senate, saying it was “unacceptable” for her to miss the votes to confirm judges who can weigh in on abortion rights, a key Democratic vote. priority.

Feinstein has gradually stepped back from several senior positions in recent years. In 2020, he said he would not serve as the top Democrat on the judiciary panel after criticism from liberals about his handling of Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation. Earlier this year, he said he would not serve as Senate president pro tempore, or the most senior member of the majority party, although he was in line to do so. The president pro tempore opens the Senate daily and holds other ceremonial duties.

The long-serving California senator has had a passionate political career and has broken gender barriers. She was the first woman to serve as president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in the 1970s and the first woman mayor of San Francisco. He rose to that post after the November 1978 assassination of former Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk by a former supervisor, Dan White. Feinstein found Milk’s body.

In the Senate, she was the first woman to chair the Senate Intelligence Committee and the first woman to serve as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

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