Speed Reads

Absent but not forgotten

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, still recovering from shingles, asks to be replaced on Judiciary Committee

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who has been at home in San Francisco since announcing she was hospitalized with shingles in early March, said in a statement Wednesday night that she has asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to temporarily replace her on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has been hamstrung by her absence. Feinstein, 89, is the oldest member of the Senate by several months and the longest-serving woman in Senate history.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has acknowledged he's been unable to advance any of President Biden's judicial nominees in Feinstein's absence, since the committee is now tied between Democrats and Republicans. "I can't consider nominees in these circumstances because a tie vote is a losing vote in committee," Durbin told CNN earlier this week. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) called on Feinstein to step down earlier Wednesday, citing the stalled judicial nominations. Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) seconded his call.

Schumer's office said Wednesday that, per Feinstein's request, he would ask the Senate to approve another Democrat for the Judiciary Committee. That would require either unanimous consent or 60 votes in the Senate chamber, where Democrats hold a 51-49 edge. It isn't clear Republicans will agree to the swap, "given the leverage Feinstein's absence has given them over judicial nominations," The Washington Post notes

Feinstein hasn't been the only absence. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) has been out for treatment of depression since Feb. 15, though he returns to the Senate April 17, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been recovering at home after tripping and falling in early March. 

Feinstein said her "return to Washington has been delayed due to continued complications related to my diagnosis," and she plans to return to Washington "as soon as possible once my medical team advises that it's safe for me to travel." Multiple Democrats close to Feinstein, whose final term ends in two years, "are growing increasingly concerned that she may never come back to Washington at all," Politico reports.