Dianne Feinstein Returns To Senate After Extended Absence

After a months-long absence, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is set to return to the Senate. Her spokesperson confirmed that the senator, who has been absent from duty since February, is headed back to Washington following a conversation with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) last week.

With the current Senate makeup standing at 51 Democrats and 49 Republicans, Feinstein’s absence has created a critical voting shortage for Democrats, who need her vote to advance a potential move to raise the debt limit. 

Her vote could also determine the pick for Secretary of Labor as some Democrats, such as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), have refused to declare support for President Joe Biden’s nominee Julie Su.

The 89-year-old senator has been absent since she was hospitalized with shingles, impacting Democrats’ power to secure necessary support for passage.

Feinstein’s absence has stalled the advancement of about four judicial nominees, as the Senate Judiciary Committee was deadlocked between Republicans and Democrats. This led to calls for her resignation with some Democrats raising concerns about her advanced age and contending that she could no longer effectively discharge her duties as a legislator.

Her return to the Senate would ease the deadlock and enable the committee to move forward with judicial nominations, including that of Michael Delaney for the First Circuit.

Feinstein’s comeback is welcome news for Schumer, who expressed excitement over the development.

“I’m glad that my friend Dianne is back in the Senate and ready to roll up her sleeves and get to work,” he said. “After talking with her multiple times over the past few weeks, it’s clear she’s back where she wants to be and ready to deliver for California.”

Although it is unclear if Feinstein will participate in Tuesday night’s floor votes, her presence in the Senate will be a sigh of relief for Democrats, amid their struggle with shortage of votes and a looming debt fight.