Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the 89-year-old California Democrat who has been absent due to illness since February, made a tentative return to the Capitol on Wednesday. As the oldest sitting member of Congress, Feinstein’s condition and performance have sparked concerns and calls for her resignation.
Feinstein missed the first Senate vote afternoon on Wednesday, despite flying back to Washington on Tuesday night. She arrived at the Senate entrance around 3 p.m., where Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer greeted her before she made her way to a wheelchair.
Having missed the first two votes of the day, Feinstein’s absence had extended to a total of 91-floor votes due to her recovery from shingles. Although she has returned to work, Feinstein expects to maintain a lighter schedule for the foreseeable future as she continues her recovery.
Feinstein’s return grants Democrats a full majority, which is crucial for advancing President Biden’s judicial nominees. The three-month absence had raised concerns within her party about the potential impact on the confirmation of federal judges. Democrats are keen to appoint liberal-leaning justices to lifetime positions after Republicans sought to reshape the federal judiciary under former President Donald Trump.
Feinstein’s mental competency had been questioned even before her current illness, with prominent Democrats such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Ro Khanna publicly urging her to resign, and the New York Times reported that her memory and cognitive issues had concerned her colleagues. At the same time, 65 grass-roots organizations in California signed a letter requesting her resignation.
Although she has not resigned, Feinstein announced she would not run for re-election in 2024 and requested a “temporary replacement” on the House Judiciary Committee. Senate Majority Leader Schumer welcomed her back to the Capitol, expressing his happiness that Feinstein was ready to return to work.