89-year-old Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., went to the hospital for shingles in March. She promised in March to return “later this month,” but more than two months later, Feinstein is still missing work.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., accidentally leaked an update on Feinstein’s recovery this week. He was expecting her to return next week.
Feinstein’s office has a different account.
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Schumer failed to tell reporters about updates on Feinstein’s condition on Tuesday, but he was carrying notes full of records about a recent conversation with Feinstein.
“I spoke with Senator Feinstein yesterday,” Schumer’s notes said, according to a photo obtained by Politico. “We are both hopeful she can return next week.”
Schumer’s spokesperson confirmed that the Senate leader had spoken to Feinstein. The spokesperson claimed that Schumer didn’t give an update because he wasn’t directly asked about Feinstein. “It was in his notes, and he would have said if someone asked,” Schumer’s spokesperson told Politico.
Feinstein’s spokesperson confirmed her recent conversation with Schumer. Feinstein’s office has said for weeks that the senator “continues to make progress in her recovery.”
But Feinstein’s staff has disputed Schumer’s timeline.
Feinstein’s staffers said Tuesday that they “don’t have a timeline yet for her return to Washington, which is dependent on her medical team saying it is safe to travel.”
The Democrats hold only a 51-49 majority in the Senate. Given Feinstein’s absence, the Democrats are struggling to ram their agenda through Congress. For example, the Judiciary Committee is missing Feinstien’s tiebreaking vote, and so it’s struggling to advance President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees.
“I can’t consider nominees in these circumstances because a tie vote is a losing vote in committee,” one committee member told CNN last month.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is preparing a bill to target Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and he’s acknowledged the impact of Feinstein’s absence.
“I’d like to make sure we have enough folks to pass it,” Durbin told CNN, referring to a bill imposing ethics codes on the Supreme Court.
Durbin added that he had “not personally” spoken to Feinstein about the timeline for her return.
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Durbin said he has "not personally" spoken to Feinstein about when she might return.
Durbin also would not say how he plans to move ahead on his probe of Clarence Thomas' undisclosed gifts.
"I'm going to discuss with the committee before we make any announcements."
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) May 2, 2023
Schumer did not address Feinstein’s absence aloud during the press conference today, but according to the notes he was holding, the Senate majority leader spoke to Feinstein on Monday and she hopes to return to Washington next week. https://t.co/3OVac8wY9j
— POLITICO (@politico) May 2, 2023
Last month, Feinstein asked Schumer to appoint a temporary replacement to the Judiciary Committee.
But Senate Republicans denied the very unusual request, and asked Feinstein to return to work.
Given Feinstein’s disruptive absence, some Democrats, like California Rep. Ro Khanna, are calling for her to resign. They want Gov. Gavin Newsom to appoint a replacement.
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Newsom has already appointed one U.S. senator. In 2020, he chose State Secretary Alex Padilla to replace the outgoing Sen. Kamala Harris, now the vice president. Since then, Newsom has vowed to replace Feinstein with a Black woman, in the event of a resignation.
In any case, Feinstein has chosen not to run for re-election next year, and she’s already triggered a competitive primary. So far, the field includes three House Democrats: Barabara Lee, Katie Porter, and Adam Schiff.
The Horn editorial team