Home Politics Elections Refusing calls to resign, Feinstein returns to Judiciary agenda

Refusing calls to resign, Feinstein returns to Judiciary agenda


After a months-long absence that sparked an intra-party debate about judicial nominees, sexism and the Democratic agenda, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) replaced three of President Biden’s stalled judges from her seat in the Senate. cast his tiebreaking vote for Judiciary Committee this week – breaking an impasse that saw some progressives unsuccessfully calling for his resignation.

The 89-year-old senator received a bipartisan standing ovation as he was helped to his seat by an aide, who is still reeling from the effects of a shingles diagnosis that sidelined him since late February.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who has complained that her absence has affected his committee at a critical time, expressed his “relief” Thursday that she was back, and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) crowed from the Senate floor that he expected to “move on many more judges” in the coming days.

Democrats celebrated her return ahead of a key debt ceiling vote in the coming weeks, but her office insisted she was taking her recovery day by day, and would work a “light” schedule as she recovers. Getting – which was obvious as he dropped many votes on his first day back. And it’s still unclear what his appearance will mean for the Judiciary Committee’s agenda, as Durbin faces pressure from progressives to aggressively investigate alleged ethics lapses by Justice Clarence Thomas.

“I feel better,” Feinstein told reporters when asked why she decided to return to the Senate now that she was being pushed in a wheelchair by an aide after the Judiciary vote. Her vision and balance are still affected by the diagnosis, and she appeared to be bothered by the bright light in the hallway.

Feinstein said she was concerned about the state of debt limit negotiations between Congress and Biden, but wanted to read more about it.

“It’s a huge vote. And you will see when I vote.” “I just got back a few days ago, I’d like a chance to do some recon and read a lot of material.”

Feinstein has faced several rounds of calls to resign over the years, as unflattering anecdotes emerged about her memory loss and her perceived cognitive decline, as well as her reliance on the public-facing aspects of her job. She denies the allegation. But the uproar over her recent absence has fueled that debate, as Feinstein faces calls to step down from a handful of members of Congress as well as dozens of progressive organizations in her home state.

Durbin complained that his committee was depleted without his tiebreaking vote, and several committee members gently suggested that his absence was not permanent indefinitely. Democrats could not move legislation, issue subpoenas or advance for confirmation judges who lacked Republican support.

As the uproar grew, Feinstein offered to temporarily give up her seat on the Judiciary Committee—a motion blocked by Republicans.

Feinstein’s return means Durbin now has more options to persuade the Supreme Court to adopt stricter ethical standards for herself, in the wake of reports that Thomas received gifts from billionaire GOP donor Harlan Crowe, which she disclosed did not do. Durbin has said he will consider a subpoena for Crowe if he refuses to answer his committee’s questions this month, and the committee is also considering legislation to force the court to adopt the standards. Is.

“It’s a huge deal,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the committee, about Feinstein’s return. “It gives us the mandate and the majority to see documents and witnesses by subpoena if necessary. … Certainly the next steps in an investigation are now within realistic reach.”

But it’s unclear what Feinstein thinks about the court’s more aggressively probing ethical lapses, and Durbin said this week he hadn’t spoken to her about the matter. The other Democrats on the committee are also not united on its next steps – it is expected that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. would take action on his own to tighten the rules.

Sen. Peter Welch (D-VT) said, “Our dilemma is that the more the Court antagonizes, the more divisive it becomes, as it moves into the political arena of the Judiciary Committee.” “The goal here is to enhance the credibility of the court which is in significant dispute by the public.”

The heat has turned on Feinstein in the 2024 Senate race to replace her among Democratic Reps. Adam b. Schiff, Barbara Lee and Katie Porter. One of Lee’s aides, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), called on Feinstein to resign, a move that prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) to tap a replacement and potentially scramble the race. inspired.

But Feinstein’s aides say she never wavered in her desire to return to the Senate, and was eagerly awaiting advice from her doctor that it was safe for her to fly. Debt limit talks were also hovering over Feinstein’s aides, according to sources close to her staff, providing a deadline for when her vote in the Capitol would matter.

“I Know she cares deep down, she’s doing a little champing to be back here,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). “And so I’m glad her doctor cleared it and she’s here.”

Feinstein’s aides declined The Washington Post’s requests to speak with her doctors or provide a memo from her doctors detailing her medical condition and how complications of her shingles diagnosis prevented her from traveling. Had given.

Gil Duran, a former Senate aide to Feinstein, said calls in recent weeks for the senior California senator to step down may have “made her even more determined to return to the Senate.”

Duran said, “This is someone who, through persistence, against negative people and doubters of all kinds, got to where she is.” “His iron has always been his biggest asset. The question is whether it is against him now as he is in a very challenging position in terms of age and health. But we all know that the moment you start pressurizing him and asking him to resign, it is going to backfire.

Other defenders of Feinstein questioned why Feinstein’s absence attracted more attention than her male colleagues, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who spent weeks recovering from a fall this spring. were missed

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, “I’ve never seen him go after a sick person in the Senate.” Feinstein herself was surprised by the reaction, given how other senators had treated her absence, according to a person close to the senator.

This week, some of his opponents indicated they are standing down — for now.

“The three-month absence hurt our agenda,” Khanna said in a statement about Feinstein’s return, “and time will tell on the future.”

Camila DeChalus contributed to this report.

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