May 4, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Sen. Feinstein says she intends to return to Congress

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in the Capitol in February 2023.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in the Capitol in February 2023. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in a statement Thursday she intends to return to the Senate from her prolonged medical absence but did not include an exact return date.

Why it matters: Feinstein, who has missed dozens of Senate votes since she was diagnosed and hospitalized with shingles in February, has faced calls to resign from fellow Democrats.

  • Democrats who have called on Feinstein, a member of the Senate Judiciary committee, to resign have argued that her absence has made it more difficult for the party to confirm additional judicial nominees to the federal judiciary, which in many cases are lifetime appointments.

What they're saying: Feinstein, who is 89 and plans to retire at the end of her term in 2025, defended her absence on Thursday, noting that the committee advanced eight judicial nominees during her absence with varying degrees of support from Republican.

  • "I’m disappointed that Republicans are blocking a few in committee," Feinstein said in the statement. "I’m confident that when I return, we will be able to move the remaining qualified nominees to the Senate floor for a vote."
  • Feinstein said in early March that she was released from the hospital and would continue her recovery with at-home care.

Yes, but: Democrats have said that several federal judge nominees have been unable to advance during Feinstein's absence, as Republicans would not likely support them, according to AP.

  • In mid-April, Feinstein also said she would return "as soon as possible once my medical team advises that it’s safe for me to travel."

The big picture: Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on Thursday that the committee will also be unable to proceed with a new ethics reform bill for Supreme Court justices until Feinstein's return, CNN reports.

  • The reform bill would be in part in response to a series of ProPublica investigations into undisclosed gifts and deals Justice Clarence Thomas made with Republican megadonor Harlan Crow.
  • ProPublica reported on Thursday that Crow made private school tuition payments for Thomas’ grandnephew.
  • Previous reports indicated that Thomas accepted luxury trips virtually every year over the past two decades from Crow and that the Texas billionaire also bought multiple properties from Thomas, all of which the justice had not disclosed in financial disclosures at the time.

Go deeper: AOC urges Feinstein to retire, calling "anti-feminist" criticisms a "farce"

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