Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is not done convalescing after being laid out for over three months with an alleged bad case of the shingles. Nevertheless, after missing 91 votes, she made her return this week so that her Democratic colleagues can resume pushing their agenda.
The sickly 89-year-old former mayor of San Francisco was put into a wheelchair outside the Senate Wednesday, then carted inside.
"Where am I going?" she asked her handlers wearily, reported the Huffington Post.
After saying, "Hi everybody," Feinstein proceeded to cast her first two votes since Feb. 16, helping Glenna Wright-Gallo secure the position of assistant education secretary.
Despite technically being back in the game, NBC News reported that Feinstein still managed to miss two votes on her first day back.
A statement attributed to her said, "I have returned to Washington and am prepared to resume my duties in the Senate. I’m grateful for all the well-wishes over the past couple of months and for the excellent care that I received from my medical team in San Francisco."
Feinstein indicated that notwithstanding unresolved "side effects" affecting her vision and balance, as well as advice from her doctors to adopt a "lighter schedule," she was looking forward to resuming her work on the Judiciary Committee.
The Sacramento Bee stressed that Feinstein's return is important for Democrats, who control only 51 of the 100 seats in the Senate and have a one-person advantage on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Extra to advancing liberal judges, Feinstein may prove instrumental in getting President Joe Biden's labor secretary nominee Julie Su confirmed.
\u201cDianne Feinstein, 89, returns to the Senate after being absent since February and recovering from shingles\u201d— Manu Raju (@Manu Raju) 1683745397
The senior Democrat was first diagnosed with shingles on February 26, then hospitalized until March 6. She has reportedly been in recovery ever since.
While there was bipartisan concern over Feinstein's fitness to serve, several Democrats expressed concern not with what the illness was doing to their colleague, but what it was doing to their political ambitions.
In April, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) tweeted , "It's time for @SenFeinstein to resign. We need to put the country ahead of personal loyalty. While she has had a lifetime of public service, it is obvious she can no longer fulfill her duties. Not speaking out undermines our credibility as elected representatives of the people."
Khanna suggested that Feinstein's absence meant pro-abortion judges weren't getting approved and called on the public to apply pressure to have the senator step down.
Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota concurred with Khanna, calling it a "dereliction of duty" for Feinstein to remain in the Senate.
Earlier this month, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) claimed Feinstein's "refusal to either retire or show up is causing great harm to the judiciary," calling for her to retire.
Some Republicans highlighted Democrats' utilitarian streak and denounced their apparent efforts to strong-arm Feinstein into retiring for short-term gains, reported CNN.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, "She’s a dear friend, and we hope for her speedy recovery and return back to the Senate," claiming that Sen. Chuck Schumer's efforts to replace Feinstein were really "about a handful of judges that you can’t get the votes for."
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley said Democrats "should leave her alone. She’s sick. She needs to get well so she can get back to work," adding that "the people that are trying to shove her out the door after her years of service ought to hide their heads in a bag. She’s being treated very shabbily and that really disappoints me."
Some critics reckon Feinstein's pressured return to the Senate this week indicates Democrats' prioritization of power over their colleague's well-being.
Sebastian Gorka, a conservative commentator who serves as deputy assistant to former President Donald Trump,
that the images of the sickly senator making her return on Wednesday "is your Democrat Party. Power at all costs. ALL COSTS."
Democrats have not been sheepish about this fact.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said that with Feinstein back, "Anything we do in the Senate that requires a majority is now within reach."
For instance, while ostensibly unwell and addled by memory loss, Feinstein may help Democrats raise the debt limit, which now only requires 51 votes.
Durbin previously stated, "There are things we cannot call for a vote. ... There are measures we cannot debate and vote on until we have the majority advantage."
Now that their power has been restored, Democrats might have the confidence to debate the issues.
The senator has indicated she will not run for re-election in 2024.
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