Schumer unable to answer question about Feinstein's return date

April 27, 2023
Ryan Ledendecker

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) faces increasing scrutiny over long-serving Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) continued absence from the Senate due to an illness from earlier this year. 

According to the Washington Examiner, after a week back at the Capitol after recess, the majority leader was unable to provide a timeline for Feinstein's supposed return, which immediately stirred headlines.

Feinstein's absence since February has caused intense tension among Senate Democrats and the Biden administration, as her absence levels the playing field for Republicans to block Senate appointments and other agenda items.

Republicans have seized the opportunity, stalling a number of Biden's nominations to fill a large number of empty posts.

Promises made

Feinstein ultimately said that she would return at some point in the near future but never provided specifics, causing increased unrest within the ranks of the Dem Party.

"I spoke with Sen. Feinstein recently, and both she and I hope that she will be back very soon," Schumer said this week.

A week prior to his statement, he made one similar: "Look, I spoke to Sen. Feinstein just a few days ago, and she and I are both very hopeful that she will return very soon."

The Examiner noted:

Her absence has put the most strain on the Senate Judiciary Committee, a panel she led as the top Democrat until being pushed out in late 2020 after forgetting conversations she had with Schumer about her handling of then-Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearings. The panel has been essentially paralyzed as a result of Feinstein's absence, which leaves Democrats without the necessary votes to advance most of Biden's judicial nominees.

Feinstein's cognitive acuity and overall health have been questioned for several years, but especially recently given her extended absence.

As long as she's out of service, and as long as Republicans use their numbers, Senate Democrats and the Biden administration are out of luck.

Internal criticism

Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna has led the charge in the party as one of the high-profile lawmakers who believe Feinstein should resign immediately, given how much she's hurt the Democratic agenda this year alone.

"Because Senator Feinstein was absent, the Senate overturned a Biden rule that would cut pollution from heavy duty trucks and causes harm to people’s lungs. We are putting decorum over democracy and our values. It’s time for Senator Feinstein to step down gracefully," Khanna tweeted.

He has made numerous previous calls for her resignation. A growing number of liberal groups are also banding together to call for Feinstein's departure.

Only time will tell if Feinstein is able to return, but even if she is, many still believe she poses a national security threat given her observed condition.

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