As more high-profile Democrats and media outlets urge Senator Dianne Feinstein to just quit now that she’s been absent for nearly three months, Feinstein’s office puts out a rebellious statement that someone else probably wrote for her.
No one beyond Feinstein's inner circle knows what is going on with the senior Senator from California, who has not shown up for a single Senate vote, nor has she even been seen in public, since her diagnosis with a shingles infection in late February. Feinstein has now missed over 90 votes, Republicans are getting away with political monkeyshines amid her absence from the Senate Judiciary Committee, and there are big debt ceiling votes looming. The Chronicle’s Friday roundup of people calling on Feinstein to resign already has Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer playing some defense for Feinstein, with Schumer telling reporters on Wednesday, “I talked to Sen. Feinstein a few days ago and we’re both hopeful that she can come back next week.”
a huge red flag for exactly how bad Dianne Feinstein's health is, is that the entire conversation about it could be forestalled by her being wheeled into a room and pressing the "yes" button... and she's not able to do that— Ben Walsh (@BenDWalsh) May 4, 2023
Of course, many of Feinstein’s constituents are hopeful she will never come back. And add to those voices the influential New York representative Alexandia Ocasio-Cortez, who called for the 89-year-old Feistein to resign, according to CNN. “Her refusal to either retire or show up is causing great harm to the judiciary — precisely where [reproductive] rights are getting stripped,” AOC wrote Tuesday on the social media platform Bluesky. “That failure means now in this precious window Dems can only pass GOP- approved nominees.”
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York is calling on Sen. Dianne Feinstein to resign, the latest sign of pressure the California Democrat faces from her own party to step down https://t.co/GGJXH9JR2D— CNN (@CNN) May 2, 2023
Feinstein’s office shot back Thursday with a defiant statement. “The Senate continues to swiftly confirm highly qualified individuals to the federal judiciary, including seven more judicial nominees who were confirmed this week. There has been no slowdown,” the statement claims. “I’m confident that when I return to the Senate, we will be able to move the remaining qualified nominees out of committee quickly and to the Senate floor for a vote.”
We should note there are slim odds that Feinstein wrote any of this herself — it was likely put together by staffers. The statement also pushes back with a series of purported fact checks, like saying that “Only four district or circuit court nominees are currently eligible for a vote in committee.” But the Chronicle reports that those nominees “have had their votes delayed at least four times,” and that Feinstein has missed a total of 91 votes since February.
NYT edit page says it's time for @SenSchumer to press @SenFeinstein to resign.— Jennifer Haberkorn (@jenhab) May 5, 2023
"Mr. Schumer should turn up the public pressure on her to return or resign, setting aside the antique Senate gentility that can hobble common-sense decision making there."https://t.co/LltPDhBMx0
Enter the New York Times editorial page, where their editorial board published a Friday column calling on Feinstein to step down. In addition to her chronic months-long absence, the Times points out that “Ms. Feinstein’s difficulties with advancing age are serious and long predate her current illness. Last year, her hometown newspaper, The San Francisco Chronicle, reported that her memory has so deteriorated that she can no longer fulfill her job duties. She cannot keep up with conversations, her colleagues said; she doesn’t seem to fully recognize other senators and relies almost entirely on staff members, to a much greater extent than other senators do.”
In the mountains of talk *about* Sen. Feinstein, the senator herself has become an off-screen character. Senior staffers manager her office. They speak for her on personal health issues. They interface with Leader Schumer.— Max Burns (@themaxburns) May 5, 2023
The one person who should be speaking...isn't.
All of this chatter may go away briefly if Feinstein returns next week. But that seems wishful thinking, and Feinstein has refused to provide any firm timeline for her return — it's basically been "soon" for over a month now. And if she can’t return for the debt ceiling vote, whenever that may be, her absence could grow from a political disaster into a national economic disaster as well.
Feinstein's absence has left Democrats vulnerable, but the whole situation is not necessarily easily solvable with her resignation. As the Times' Daily podcast recently discussed, even if Feinstein were to step down, the chances that Senate Republicans wouldn't pull further shenanigans to keep Schumer from quickly replacing her on Judiciary are low, and their main goal is to keep more liberals off the courts.
Image: WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 14: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is surrounded by reporters as she heads to the Senate Chamber for a vote in the U.S. Capitol on February 14, 2023 in Washington, DC. Feinstein announced Tuesday that she will not seek re-election in 2024. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)