After three months away from the Senate, California Senator Dianne Feinstein is reportedly en route back to Washington, and is set to resume her duties as soon as Tuesday evening in the Senate.
The Chronicle got word Tuesday morning that, "according to sources close to the senator," Feinstein had boarded a private plane back to D.C. And Feinstein’s spokesperson Adam Russell subsequently confirmed that she was on the plane.
This ends weeks of intense hand-wringing by Democrats and not-so-secret glee on the part of Senate Republicans about Feinstein's health, after she reportedly suffered a bout of shingles in mid-February and remained home in San Francisco recovering after a brief hospitalization.
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he had spoken to Feinstein, who told him she was "hopeful" that she'd be returning to Washington this week. But this seemed like cold comfort to Democrats, who had heard something similar from Schumer weeks earlier.
Feinstein's presence in the Senate, with Democrats' slim majority, was seen as increasingly critical in recent weeks, as talks of raising the debt ceiling has loomed over Washington. And Feinstein has missed 91 votes to date since her illness, some of which had to be decided by Vice President Kamala Harris — because Democratic Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania was also absent.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has also been somewhat stymied, with Feinstein unable to cast decisive votes on a slate of judicial nominees that are a priority for Democrats. Weeks ago, Republicans made clear that they would not allow Democrats to seat a temporary replacement for Feinstein on the committee.
In a defiant statement last Friday, Feinstein insisted there had been "no slowdown" in the confirmation of judicial nominees, and added, "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."
"I’m glad that my friend Dianne is back in the Senate and ready to roll up her sleeves and get to work," Schumer said in a statement Tuesday. "After talking with her multiple times over the past few weeks, it’s clear she’s back where she wants to be and ready to deliver for California."
As Politico notes, "It is not yet clear if Feinstein will participate in Tuesday night’s floor votes."
This also puts to rest, for now, the looming possibility that Governor Gavin Newsom might have to appoint a replacement for Feinstein before her term is up next year.
Feinstein, who turns 90 next month, announced in February, just prior to her shingles infection, that she would retire after 2024, but not before.
Top image: U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein making her way to the Senate chambers on February 16, 2023 during the Senate's final votes before the President's Day recess, just prior to her extended absence. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)