In a significant development on Capitol Hill, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California made her return to the Senate on Wednesday, marking the end of her months-long absence due to shingles. The 89-year-old lawmaker, accompanied by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, was seen entering the Senate chamber in a wheelchair, highlighting the challenges she has faced during her recovery. According to Feinstein’s office, she is currently experiencing vision and balance impairments, which occasionally necessitate the use of a wheelchair for mobility around the Capitol.
Feinstein, the Senate’s oldest member, provided a statement shedding light on her condition. She acknowledged making significant progress but mentioned the lingering side effects from the shingles virus, which prompted her doctors to advise a lighter work schedule upon her return. Remaining optimistic, she expressed hope that these issues would diminish as her recovery continues.
The senator’s absence had an impact on the Senate Judiciary Committee, where she holds a prominent position. The committee’s split along party lines, resulting from Feinstein’s absence, prevented the advancement of some of President Joe Biden’s nominees to federal courts nationwide. This situation underscored concerns about her mental fitness that some colleagues had raised in recent years.
Feinstein, who announced in February that she would not seek re-election in 2024, now faces potential successors from her own party. Prominent House Democrats, including Representatives Adam Schiff, Katie Porter, and Barbara Lee, have already launched campaigns to fill her Senate seat. Additionally, Republicans have obstructed attempts to replace Feinstein on the Judiciary Committee, keeping the pressure on her.
During her return, Feinstein emphasized her readiness to resume her duties and expressed gratitude for the support and care she received during her absence. She highlighted the pressing issue of ensuring the government does not default on its financial obligations and reiterated her commitment to resuming her work on the Judiciary Committee, where she plays a vital role in considering the president’s nominees.
As the news of Feinstein’s return spreads, it is expected to draw attention from both supporters and critics alike. Some Democrats had called for her resignation, and concerns about her health and mental acuity had been raised. The coming weeks will undoubtedly be significant as she resumes her work and the Senate faces critical challenges that demand attention and bipartisan collaboration.