Senate Republicans blocked an effort by Democrats to replace California Sen. Dianne Feinstein on the Senate Judiciary Committee temporarily as she recovers from shingles at home.
Senate Democrats are seeking to temporarily replace Feinstein on the powerful panel that processes judicial nominees as the California Democrat remains absent.
Feinstein’s return date is still unclear and she asked just last week to be “temporarily” replaced on the committee as she recovers.
Schumer introduced his motion on Tuesday by talking about his friendship with Feinstein, and highlighting her accomplishments.
“Today, I am acting not just as Leader but as Dianne’s friend, in honoring her wishes, until she returns to the Senate,” Schumer said.
GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, objected to Schumer’s request, though he also praised the California Democrat. He argued that Schumer’s move is to get more judges confirmed.
“She’s a dear friend and we hope for her speedy recovery and return back to the Senate. With all due respect, my colleague, Senator Schumer, this is about a handful of judges that you can’t get the votes for,” Graham said.
Democrats could still force a vote to replace the Feinstein, but that would require the support of 10 Republicans and it’s unlikely they would use a lot of valuable floor time for something with little chance of success.
Feinstein, who has already announced she’s not seeking reelection, initially said she expected to return to Washington “by the end of the March work period,” but that her return got “delayed due to continued complications related to my diagnosis.”
Democrats would need 60 votes to replace Feinstein on the panel, but senior Republicans in leadership and on the committee made clear Monday that they would not give them the votes to do that. If Feinstein does not return soon, at least 12 nominees, or possibly even more, could be stalled.
If Democrats are unable to replace Feinstein or if she does not return to Washington soon, they could see key agenda items thwarted – both on the committee and on the Senate floor.
Asked if the California Democrat should consider resigning if she can’t return by May, Schumer responded that he’s “hopeful” she will return “very soon.”
“Look, I spoke to Senator Feinstein just a few days ago and she and I are both very hopeful that she will return very soon,” Schumer said at his weekly policy press conference in the US Capitol.