As Democrats try to confirm federal judges who will rule in their party’s favor, Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) increasingly extended absence from the Senate is holding up the confirmation process for a number of President Joe Biden’s judicial appointments this year, according to reports.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Feinstein, who was hospitalized in early March for shingles and has remained at home since March 7, has missed 60 out of the 82 votes that are to be taken in the Senate in 2023. In addition, as the Senate prepares to return to office on April 17, after being on recess since March 31, Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) chair of the Judiciary Committee told a reporter on Monday that Feinstein’s absence from the Senate—and specifically the Judiciary Committee—will impede Democrats’ ability to confirm judicial nominees.
“I can’t consider nominees in these circumstances, because a tie vote is a losing vote in committee,” Durbin told CNN. He continued, “We still have some nominees left on the calendar that we can work on. … But we have more in the wings that we would like to process through the committee.”
Feinstein’s team has been coy about when the 89-year-old will return to Washington, DC, based on vague statements made to the Chronicle when asked. A spokesperson for Feinstein said this week that the 89-year-old “continues to work from home in San Francisco as she recuperates.”
Feinstein announced this year that she won’t seek reelection in 2024 amid a crowded Democratic field. vieing for her seat. However, she plans to finish out her term which is send to end in January 2025. As Democrats continue to hold a razor-thin 51-49 majority, it is troubling to the party to consider all the votes and confirmation processes that might be stalled by Feinstein’s absence over the next two years.
Among the left’s hottest agenda items to vote on is the approval and accessibility of abortion pills. A Trump-appointed federal judge in Texas ruled last week that the FDA lacked authority to approve the abortion pill mifepristone, which reproductive rights advocates claim potentially jeopardizes access to a medication that millions have relied on to “safely end a pregnancy.”
Likewise, a federal judge in Washington wrote that the FDA is actually barred from “altering the status quo and rights as it relates to the availability of Mifepristone.” While federal judges have always been important to enforcing the rule of law and ensuring the application of the Constitution — Democrats fear that the fall of Roe v. Wade and a broader judicial system increasingly overrun with so-called right-wing extremists has upped the stakes even further, creating, what leftists claim, is urgency to confirm liberal, pro-abortion rights judges that they want in a timely manner.
In apparent frustration that “one of their (elected) own” is not working to fulfill their agenda, the liberal news outlet Jezebel was quick to call out the die hard, tried and true Democrat Senator who leftists could always back them up:
Questions about Feinstein’s fitness to serve have followed her for years now, particularly since an unsettling moment in 2020 when she embraced Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and seemed supportive of Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, prompting questions of whether she even knew what was going on. Shortly after, Feinstein was removed from her position as Chair of the Judiciary Committee—but a report from the time claimed Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) had to twice inform Feinstein of her removal because she forgot the first time. Last year, a separate San Francisco Chronicle report citing unnamed senators and Senate staffers claimed Feinstein’s memory was “rapidly deteriorating,” and that she’s “mentally unfit” to continue serving. And back in February, Feinstein and her team struggled to even coordinate on something as simple as the timing of her announcement that she isn’t seeking reelection.
Feinstein represents 40 million Americans and serves on four Senate committees. It seems we can both thank her for her service and decades of blazing a path for women in politics and recognize that her remaining in the Senate past her ability to do her job isn’t exactly a feminist victory—not when women and pregnant people stand to be harmed the most by the stalled confirmation of liberal judges.