Feinstein Returns to Senate, but Things Aren’t Looking Good

mark reinstein / shutterstock.com
mark reinstein / shutterstock.com

It’s official: Dianne Feinstein is back. But is she really, or is it just for appearances?

If you haven’t heard, Democratic Senator Feinstein is back in Washington, DC, and presumably back to work. She’s been out on medical leave since February, when she was diagnosed with shingles.

Now, to be sure, shingles can be quite serious, especially in someone as old as Feinstein. At 89, she is the oldest sitting member of Congress by far. In fact, the disease can even be deadly. Thankfully, that’s not been the case with Feinstein.

However, it doesn’t mean it hasn’t taken a serious toll on her. It also doesn’t mean that Feinstein should be returning to work yet, if ever.

As the Washington Post reported, the aging senator flew back into the nation’s capital on Tuesday night, anticipating going back to work on Wednesday. However, she missed most of that next day too.

According to the Post, she didn’t arrive until just before 3 pm “outside an entrance to the Senate in a gray sedan, where she was greeted by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and walked gingerly to a wheelchair.”

It was noted that by this time in the day, she had missed not one but two more scheduled Senate votes, bringing her total of missed floor votes to a whopping 93, as NBC reported.

That outlet later reported on Feinstein’s statement about her return to work. According to her, while her doctor has released her to begin working again, she is still “experiencing some side effects of the shingles virus.” Therefore, her doctors have advised her to “work a lighter schedule.”

Of course, the hope is that her strength will return as time passes, allowing her to fully return to work.

Naturally, the whole situation almost begs the question, why has she returned at all – if she still can’t do most of the job?

The answer to that lies in several pieces.

Firstly, her “being back” brings the Democrats “back to full majority,” The New York Times points out, which will supposedly allow them to finally push through a number of confirmations for judicial nominees. So far, her three-month absence has been a major damper on that agenda item, which, as BBC points out, is “one of the few priorities they can accomplish with a divided Congress.”

Of course, with their majority being so slim, it takes all the votes they can get. And Feinstein’s absence has delayed no small number of these votes.

In fact, the continued delays have caused even some within her own party to begin calling for her resignation, claiming that if she can’t do the job, then at least she should step down so that someone else can.

Of course, that takes time they already don’t have.

And that brings us to the second reason.

Even before she was diagnosed and sent home to California to recover, talks of the aging senator being past her prime and fitness for office were bandied about. Big-name Democrats like New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and fellow Californian Representative Ro Khanna have publicly asked her to resign in the past year.

As the Times reported, the calls in her own state have also grown.

A group of 65 grassroots organizations based in the Golden State have signed letters to Governor Gavin Newsom, asking that he make her step down and “appoint an interim senator who can provide robust and constant representation for California through the election of 2024.”

Of course, Feinstein has refused to take her leave of public office.

However, she has announced that she won’t be running for re-election in 2024 and has given up her seat on the House Judiciary Committee, at least temporarily.

So is she actually doing her job or not? The answer seems to be unclear. For now, we only know that she apparently wants to hold onto her so-called power until her last dying breath.