Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) attempted to downplay her months-long absence that has held up President Joe Biden's judicial nominations, the Washington Examiner reported. The 89-year-old released a statement Thursday amid calls for her replacement.
Feinstein was hospitalized for shingles earlier this year and has been out of the Senate since March. In the meantime, she has not been voting on the Senate Judiciary Committee and is hindering the judges' confirmations.
"The Senate continues to swiftly confirm highly qualified individuals to the federal judiciary, including seven more judicial nominees who were confirmed this week. There has been no slowdown," Feinstein claimed in her statement.
“This includes the confirmation of Judge Wesley Hsu to the Central District of California. He will make an outstanding jurist and I’m proud to see him join the federal bench," she added.
The balance between Republicans and Democrats on the seven-member committee is split down the middle without Feinstein, however. Although it doesn't mean a complete standstill, it still impacts the process for the Democratic Party.
"While the Senate Judiciary Committee has advanced eight strong nominees during my absence, I’m disappointed that Republicans on the committee are blocking a few from moving forward," her statement blamed the GOP. "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."
Some Democrats have grown increasingly impatient with her over time. Although her statement didn't say when she will be returning, Politico captured a note from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) Monday that said he was told she's "hopeful she can return next week."
Still, some of the most vocal in the Democratic Party believe she needs to be replaced as soon as possible. "It’s time for @SenFeinstein to resign," Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) tweeted last month.
"We need to put the country ahead of personal loyalty. While she has had a lifetime of public service, it is obvious she can no longer fulfill her duties," he added.
"Not speaking out undermines our credibility as elected representatives of the people," Khanna said. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said Tuesday that Feinstein "should retire" as her decision to stay through this illness "is causing great harm to the judiciary."
Feinstein has already said she will not be seeking re-election at the end of her term. That's not soon enough for Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), who said Feinstein "must step down" in a tweet last week.
"Because Sen. Feinstein was absent, Republicans are passing legislation through the Senate, undermining the right of our residents to breathe clean air," the "Squad" member wrote. "And with a far-right judiciary targeting our human rights, we are unable to confirm judges."
Meanwhile, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) excoriated Feinstein's Democratic colleagues for throwing her overboard. "They're picking on somebody that's older, and it just doesn't show the proper respect," Grassley said. "So, let's just leave it this way. They should leave her alone. She's sick."
As a long-time member of the Democratic Party, Feinstein should have the good sense to leave the committee so someone else can take her spot. Instead, she is holding onto her position even as it means months of vacancy.