Sen. Dianne Feinstein has made an "unprecedented request" for a substitute to take her place on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Breitbart reported. The ailing California Democrat asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to do this while she recovers from shingles.
Feinstein, who is the oldest member of the upper chamber, has been out for more than a month. Colleagues of the 89-year-old including Reps. Dean Phillips (D-MN) and Ro Khanna (D-CA) have been calling for her to step down.
“Senator Feinstein is a remarkable American whose contributions to our country are immeasurable," Phillips said. "But I believe it’s now a dereliction of duty to remain in the Senate and a dereliction of duty for those who agree to remain quiet," he added.
He said this following Khanna's comments calling Feinstein's abilities into question. "It is obvious she can no longer fulfill her duties," Khanna said.
Feinstein asked Schumer for the accommodation following their calls for her ouster, The Hill reported. “When I was first diagnosed with shingles, I expected to return by the end of the March work period," she explained in a statement released shortly thereafter.
"Unfortunately, my return to Washington has been delayed due to continued complications related to my diagnosis," Feinstein said. "I intend to return as soon as possible once my medical team advises that it’s safe for me to travel," she added.
"In the meantime, I remain committed to the job and will continue to work from home in San Francisco," Feinstein said. The elderly lawmaker was hospitalized in February for shingles but didn't publicize the fact until last month.
Now, Feinstein's absence is a detriment to Senate Democrats but is causing the most problem on the Judiciary Committee. Currently, the balance is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats while she's unable to vote on the committee.
This has created a holdup on President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees, who are unable to get through the approval process without her. Feinstein's request to Schumer seems like a last-ditch effort to rectify that problem without her complete resignation, but it's likely to fail.
In order to replace her, Schumer would need to get ten Senate Republicans to vote to end the debate and move the issue to a vote. With so much at stake for both parties, the prospect is dead in the water.
Michael Thorning, the director for Structural Democracy at the Bipartisan Policy Center think tank, explained Democrats' conundrum. "Sen. Schumer cannot unilaterally remove or appoint any senator to a committee," he said in a written statement.
"That requires a resolution of the Senate and Democrats would need either unanimous consent or at least 10 Republicans to agree to end debate before a vote of the full Senate. While the Senate has traditionally handled these matters by unanimous consent, Sen. Feinstein’s request for a temporary replacement is likely unprecedented," Thorning said.
"Combined with the increasingly partisan politics of federal judicial appointments, getting the necessary Republican support for [it] may not be a simple ask," he said. Democrats will have to hope that Feinstein either gets well soon or has the grace to step down.
These elderly politicians can't seem to loosen their grip on power no matter how sick and feeble they become. It's likely Feinstein will have to resign even after she attempted one more Hail Mary play with Schumer.