OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) may have accidentally revealed Democratic colleague Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s overall health during an exchange with reporters on Tuesday.
While Schumer did not directly address Feinstein’s current condition — the 89-year-old has been missing from the chamber for months as she deals with a bout of shingles — a photographer managed to catch a glimpse of notes that the New York Democrat was holding that said, “I spoke with Senator Feinstein yesterday. We are both hopeful she can return next week.”
A spokesperson for Schumer confirmed that he did speak with Feinstein, adding that he would have revealed as much had a reporter asked him about it. “It was in his notes, and he would have said if someone asked,” Schumer’s spokesperson told Politico.
Feinstein’s staff, meanwhile, confirmed the confirmation. Her office has said for months that she “continues to make progress in her recovery.” However, they disagreed with Schumer’s timeline. The California Democrat’s staffers said that they “don’t have a timeline yet for her return to Washington, which is dependent on her medical team saying it is safe to travel.”
Democrats only have a 51-49 majority in the Senate, and with Feinstein out, her Judiciary Committee seat has remained vacant, which in turn has stimied President Biden’s efforts to put his own judges on the federal bench.
Schumer did not address Feinstein’s absence aloud during the press conference today, but according to the notes he was holding, the Senate majority leader spoke to Feinstein on Monday and she hopes to return to Washington next week. https://t.co/3OVac8wY9j
— POLITICO (@politico) May 2, 2023
Durbin said he has “not personally” spoken to Feinstein about when she might return.
Durbin also would not say how he plans to move ahead on his probe of Clarence Thomas’ undisclosed gifts.
“I’m going to discuss with the committee before we make any announcements.”
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) May 2, 2023
That alone has led to calls from several Democrats for Feinstein to resign, though in recent weeks, many of her Senate colleagues have balked at issuing similar calls.
“Dianne Feinstein is my friend,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told NBC’s Chuck Todd in mid-April.
“She’s my colleague. We sit next to one another on the Judiciary Committee. She’s done extraordinary things in her public career. Let’s face it, she’s gone through several weeks of real travail over this shingles issue that she was obviously dealing with. She wants to come back,” he added.
“She said to Chuck Schumer on the phone last week, ‘I want to get on that plane next Monday and be there.’ I want her to come back too. But her future is in her own hands and her family’s consultation. I wish her the best and I hope she can return very soon.”
Sen. Mark Warner gave a similar answer when he was asked about Feinstein on the ABC Sunday show “This Week.”
“Should she resign?” host Martha Raddatz said to the senator.
“I’m hopeful that Dianne will return as soon as possible,” he said. “I served with her on the Intelligence Committee. She’s been a great senator. But my hope is she’ll get back to work as soon as possible.”
Alternately, Sen. Lindsey Graham told CNN’s “State of the Union” that Republicans would not allow Democrats to fill her seat on the Judiciary Committee unless she resigns from the Senate.
“Back to the U.S. and specifically the Judiciary Committee. You’re the ranking member on that committee. Senator Dianne Feinstein, she’s been absent for health reasons. You and other Republicans blocked the Democrats attempt to temporarily fill her committee seat. If she resigns, isn’t just absent, but actually resigns from the Senate, will you allow this committee seat to be filled?” host Dana Bash asked.
“Yes, if she resigned, I would make sure that whatever we did in the past when members resigned would be followed,” the senator said.
“As to Senator Feinstein, she is a wonderful person. She’s been a very effective senator. I hope she comes back. We had Mark Kirk out for four months. No Republican asked that his seat be temporarily filled. This is about four or five judges they can’t get out of the committee,” he said.
“I voted for seven or nine judges yesterday — a couple of days ago. I’m very capable of supporting Democratic nominees, but [there are] four or five that are just out of the mainstream, and they want to replace Dianne Feinstein’s seat for the judges. But I hope she comes back,” Graham added.
“But if she does resign, I would be in the camp of following the president of the Senate replacing the person, consistent with what we have done in the past. But I hope she comes back. I hope Dianne gets better. She’s a wonderful person,” he added.