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Long-serving California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein returned to the Senate on Wednesday but she had to have assistance, according to reports.
A video posted online showed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) walking alongside Feinstein, who had to be wheeled into the chamber to vote on a measure.
According to Liz Kreutz, a reporter for ABC7 San Francisco, Feinstein’s office said the senator is “experiencing vision/balance impairments & at times will need to use a wheelchair to travel around the Capitol.”
Feinstein’s office released a statement regarding her condition and offered some explanation.
“Even though I’ve made significant progress and was able to return to Washington, I’m still experiencing some side effects from the shingles virus,” she said. “My doctors have advised me to work a lighter schedule as I return to the Senate. I’m hopeful those issues will subside as I continue to recover.”
Feinstein, currently the Senate’s eldest member at 89 years old, has attracted attention in recent years due to concerns raised by colleagues regarding her mental fitness.
In February, Feinstein declared that she would not pursue re-election in 2024. Following that announcement, three notable House Democrats, namely Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter, and Barbara Lee, have stepped forward and announced their candidacies for Feinstein’s Senate seat, the Daily Wire reported.
Feinstein's office says she is experiencing vision/balance impairments & at times will need to use a wheelchair to travel around the Capitol pic.twitter.com/Tf0KaTZThN
— Liz Kreutz (@ABCLiz) May 10, 2023
In March, Feinstein made public her diagnosis of shingles and has been in the process of recuperation ever since. As a crucial member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, her absence led to a partisan deadlock of 10-10, preventing the committee from moving forward with the confirmation of several of President Joe Biden’s nominees to federal courts across the country.
Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a growing chorus of left-wing Democrats, including Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ro Khanna (D-CA), who have urged Feinstein to step down. Simultaneously, Republicans have maintained pressure by obstructing attempts to replace Feinstein on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Other Democrats, however, balked at calling on her to retire.
“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.”
Feinstein, in her statement, added: “I have returned to Washington and am prepared to resume my duties in the Senate. I’m grateful for all the well-wishes over the past couple of months and for the excellent care that I received from my medical team in San Francisco.
“The Senate faces many important issues, but the most pressing is to ensure our government doesn’t default on its financial obligations,” Feinstein said. “I also look forward to resuming my work on the Judiciary Committee considering the president’s nominees.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom would no doubt fill Feinstein’s seat with another Democrat were she to step down early.