With Democrats already down one member in the Senate with Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman (D-PA) out for treatment for post-stroke depression, the news today that Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is also away from the Capitol this week as she deals with an unspecified “health matter” leaves Democrats back where they were before they won a slim majority last year.
“The senator is in California this week dealing with a health matter,” a Feinstein spokesperson said. “She hopes to return to Washington soon.”
Questions about Senator Feinstein’s health at the age of 89 were among the considerations the veteran California Democrat must have considered when she announced last month that she would not seek re-election when her term ends in 2024.
The fact that she had forgotten that she had made that announcement in comments to the press afterward didn’t inspire confidence that she would be able to fulfill her duties as a Senator for the remainder of her term.
Feinstein missed several votes earlier this week, including one on a bill that would overturn a Biden administration retirement rule allowing retirement fund managers to consider the role of climate change and social issues when making investment decisions.
With both Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and John Tester (D-MT) joining a united Republican front — and with both Feinstein and Fetterman absent — the bill passed on a 50-46 vote, setting up President Biden to potentially exercise the first veto of his term.
The absence of two Democratic Senators means the party will have difficulty approving Biden’s judicial nominees and passing any legislation without a full slate of Senators present.
If the health matter that Senator Feinstein is dealing with proves to keep her away from Washington for a significant period of time, she will surely face pressure — whether public or covert — to resign to allow Democrats to move forward with their agenda.
With three California Democrats already having announced that they will vie for her seat — including Representatives Katie Porter, Adam Schiff, and Barbara Lee, in order of their announcements — Feinstein’s resignation would have a significant impact on the 2024 contest.
California Governor Gavin Newsom would have to appoint a replacement for the remainder of Feinstein’s term, giving whomever he appoints the advantageous position of incumbency.
Let’s hope that Senator Feinstein’s “health matter” is not so serious that she can’t continue as a Senator and that Governor Newsom won’t be placed in the difficult position of choosing her successor.
We wish her a speedy recovery from whatever health issue she is currently addressing.
Original reporting by Nikole Killion and Kathryn Watson at CBS News.
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