Republicans on Tuesday formally blocked a request by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to temporarily replace Sen. Dianne Feinstein on the Judiciary Committee, something Democrats had hoped to do to move stalled judicial nominations forward.
Senate Democrats are seeking to temporarily replace Feinstein on the powerful panel that vets judicial nominees, as the California Democrat remains absent, recovering from the shingles.
Senate Republicans, however, have made clear they are prepared to block Democratic efforts to replace Feinstein on the committee, increasing pressure on the 89-year-old California Democrat to resign or return quickly.
Feinstein’s return date is still unclear, and last week she asked to be “temporarily” replaced on the committee while she recovers.
Schumer introduced her motion Tuesday by talking about her friendship with Feinstein and highlighting her accomplishments.
“Today, I am acting not only as a leader but as a friend to Dianne, honoring her wishes, until she returns to the Senate,” Schumer said.
GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, opposed Schumer’s request, though he also praised the California Democrat. He argued that Schumer’s move is to get more judges confirmed.
“She is a dear friend, and we hope she makes a speedy recovery and returns to the Senate. With all due respect, my colleague, Senator Schumer, these are a handful of judges you can’t get the votes for.” said Graham.
Democrats could still force a vote to replace Feinstein, but that would require the support of 10 Republicans, and they’re unlikely to use up much valuable time on something with little chance of success.
Feinstein, who has already announced she is not seeking re-election, initially said she hoped to return to Washington “at the end of the March work period” but that her return was “delayed due to ongoing complications related to my diagnosis”.
He recently said he plans to return “as soon as possible once my medical team says it’s safe for me to travel.”
Cardin told Newssites.org on Tuesday that he had discussed Schumer as the committee’s temporary replacement, but that he had not discussed the decision with Feinstein.
The Maryland Democrat said he and Feinstein have not spoken since she has been out of the Senate and that he understands this is only a temporary move until she returns.
“I recognize the importance of numbers in committee, and that way we can do business. I see this as a way to deal with a current situation,” Cardin said.
Democrats would need 60 votes to replace Feinstein on the panel, but senior Republicans in leadership and on the committee made clear Monday that they would not give them the votes to do so. If Feinstein doesn’t return soon, at least 12 nominees, or even more, could be stalled.
If Democrats can’t replace Feinstein, or if she doesn’t return to Washington soon, they could see key agenda items thwarted in both the committee and the Senate.
Asked if the California Democrat should consider resigning if he can’t return before May, Schumer said he’s “hopeful” he’ll be back “very soon.”
“Look, I spoke with Senator Feinstein just a few days ago and both she and I are very excited that she will be back very soon,” Schumer said at her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol.
Feinstein announced in February that she would not seek re-election, and a number of Democrats have already launched campaigns for her seat in 2024 in what is shaping up to be a competitive primary.
Many Democrats in Congress have continued to largely support his decision to remain in office while he has been absent from Capitol Hill while he recovers from the shingles.
But Feinstein has faced calls to resign from two House Democrats, and if Democrats can’t replace her on the committee, that number could start to grow.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin recently acknowledged on Newssites.org that Feinstein’s absence had slowed the party’s push to confirm nominees. But Durbin has not called for Feinstein’s resignation, saying he hopes Republicans will help temporarily replace her on the committee and recognize that “the rain can fall on both sides of the road.”
Asked if his absence has longer-term ramifications for Democrats’ ability to confirm nominees, the Illinois Democrat said, “Yes, of course it does,” noting the lengthy process of getting nominees scheduled for voting for a precious time.
Republican Sen. John Cornyn, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee and a close adviser to McConnell, told Newssites.org he opposes the effort to replace Feinstein on the panel.
“I don’t think Republicans can or should help President Biden’s most controversial nominees,” the Texas Republican said. “I support Sen. Feinstein coming back as soon as she can. But this effort to confirm controversial and in many cases unqualified candidates, I don’t think any Republican cooperation can be expected.”
This story has been updated with additional information.