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Schumer Looks to Move Ahead in Replacing Feinstein on Judiciary Committee

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

The proposed time table of the end of March has come and gone for when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) hoped to return after her shingles diagnosis. Now, midway through April, and after a return from recess, she is still not back. Given that the 89-year-old's absence is holding up judicial nominees, even sitting members of Congress are calling on her to resign. Feinstein's office has taken note, and although she is not resigning, she has asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to replace her on the Senate Judiciary Committee, a move which Schumer wants to put into action this week.


Feinstein laid out in a statement last week that she is experiencing complications from shingles. Per her discussion with Schumer, Feinstein is "hopeful she will return soon," though there has been no definite timeline. "She’s very hopeful of that and so am I," Schumer added.

Schumer is calling on Republicans to go along with approving a replacement. As The Hill reported, it would come in the form of a resolution, which the Democratic leader will have the support of at least nine members, calling it "the only right and fair thing to do" as well as "the correct thing to do." He plans to discuss it with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who himself just recently returned after experiencing a fall. 

Some Republicans have already shared that they're not on board, including Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, who also serves on the committee. In addition to making clear she "will not go along with Chuck Schumer’s plan to replace Senator Feinstein on the Judiciary Committee and pack the court with activist judges," Blackburn also warned in a Twitter thread that President Joe Biden "wants the Senate to rubber stamp his unqualified and controversial judges to radically transform America."


Another concern Blackburn raised addresses the Senate custom for home-state senators being able to object to judicial nominees.

Another committee member, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), also communicated as such when he tweeted out an article from The Federalist, "There Is Zero Reason For Republicans To Cooperate With Dianne Feinstein’s Request."

The Monday morning POLITICO Playbook also detailed "No GOP favors for Feinstein."

Feinstein's absence was also a topic for discussion on the Sunday shows, including with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) on CNN's "State of the Union." In addition to pointing out how other members have had illnesses or strokes, Gillibrand assured that "Dianne will get better. She will come back to work."

Emphasizing it was Feinstein's choice to make, Gillibrand also noted "she's a team player, and she's an extraordinary member of the Senate. It's her right. She's been voted by her state to be senator for six years. She has the right, in my opinion, to decide when she steps down."


Gillibrand's position echoes the view of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). 

While on ABC News' "This Week," Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who also serves on the committee, emphasized that Feinstein "did the right thing" in asking Schumer to name a replacement, while also expressing a sense of urgency about her return.

"As for the long term, many people have been out, as you know, for periods of time when they're sick, and they have come back. In this case, we are going to need her vote on the Senate floor eventually," she told host Jonathan Karl. "We have things like the debt ceiling coming up. But I think what we need to do is take her at her word. She is recovering from shingles. And make sure she comes back. If this goes on month after month after month, then she’s going to have to make a decision with her family and her friends about what her future holds because this isn't just about California, it's also about the nation. And we just can't, with this one vote margin, and expect every other person to be there every single time."

Klobuchar did assure, though, that she's "taking her at her word that she’s going to return."


Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), who had called on the senator to resign last week, appeared on "Fox News Sunday" where he again repeated his call, though he tried to walk back claims his suggestion would be politically motivated.

"This has to do with someone who’s just not showing up," he told host Shannon Bream. "I said out loud what people have been saying in private." He also said he supports Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) appointing a caretaker.  "Gov. Newsom can appoint a caretaker, he doesn’t have to appoint someone in the current race," he said. "I would support the governor doing that. This has nothing to do with the current race, because a caretaker would solve that."

Gov. Newsom has said that he would replace Feinstein with a black woman. 

Khanna claimed that "I said out loud what people have been saying in private," and offered that this doesn't have to affect next year's Senate race to succeed Feinstein, whose office had announced in February she wasn't seeking reelection. 


That race has already attracted several Democratic candidates, including Rep. Adam Schiff who has Pelosi's endorsement, Rep. Katie Porter, and Rep. Barbara Lee, who fits Newsom's criteria and who has Khanna's support.

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