(WASHINGTON) — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer believes California Sen. Dianne Feinstein may return to Capitol Hill as soon as next week after a monthslong absence while recovering from shingles.
Schumer spoke with Feinstein on Monday, according to prepared notes captured in a photograph taken by Politico during a Tuesday news conference.
“We’re both hopeful she can return next week,” the notes sheet reads.
Schumer didn’t comment on Feinstein during the news conference. A spokesperson confirmed the contents of what was pictured in the notes but didn’t comment further to ABC News.
The 89-year-old Feinstein — the oldest sitting senator — was hospitalized after being diagnosed in February with a case of shingles. She was released in early March and has been continuing her recovery at home.
“We don’t have a timeline yet for her return to Washington which is dependent on her medical team saying it is safe to travel,” a Feinstein spokesperson said in a statement.
Her absence has impacted Democrats’ ability to approve President Joe Biden’s judicial nominations because of the seat she holds on the Senate Judiciary Committee, prompting party leadership to seek to temporarily replace her.
Republicans blocked that in mid-April, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell calling Feinstein a “titanic figure” and stating he wouldn’t be part of sidelining her indefinitely.
Calls for Feinstein to step down have grown among some on the left as the party’s critical judicial nominees face continued limbo. Many Democrats, however, have rallied to her defense — suggesting she is being unfairly singled out.
Rep. Ro Khanna, a fellow California Democrat, was the first to publicly call on Feinstein to retire.
“It has become painfully obvious to many of us in California that she is no longer able to fulfill her duties as she doesn’t have a clear return date,” Khanna said on CNN. “We haven’t been able to confirm judges at a time where women’s rights and voting rights are under assault.”
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading progressive in the House, has now also said it is time for Feinstein to leave the Senate. “Her refusal to either retire or show up is causing great harm to the judiciary,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on social media.
But former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, another member of the California congressional delegation, said Feinstein deserves the respect to get well and be back on duty.
“I don’t know what political agendas are at work that are going after Sen. Feinstein in that way,” Pelosi said in April. “I’ve never seen them go after a man who was sick in the Senate in that way.”
And Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow told The New Yorker: “My antenna goes up when it appears that a woman is being treated differently, when it’s unfair. I’m not saying that Sen. Feinstein doesn’t have health challenges, as do male colleagues.”
Feinstein is the longest-serving female senator in U.S. history and has represented California in the chamber since 1992.
Questions about her age and cognitive faculties have mounted in recent years amid reports that claimed she could be forgetful and confused. She repeatedly pushed back against such assertions, telling The Los Angeles Times in 2020, “I don’t feel my cognitive abilities have diminished.”
She announced in February she would not be seeking reelection after her term is up in early 2025, stating she intends to “accomplish as much for California as I can through the end of next year.”
Elaborating more on her decision, she told reporters: “The time has come.”
“There are times for all things under the sun, and I think that will be the right time,” Feinstein said at the time.
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