The GOP is blocking Democrats’ effort to replace Feinstein on the judiciary panel


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 advance stalled judicial nominations.

Senate Democrats are seeking to temporarily replace Feinstein in the powerful panel that vets judicial nominees as the California Democrat remains absent recovering from shingles.

Senate Republicans, however, made clear they were 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 also still unclear he asked just last week to be replaced “temporarily” on the committee as she recovers.

Schumer introduced his motion Tuesday, talking about his friendship with Feinstein and highlighting her accomplishments.

“Today, I am acting not only as a leader, but as a friend to Dianne, to honor her wishes until she returns to the Senate,” Schumer said.

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, objected to Schumer’s request, though he also praised the California Democrat. He argued that Schumer’s move is to confirm more judges.

“She is a dear friend and we hope she recovers quickly and returns to the Senate. With all due respect, my colleague, Senator Schumer, this is a handful of judges that you can’t get votes for,” Graham said.

Democrats could still force a vote to replace Feinstein, but that would require the support of 10 Republicans, and they’re unlikely to spend a lot of valuable time on something with little chance of success.

Feinstein, who has already announced she is not seeking re-election, initially said she expected to return to Washington “by the end of the March work period” but that her return was “delayed due to continued complications with my diagnosis” .

She recently said she plans to return “as soon as possible, once my medical team advises I am safe to travel.”

Cardin told CNN on Tuesday that he had spoken with Schumer as a temporary replacement on the committee, but that he had not discussed the decision with Feinstein.

The Maryland Democrat said he and Feinstein have not spoken since she left the Senate and that his understanding is only a temporary move until she returns.

“I recognize the importance of numbers on the committee so we can be able to do business. I look at it 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 possibly more, could be blocked.

If Democrats fail to replace Feinstein, or if she doesn’t return to Washington soon, they could see key issues on the agenda — both in committee and in the Senate.

Asked if the California Democrat should consider resigning if he can’t return by May, Schumer said he was “hoping” he would be back “very soon.”

“Look, I spoke with Senator Feinstein just a few days ago, and she and I are both very hopeful that she will be back very soon,” Schumer said at the weekly policy press conference in the US Capitol.

Feinstein announced in February that she would not run for re-election, and a number of Democrats have already launched campaigns for her seat in 2024 in what is expected to be a competitive primary.

Many Democrats in Congress largely supported her decision to remain in office while she was away from the Capitol while she recovered from shingles.

But Feinstein has faced calls to resign from two House Democrats — and if Democrats fail to replace her on the committee, that number could begin to grow.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin CNN recently admitted that Feinstein’s absence had slowed the party’s push to confirm nominees. But Durbin stopped short of calling on Feinstein to resign, saying she hoped Republicans would help replace her temporarily on the committee and recognize that “rain can fall on both sides of the road.”

Asked if her absence has longer ramifications for Democrats’ ability to confirm nominees, the Illinois Democrat said, “Yes, of course it does,” pointing to the lengthy process of getting nominees scheduled for a vote in the precious time.

Republican Sen. John Cornyn, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee and a close aide to McConnell, told CNN 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 Senator Feinstein’s return as soon as possible. But this effort to confirm controversial and in many cases largely unqualified candidates, I don’t think you can expect Republican cooperation.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

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