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Dianne Feinstein’s Absence Sparks Concerns Among Democrats

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has raised concerns about the prolonged absence of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) from Washington, suggesting that the latter may need to step down if she is unable to return in the coming months. The remarks were made during an interview with CNN on Thursday.

Feinstein, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has been absent from the Senate for several months due to health reasons, prompting Klobuchar to call for action to fill her seat. While Klobuchar did not explicitly demand Feinstein’s resignation, she expressed concern over the impact of her extended absence on the Senate’s balance of power.

During the interview, Klobuchar emphasized the need to ensure that the Senate’s representation is not compromised by prolonged absences of members. She argued that leaving a seat vacant for an extended period could have significant consequences, particularly given the narrow margin of control currently held by Democrats.

“I’m hopeful that she can [return],” Klobuchar said, referring to Feinstein. “Again, I want to see what happens in the next month or so. You give her that time to be able to come back. But if she can’t come back month after month after month, with this close Senate [margin], that’s not just going to hurt California. It’s going to be an issue for the country.”

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Feinstein, who is 88 years old, has been absent from the Senate since early January, citing medical concerns. She was diagnosed with serious cognitive impairment in 2018 and has faced calls for her resignation in recent years due to her age and health.

Klobuchar’s comments have reignited discussions about the need for term limits for senators and congressional representatives. Some argue that term limits could help prevent prolonged absences from compromising the Senate’s representation, as well as limit the influence of entrenched politicians on the legislative process.

Others, however, oppose term limits, arguing that they could deprive experienced lawmakers of the opportunity to continue serving their constituents. They also point out that the current system allows voters to decide whether to re-elect their representatives based on their performance and track record.

In any case, Feinstein’s absence has highlighted the challenges facing the Senate as it attempts to navigate a deeply divided political landscape. With Democrats holding a slim majority, the absence of even a single senator can have significant consequences for the party’s ability to advance its legislative agenda.

For now, Klobuchar’s remarks have added to the pressure on Feinstein to either return to the Senate or step down to allow for a replacement to be appointed. The issue is likely to remain a topic of discussion in the coming months, as lawmakers continue to grapple with the challenges of governing in a highly polarized political climate.

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Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, 89, has been absent from the Senate for almost two months due to complications from shingles. Her prolonged absence has sparked concerns among some Democrats who are worried about the party’s ability to confirm President Joe Biden’s top nominees, particularly in the Judiciary Committee where she serves.

Feinstein’s team released a statement on Wednesday citing “continued complications” from her illness and requesting that she be temporarily replaced on the Judiciary Committee until she has recovered. Some House Democrats have called for the senator to step down, fearing that her absence may be indefinite and that it could have significant implications for Democrats’ ability to push through their legislative agenda.

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Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) called on Feinstein to resign, stating that while he commends her lifetime of public service, “it is obvious she can no longer fulfill her duties.” Feinstein had previously stated that she would leave Congress at the end of her current term in 2024.

Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who sits on the Judiciary Committee with Feinstein, warned that a prolonged absence for Feinstein could have more significant implications for Democrats beyond the confirmation of judicial nominees. “If it goes on and on and on and on, then we’re down one vote in the Senate and what is still only a one-vote margin, that becomes a whole different issue. I think she’s going to have to make a serious decision at that point,” Klobuchar said during an interview with CNN.

Replacing Feinstein on the Judiciary Committee would not be an easy task. Typically, committee assignments are determined by the respective party leaders at the beginning of each Congress and approved quickly via unanimous consent. However, any Republican senator could object to such a move on the grounds that it would make it easier for Democrats to confirm Biden’s nominees. Therefore, bipartisan support would likely be necessary.

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“You need 60 votes, so we’re going to need 10 Republicans to go along with this if history is any guide. I hope they will,” Klobuchar said.

Feinstein’s absence has already stalled the Judiciary Committee’s vote on an appellate court nominee, and some Democrats are concerned that her extended absence could further hamper the party’s efforts to advance their legislative agenda. As Democrats hold a narrow majority in the Senate, every vote counts, and Feinstein’s absence could tip the balance in the Republicans’ favor.

Feinstein’s health has been a topic of concern for some time, and her colleagues have expressed their support and well wishes for her recovery. However, with the future of the Democrats’ legislative agenda at stake, the party may need to consider a contingency plan if Feinstein’s absence becomes prolonged. For now, the focus remains on her recovery and the hope that she will return to the Senate soon.

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