Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tried this week to replace Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein on a temporary basis on the Senate Judiciary Committee, but that attempt was thwarted.
Schumer put forth a resolution earlier this week that would have allowed Democrats to select a replacement for Feinstein so they could proceed with judicial nominations. However, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina blocked that resolution.
Feinstein has missed many votes during the year because she has shingles, and she’s also been on a steady mental decline for a while, sources have said. Many Democrats in Congress have called for Feinstein to resign altogether so that Gavin Newsom, the Democratic governor of California, could appoint a replacement to her.
Feinstein’s current term is set to expire in January of 2025. She has already announced that she won’t be running for re-election, but that still means she has a year-and-a-half left to go.
Her current absence on the Senate has caused major issues for Democrats who are trying to advance multiple judicial nominees that President Joe Biden has put forth for federal benches. Those nominees must first pass through the Judiciary Committee before they can proceed to the full Senate for a final confirmation hearing.
With Feinstein not there, there is a deadlock on the Judiciary Committee, which means that Republicans on the panel can essentially block any nominee.
The resolution that Schumer put forward would have allowed the Senate majority leader to select a replacement for Feinstein. He had already selected Democratic Senator Ben Cardin from Maryland as her replacement.
Schumer tried to get the resolution passed by using unanimous consent. Graham objected to that, though. On Tuesday, Schumer said on the Senate floor:
“Few have accomplished as much in office as Senator Feinstein. Our colleague and friend has made her wish clear that another senator temporarily serves on the Judiciary Committee until she returns. I thank Senator Cardin for agreeing to step in. So, today, I am acting not just as leader, but as Dianne’s friend in honoring her wishes until she returns to the Senate.
“And so, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the consideration of my resolution, which is at the desk. I further ask unanimous consent the resolution be agreed to and that the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate.”
The officer presiding over the hearing asked if anyone had an objection to the resolution, and Graham replied that he reserved his right to object. In responding, he said:
“I’ll be very brief to my colleague and good friend Senator Schumer. I want to let you know that 99 senators agree with what you said about Senator Feinstein. We all hope – I’m the ranking member of Judiciary – she’s a dear friend and we hope for her speedy recovery and return back to the Senate. With all due respect to my colleague, Senator Schumer, this is about a handful of judges that you can’t get the votes.”
He blocked the resolution, then, saying that the measure “would be harmful to the Senate.”