Los Angeles Politics

Feinstein casts first vote back in Senate after long absence

Sen. Dianne Feinstein returned to the Capitol on Wednesday to cast her first vote in the Senate since taking an extended absence because of an illness that threatened Democrats’ slim majority and led to mounting calls for her resignation.

Feinstein, who at 89 is the eldest sitting senator, was wheeled onto the Senate floor in a wheelchair that she may at times require to travel around the Capitol as she works “a lighter schedule,” her office said in a statement. Videos on Twitter showed Feinstein emerging from a car outside the Senate building, where she was helped into a wheelchair and greeted by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).

On Wednesday afternoon, Feinstein voted yes on the confirmation of Glenna Wright-Gallo to be the assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services, which passed 52 to 45.

Feinstein returned to Washington on Tuesday after a months-long absence due to the shingles virus. In a statement released by her office Wednesday, Feinstein said she’s made some “significant progress” but still is experiencing some side effects, including vision and balance issues.

“I have returned to Washington and am prepared to resume my duties in the Senate,” Feinstein said. “The Senate faces many important issues, but the most pressing is to ensure our government doesn’t default on its financial obligations. I also look forward to resuming my work on the Judiciary Committee considering the president’s judicial nominees.

“My doctors have advised me to work a lighter schedule as I return to the Senate. I’m hopeful those issues will subside as I continue to recover,” she said.

The California Democrat also expressed gratitude for the well-wishes she received and for the care she received from her team of doctors in San Francisco.

Feinstein was briefly hospitalized in San Francisco in February with the virus and said she had hoped to be back in Washington by late March, but she remained at home in recovery. Feinstein worked while she recuperated, her spokesperson Adam Russell said at the time, but she could not cast a vote without being on the Senate floor or in committee, complicating the confirmation of President Biden’s judicial and administrative nominees.

Her absence eventually led to an outcry from some corners of the Democratic Party for Feinstein to step aside, including from Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Fremont) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Last month, Feinstein had asked for another Democrat to temporarily be appointed to the panel in her place, but Republicans rejected that effort.

Feinstein has contended with questions about her health and ability to serve for several years, including concerns about whether she was up for the mental rigor of high-profile positions. Feinstein said she will not run for reelection next year but plans to fulfill her term, which ends in early 2025, then retire.

Times staff writers Melanie Mason, Benjamin Oreskes and Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu contributed to this report.

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