(WASHINGTON) — California Sen. Dianne Feinstein arrived at the Capitol for the first time in three months on Wednesday, gingerly emerging out of a gray sedan with the help of aides who assisted her into a black wheelchair.
The 89-year-old Democrat, welcomed back by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, said she was feeling “much better” after being absent while she recovered from shingles.
Feinstein’s arrival came just moments after a statement from her office confirmed that her long-awaited return, which notes that she will be working on a “lighter schedule” on doctor’s orders as she continues to recover.
She entered the Capitol about 3 p.m., following two of the day’s three series of Senate votes.
“Even though I’ve made significant progress and was able to return to Washington, I’m still experiencing some side effects from the shingles virus. 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,” Feinstein said in the statement.
On Wednesday, Feinstein asked aides repeatedly, “Why can’t I walk?” before being wheeled into the Capitol, with her right eye was visibly red. The senator said said she had something in it.
Feinstein’s return restores Democrats’ 51-49 majority in the Senate. After being hospitalized in February, Feinstein’s absence in the upper chamber had become a sticking point for some members of her party who become increasingly frustrated with the fact that — without her — Republicans could block Democrats from voting President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Some on the party’s left flank, including California Rep. Ro Khanna and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, argued the federal judiciary could be harmed if Feinstein didn’t step down.
“I want to treat Dianne Feinstein fairly. I want to be sensitive to her family situation and her personal situation,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin said on CNN on Sunday. “But the bottom line is, the business of the committee and of the Senate is affected by her absence.”
Feinstein, in her statement, said she was looking forward to “resuming” her work on the Judiciary Committee.
“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,” she said.
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