Chuck Schumer spoke to Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Monday and the ailing California Democrat is “hopeful” she’ll return to Washington next week, according to notes the Senate majority leader held at a Tuesday press conference.
Feinstein, who is set to retire at the end of this Congress, has been absent from the Senate since early March after being hospitalized with shingles. The 89-year-old’s continued absence has left Democrats short of a crucial vote both in the chamber and on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The potential effect of her lost vote took on new urgency Monday, when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced the country could breach the debt limit by June 1.
Schumer did not address Feinstein’s absence aloud during the press conference.
“It was in his notes, and he would have said if someone asked,” Schumer’s spokesperson told POLITICO.
Earlier on Tuesday Feinstein’s office told POLITICO that Feinstein “continues to make progress in her recovery” from shingles, but that her staff “don’t have a timeline yet for her return to Washington, which is dependent on her medical team saying it is safe to travel.”
A Feinstein spokesperson confirmed the senator and Schumer spoke, originally confirming the majority leader’s notes that the conversation occurred Monday and later saying that it happened Sunday night.
Senate Republicans blocked an attempt by Democrats last month to temporarily replace Feinstein on the Judiciary panel.
House Democrats, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) have called on Feinstein to resign before the end of her term to allow a replacement to be appointed.
The race to replace Feinstein is already crowded, with House Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee battling for the seat in deep-blue California. Complicating their races is Newsom’s 2021 commitment to appoint a Black woman for the Senate, should Feinstein resign.