Sen. Dianne Feinstein Hospitalized with Shingles, Weakening Democrats’ Senate Majority
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California was hospitalized in recent days with shingles and is now receiving treatment in her hometown of San Francisco, her office announced Thursday. Senator Dianne Feinstein announced that she will not be running for reelection in 2024, after taking office in 1992.
Shingles is an infection of the nerves caused by a reactivated chicken pox virus that can result in a painful, scaly rash, typically on one side of the body. Feinstein, 89, said in a statement that she “expect[s] to make a full recovery” and “hope[s] to return to the Senate later this month.”
Feinstein’s extended absence has weakened the Democrats’ 51-49 lead in the Senate, limiting the party’s ability to pass votes. As a result, Vice President Kamala Harris has been yoked to the Senate and has twice cast tie-breaking votes in the upper congressional chamber.
The absences of Feinstein and fellow Democrat John Fetterman, who has been hospitalized for clinical depression, have also made it difficult for the Biden administration to confirm cabinet nominees.
Feinstein, who is the oldest member of Congress, has been active in California politics for more than 50 years. She was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1969, became mayor after the assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978, and was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992.
Since then, Feinstein has served on four Senate committees, which have held 12 public hearings and six closed hearings this year. She has attended nine of those 18 hearings, including a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday and several roll call votes throughout the week.
Multiple California Democrats, including Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee, have already announced their campaigns to win Feinstein’s seat. Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, has also returned to work after having undergone surgery last month for prostate cancer.
Feinstein’s hospitalization serves as a reminder of the fragility of the Democrats’ Senate majority. As the party’s members continue to face health issues, the Biden administration and the Democratic caucus will likely continue to struggle to pass votes and confirm nominees.
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