Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein returned to the Senate in an allegedly confused state Wednesday as she entered the Capitol in a wheelchair.
The 89-year-old lawmaker was absent from the Senate for over two months due to complications from her shingles diagnosis. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer greeted Feinstein outside the Senate chamber, where she trembled and appeared confused, the Huffington Post reported.
“Where am I going?” she asked, according to the outlet. “I’ve got something in my eye.”
Video shared by the outlet shows Feinstein slowly being guided into a wheelchair.
“Hi Dianne,” Schumer said.
“Hi Chuck,” she replied.
Dianne Feinstein, 89, returns to the Senate after being absent since February and recovering from shingles pic.twitter.com/FcMJr7ddni
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) May 10, 2023
Three people who visited with Feinstein or were familiar with her status said her illness has taken a major toll, Politico reported in April. Two unnamed sources who reportedly spoke with the senator said they are hopeful she is capable of serving the remainder of her term, but they did not seem sure she could do so from the Senate chamber in Washington, according to the outlet.
Despite the senator’s condition, Democrats have pushed for Feinstein to return to the Senate floor, as her vote is critical for approving judicial nominees appointed by President Joe Biden. Upon her return, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee approved six Biden nominees, three of whom passed on a party-line vote, CNN reported Thursday. The votes had been put on hold while Feinstein was absent from D.C.
The party-line nominees were Charnelle Bjelkengren, nominated for the U.S. court in Eastern District of Washington; S. Kato Crews for Colorado’s U.S. district court and Marian F. Gaston for the U.S. district court in the Southern District of California, according to CNN.
Feinstein told a reporter she is feeling “much better” as she was wheeled into the building alongside Schumer on Wednesday. The senator is still experiencing some “vision and balance impairments” from her illness, and her doctor recommended she “maintain a lighter schedule,” according to a May 10 press release from Feinstein’s office.
“I have returned to Washington and am prepared to resume my duties in the Senate. I’m grateful for all the well-wishes over the past couple of months and for the excellent care that I received from my medical team in San Francisco,” Feinstein said in a statement. “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.”
“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,” the statement concluded.
Feinstein returned to Washington, D.C., Tuesday but missed another round of votes early Wednesday, HuffPost reported. A physician initially diagnosed her with shingles in February. Feinstein was then hospitalized for a short period until March 6, which led her to miss several Senate votes.
The senator missed a total of 91 floor votes during her absence, prompting a minority number of members from her own party to call for her resignation. Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ro Khanna of California are among those calling on Feinstein to resign and allow Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom to appoint her replacement. (RELATED: AOC Calls For Dianne Feinstein To Resign: ‘Causing Great Harm’)
Feinstein said in February she plans to retire at the end of the 118th Congress. Democratic California Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter have announced Senate runs in hopes of replacing Feinstein.