WASHINGTON (Reuters)—U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, 89, will return to Washington on Tuesday after a months-long absence due to illness, Feinstein spokesman Adam Russell said, restoring Democrats’ 51-49 majority to full strength.
The trailblazing lawmaker had been sidelined since February, as she recovered from a bout of shingles, which had led to calls from some fellow Democrats to step aside and allow someone else to take her place.
Feinstein was first elected in 1992, nicknamed the “year of the women” which saw the number of women U.S. senators double and California become the first state represented by two women: Feinstein and fellow Democrat Barbara Boxer.
Feinstein‘s absence had deadlocked the Senate Judiciary Committee she sits on, slowing Democrats’ drive to approve some of President Joe Biden’s most controversial nominees to vacant federal court positions, leading to a partial Republican blockade.
Her extended leave had prompted some Democrats, notably Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to call for her resignation.
Democrats’ worries were further heightened as lawmakers have been spending 2023 arguing over raising the nation’s borrowing authority. Feinstein could provide crucial support for whatever debt limit bill comes before the Senate that would avert a first-ever default on U.S. debt.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Jasper Ward; Editing by Scott Malone, Alistair Bell and Tim Ahmann)
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