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Dianne Feinstein returns to Senate after bout with shingles, casting first vote in 3 months

Dianne Feinstein
Posted at 3:08 PM, May 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-10 17:08:17-04

Washington — Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein returned to the Senate floor on Wednesday, appearing in public for the first time in nearly three months after health issues prompted even some members of her own party to call for her resignation.

Feinstein, 89, was helped from a car outside the Capitol and escorted inside in a wheelchair, telling reporters she feels "much better." She appeared briefly on the Senate floor to cast a vote.

"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," the California Democrat said in a written statement. "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."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer welcomed Feinstein back on the Senate floor Wednesday morning before she arrived.

"I join my fellow senators in welcoming back our dear friend and esteemed colleague Dianne Feinstein," Schumer said. "It's good to see her back here in the Senate ready to get back to work."

Feinstein's return comes as Congress faces a fast-approaching deadline to reach a deal on increasing the debt limit. Her absence left Democrats with a narrow 50-49 margin in the upper chamber.

The California Democrat had not cast a vote since mid-February. She was hospitalized in her home state for shingles and then spent weeks recovering at home.

Amid increasing questions about her health and ability to serve, her office for months declined to specify when she would return to the Senate, saying that she would be back as soon as possible.

Some Democrats called on her to resign, suggesting her prolonged leave was hindering Democrats' ability to move legislation and judicial nominees. Feinstein dismissed concerns that her absence impacted the confirmation of nominees.

"The Senate continues to swiftly confirm highly qualified individuals to the federal judiciary, including seven more judicial nominees who were confirmed this week," Feinstein said in a statement last week. "There has been no slowdown."

In April, Feinstein requested that she temporarily be replaced on the Senate Judiciary Committee, but the move was blocked by Republicans.