Chris Lange, FISM News
Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) bid to temporarily replace Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Feinstein’s absence from the chamber, brought on by a bout with shingles, has hamstrung Democrats’ efforts to advance President Biden’s judicial nominations. Sen. John Fetterman’s (D-Pa.) return to work on Monday following his two-month stint at Walter Reed still left Democrats one vote short of the required “yeas” to push the nominees through.
Schumer asked for unanimous consent in approving the resolution, which would have allowed Democrats to expedite a process that typically involves lengthy debate on the Senate floor that can last for days.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) shattered that hope Tuesday when he stood in opposition to the measure, which means that Schumer will now need to convince 10 Republicans to cross the aisle to vote with his party in order to pass the resolution.
That scenario seems unlikely to materialize, since even GOP moderate Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) – all three of whom have voted with Democrats several times in the past – said they disapproved of the seat swap.
“Sen. Feinstein has been an extraordinary senator, and she’s a good friend of mine. During the last two years, there’s been a concerted campaign to force her off the judiciary committee, and I will have no part of that,” Collins said, according to reporting by The Hill.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who returned to the Senate floor Monday following his own lengthy absence occasioned by a nasty concussion, argued that “The far left wants the full Senate to move a senator off a committee so they can ram through … their nominees.”
Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell argues against replacing Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on Judiciary Committee, despite Feinstein requesting the removal herself:
“The far left wants the full Senate to move a senator off a committee so they can ram through … their nominees.” pic.twitter.com/ZGwjvKevYj
— The Recount (@therecount) April 18, 2023
At least five other Republicans had previously gone on record as saying that they would not support the resolution, including Sens. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), John Cornyn (Texas), Tom Cotton (Ark.), John Kennedy (La.), and Thom Tillis (N.C.).
“I, for one, am not going to help President Biden’s most unqualified nominees to get confirmed,” Cornyn said ahead of the vote.
“These are, by definition, the most controversial nominees,” the Texas lawmaker told NBC News. “And if Democrats are depending strictly on their own party-line vote to get them out of committee— I don’t think there’s any appetite on our side to help what we consider to be controversial or unqualified nominees to get confirmed.”
Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) likewise vowed to “vote against any attempt by Senate Democrats to temporarily replace Sen. Feinstein on the Judiciary Committee” in a tweet he posted Monday.
“I deeply respect Senator Feinstein, but this is an unprecedented request solely intended to appease those pushing for radical, activist judges,” Tillis wrote.
Strenuous objections notwithstanding, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) expressed optimism that Democrats would be able to achieve the requisite 10 GOP votes in remarks to reporters that appeared also to include a veiled threat.
“The rain can fall on both sides of the road, and Republicans ought to think a little bit about what this means. Tomorrow they may be facing the exact same thing,” Durbin said.
Feinstein, 89, asked Schumer to replace her on the panel last week, not long after Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) called on the longtime California senator to step down amid growing concern over her apparent cognitive decline.
“It’s time for @SenFeinstein to resign,” Khanna tweeted late Wednesday. “We need to put the country ahead of personal loyalty. While she has had a lifetime of public service, it is obvious she can no longer fulfill her duties. Not speaking out undermines our credibility as elected representatives of the people.”
Schumer told reporters at a press briefing Tuesday that he was “hopeful” Feinstein would be able to return to the chamber in the near future.
“I spoke to Senator Feinstein just last Friday. She and I are very hopeful she will return soon,” Schumer said.