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Sen. Dianne Feinstein defends her absence, says there has been 'no slowdown' of judicial nominees

Feinstein, 89, who has been absent from the Senate since February, did not say in a statement when she would return to Washington.
UNITED STATES - June 16: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., arrives for the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies hearing on the FY2022 budget estimates for the Interior Department in Washington on Wednesday, June 16, 2021.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., at the U.S. Capitol on June 16, 2021.Caroline Brehman / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Thursday defended her ongoing absence from the Judiciary Committee amid calls for her resignation, insisting that there has been "no slowdown" of President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees as she recovers from shingles.

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

"I’m confident that when I return to the Senate, we will be able to move the remaining qualified nominees out of committee quickly and to the Senate floor for a vote."

The statement did not provide details about a return date to Washington. Feinstein, 89, faces calls from fellow Democrats to resign amid her absence following her hospitalization with shingles this year. She has not cast a vote in the Senate since Feb. 16.

Feinstein has been out of the hospital since March and working from home in San Francisco since then, her spokesperson said. 

Asked when Feinstein would be back in Washington, the spokesperson, Adam Russell, said a return date had not been set. “That date is contingent on her medical team clearing her to fly. And they have not done so yet,” Russell said. 

Despite her illness, Feinstein has signaled her intention to remain in office until the end of her term in 2025.

While Senate Democrats have been able to advance several of Biden’s nominees with Republican votes, they had to pause on others that fell short of bipartisan backing.

“While the Senate Judiciary Committee has advanced eight strong nominees during my absence, I’m disappointed that Republicans on the committee are blocking a few from moving forward," Feinstein said in her statement.

Feinstein asked last month that another Democrat temporarily replace her on the panel to help move along several of Biden's nominees. But the proposal was rejected by some key Senate Republicans, who said the move would enable Democrats to advance judges on a party-line basis.