The Feinstein Conundrum

California Senator Dianne Feinstein’s return to the Senate this month since recovering from shingles has only drawn more questions about her ability to do her job.

It was revealed that Feinstein suffered further complications than previously disclosed, including encephalitis and Ramsay Hunt syndrome. In rare instances, the varicella zoster virus “can attack the brain cells.”

Indeed, when Feinstein was asked about her colleagues’ reactions since she’s been back, she suggested she had not been absent.

Feinstein’s office confirmed that Nancy Pelosi’s daughter, Nancy Corinne Prowda, has been at Feinstein’s side, helping aides at the Capitol.

The arrangement is rooted in a long and friendly relationship between Feinstein and the Pelosis, but there are suggestions that there are also political interests.

Nancy Pelosi has endorsed Adam Schiff for Feinstein’s vacant seat at the end of her term, but Governor Gavin Newsom has pledged to appoint a Black woman to serve out her term. That may be Barbara Lee, who would become an incumbent in the future race.

Vox, Politico

But there is also speculation that Dianne Feinstein shouldn’t quit.

From Time:

Here’s an updated take that will undoubtedly draw some objections: Feinstein holding the seat until the election next year may be the most responsible thing she can do in case of one possible, albeit unlikely, scenario: a vacancy on the Supreme Court. 

Feinstein may be the vote that prevents a 7-2 conservative court.

The reason why Feinstein holds all this power is tied to her seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Democrats have an 11-to-10 advantage over Republicans on the panel, giving them zero margin for error in advancing President Joe Biden’s nominees for lifetime appointments to federal courts, including the Supreme Court. A tied 10-to-10 vote, at least under the current rules, leaves those nominees potentially stuck in limbo. Whenever she’s absent, Feinstein leaves Democrats on the committee with an insufficient 10 votes.

While it would be great to have a younger healthier Senator if Feinstein were to resign, there’s a Judiary Committee Assignment to be settled. Committee assignments are subject to 60 votes, which means 10 Republicans would have to allow Democrats to either send Feinstein’s replacement or another lawmaker into that role. There is scant evidence that Republicans would accede to that request.

Mitt Romney explained this when Democrats asked for a replacement to Feinstein’s committee seat:

“I don’t think Republicans are going to lift a finger in any way to get more liberal judges appointed, so whether she’s resigned or leaves temporarily from the Judiciary Committee, I think we will slow walk any process that makes it easier to appoint more liberal judges.”

Who should be the next senator from California?