With the help of a staff member, Sen. Diane Feinstein rose from her wheelchair, gripped his arm, and walked onto the floor and cast her second vote of the week. She voted against a plan to nullify some criminal justice reforms the District of Columbia had recently passed and then walked off the floor.
Back in her wheelchair, she exited an elevator and was met by a reporter — who asked about her health.
“Aren’t you an eager one,” she said.
Feinstein returned last week after months away from the Senate as she recovered from the shingles virus . Her absence from Washington didn’t derail the confirmation of President Biden’s judicial nominations or the work of federal government, but it did cause angst among Democrats who worried that the slim margins of their majority could make their work difficult or impossible.
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In the short interview after voting, she mentioned a problem with her leg but on the balance of things said she was feeling better. Then another reporter asked about the well wishes she’d received from her Senate colleagues since her return last week.
“What have I heard about what?” she asked.
“About your return,” the reporter replied.
“I haven’t been gone,” she said. “You should … I haven’t been gone. I’ve been working.”
“You’ve been working from home is what you’re saying?”
“No, I’ve been here. I’ve been voting. Please, either know or don’t know.”
She then breezed by in her wheelchair and didn’t respond to other questions. The interview wasn’t more than a minute and it was one of the few times she’s spoken to reporters since returning to the Capitol. The senator has revealed little about her health or her workload — aside from statements saying she was being briefed about Senate business while she recuperated at home in San Francisco and that, when she returned to Washington, her doctors told her to work a light schedule.
Last week at the Senate Judiciary hearing, she helped push through three nominations who had lacked bipartisan support and thus had been stuck in limbo because of her absence. With her return to the Senate, Democrats now have an 11-10 edge on the committee, enabling Biden’s nominations to progress to the full Senate without any Republican votes.
Because of that, Feinstein’s nearly three-month absence some congressional Democrats called for her to resign due to her absence and ill health. One was Rep. Ro Khanna of Fremont, who said last week that he was glad to hear of Feinstein’s return and was “hopeful that she will be able to fulfill her duties.”
Her health and mental acuity have been questioned by the press and her colleagues in recent years. Feinstein has long been known as not only powerful but hands-on — demanding, for example, to edit media advisories before they were sent out. But several stories, including one last year in the San Francisco Chronicle, described the deterioration of her memory. Feinstein at the time dismissed the stories, saying she was still fit to serve.
This story originally appeared on LA Times