GOP Senators Block Schumer’s Request to Replace Feinstein on Judiciary Committee

On Tuesday evening, Senate Republicans blocked a request from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to appoint a temporary replacement for Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein of California on the Judiciary Committee so the committee has the numbers required to push forward President Biden’s judicial nominees. 

Schumer, a Democrat from New York, introduced the resolution and asked that it receive unanimous consent for approval — which would require every senator to agree. Unanimous consent would allow the Senate to rapidly approve measures that are non-controversial without the days or hours of needed debate in the upper chamber. 

However, GOP Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina opposed the motion and rejected Schumer’s request. Graham’s objection means Democrats will have to find 60 votes to approve the proposal, which would necessitate 10 Republicans to cross the aisle.

Senator Graham echoed Republican objections by saying they could not support an effort to put another Dem on the committee because it would result in Senate confirmation of liberal judges Republicans oppose. 

While it wasn’t immediately clear if Sen. Schumer would push a roll call vote to see if 10 Republican senators would help the Dems reach the 60 votes needed to pass the resolution, allowing Feinstein to be replaced on the committee temporarily, the senator has said he would want Democrat Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland in her place until Feinstein can return. 

Senator Schumer told reporters during a Tuesday press conference that he remained “hopeful” Feinstein would be back soon. However, he did not give a more specific timeline or indicate that her return was inevitable. 

“I spoke to Senator Feinstein just last Friday. She and I are very hopeful she will return soon,” said Schumer.

Feinstein has been sidelined after her office announced she was being treated for shingles at a hospital in San Francisco in early March. 

Feinstein’s absence has halted Democrats’ ability to confirm Biden’s court picks

The senator’s absence has sidelined the Democrats’ ability to confirm President Biden’s court picks. The Senate had been approving nominees at high speed before Feinstein’s illness. There is yet to be a clear timeline for Feinstein’s return to Capitol Hill.

Before the Monday vote, several senior Republican senators indicated they would block Democrats from temporarily replacing Feinstein. 

“During the past two years, there has been a concerted campaign to force her off the committee. I think that’s wrong, and I won’t be a part of that,” said GOP Senator Susan Collins of Maine to reporters Monday evening. 

Top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Senator John Cornyn of Texas, slammed the Dem effort on the Senate floor that evening. Cornyn’s remarks also hinted the GOP was only refusing to budge on the Dems’ “most controversial” nominees, which put the onus on Biden to nominate more moderate choices that could get bipartisan support. 

“Never, not once, have we allowed temporary substitutes on committees, and now is not the time to start. Republicans are not going to break this precedent to bail out Senator Schumer or the Biden administration’s most controversial nominees,” said Cornyn. “Senator Feinstein has been a mainstay of this body for more than three decades, and I hope to see her back in these halls soon. But until then, President Biden’s most controversial, partisan judicial nominees would have to wait.”