Democratic candidate forum silent on Sen. Feinstein's return to Capitol Hill

Sen. Dianne Feinstein walked to her seat at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday and received a standing ovation, resuming her duties after a three-month absence as she recovered from shingles.

Democrats were able to get three federal judge nominees approved in the committee, thanks to Feinstein's vote, but it was a narrow victory along party lines. Critics, even within the Democratic Party, have said her absence made it difficult for Democrats to confirm judges and pass legislation. 

As Feinstein was escorted to her car in a wheelchair, reporters on Capitol Hill asked about her health.

"I'm doing very well actually," the senator replied.

Erwin Chemerinsky, professor and dean of UC Berkeley School of Law wrote an opinion piece published in the Sacramento Bee just a day before Senator Feinstein returned to Washington.

He said Feinstein should step down due to "...her declining mental health and inability to do her job. I observed this in our last conversation, and I have heard it from those who work for her and have observed her in the Senate."


Dianne Feinstein returns to Washington

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is returning to Washington, D.C. after spending months in San Francisco due to a medical condition.

"She has now returned to D.C. which of course is very important, but I don't think that addresses the underlying issue," said Chemerinsky, "I want to emphasize my tremendous admiration for Senator Feinstein. My great affection for her. She's treated me always with enormous warmth. And yet, there's also a point where it's time for someone to leave the role."

 Feinstein, 89, is the oldest sitting senator, though there have been older senators in the past who have continued to serve in Congress. 
Chemerinsky says he feels it points to a broader problem with American institutions.

"I think it's important not just to focus here on Senator Feinstein but also to recognize there are other individuals who've had terrific careers but reach a point where they're not functioning in the same way," said Chemerinsky. 

Feinstein still has 19 months left in her term, which is set to end in January 2025 and is scheduled to return Friday from Washington D.C. to spend the weekend in California. 

She says her doctors told her to keep a "lighter schedule" as she recovers.