Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) returned to the Senate on Wednesday afternoon after a three-month absence due to a bout of shingles.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was there to greet Feinstein as her car rolled up outside the chamber. The 89-year-old veteran senator slowly stepped out of the car and, with the help of aide, eased into a wheelchair waiting for her.
“Where am I going?” she could be heard asking, as she slowly settled into the wheelchair. Her hand was visibly trembling as she took her seat.
“I’ve got something in my eye,” she said, as her eye appeared bloodshot.
“Hi Dianne,” Schumer said, walking up to greet her.
“Hi Chuck,” Feinstein replied.
The California senator then turned to reporters gathered for her return.
“Hi everyone,” she said to the crowd. One reporter asked how she was feeling. “Much better,” she responded.
Schumer walked alongside Feinstein as she was wheeled into the Senate. The California senator did not respond to a shouted question about her reaction to some in her party calling on her to resign.
Feinstein returned to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, but she wasn’t there for votes that night and missed another round of votes earlier Wednesday. Prior to her afternoon arrival, several of her Democratic colleagues didn’t know when she was expected to return to the chamber.
“Let me know when you find out,” Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) told HuffPost, when asked if he knew when she’d return to votes.
Earlier in the afternoon, Feinstein’s office released a statement from her explaining that she’s still dealing with the effects of shingles.
“Even though I’ve made significant progress and was able to return to Washington, I’m still experiencing some side effects from the shingles virus,” she said in her statement. “My doctors have advised me to work a lighter schedule as I return to the Senate. I’m hopeful those issues will subside as I continue to recover.”
Feinstein was initially diagnosed with shingles on Feb. 26 by her physician in San Francisco. She was briefly hospitalized until March 6, and then returned home to continue her recovery.
Her prolonged absence from the Senate has made it much more difficult for Democrats to conduct business, given their slim 51-49 majority. Her absence has perhaps been most felt on the Senate Judiciary Committee, where some of President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees have stalled as Democrats need her vote to get nominees out of the committee.
Feinstein is planning to retire in January 2025. But amid her prolonged absence, some House Democrats have called on her to resign so someone else can actively fill her seat to help Democrats pass bills and confirm more judges. No senators have called on her to step down, though.
Feinstein’s office offered some new details about the senator’s health on Wednesday, indicating that she’s still experiencing vision and balance impairments from the shingles virus. Those side effects are expected to be temporary, but it’s not clear how long they’ll last.
Her office also indicated that Feinstein “may also at times require the use of a wheelchair to travel around the Capitol.”