GOP Keeps Leverage over Democrat-Controlled Senate with John Fetterman, Dianne Feinstein, Dick Durbin Inactive

FILE - Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., walks to a motorcade vehicle after stepping off Air Force One behind President Joe Biden, Feb. 3, 2023, at Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia. On Thursday, Feb. 16, Fetterman's office announced that the senator had checked himself into the hospital for clinical depression.(AP Photo/Patrick …
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File

Republicans will maintain their leverage over the Democrat-controlled Senate this week with Sens. John Fetterman (D-PA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Dick Durbin medically inactive.

With three Democrat senators sidelined, Republicans have the ability to force certain Senate maneuvers that some Democrats, such as Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) or Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), might support.

In recent weeks, Senate Republicans have mounted a degree of pressure on Democrats by using “privileged resolutions” that bypass Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) approval to come to the floor. Once on the floor, privileged resolutions only require a simple majority to pass.

If Manchin or Sinema vote with Republicans, the Democrat-controlled Senate would be overpowered by the lawmakers’ medical absences. The maneuver would put President Joe Biden in a political corner, one that could force him to use a veto pen.

The Republicans’ leverage appears to have improved since last week. On Sunday, Durbin announced he caught the coronavirus while “fully vaccinated and boosted.” Durbin’s absence, joined by Fetterman out due to depression and Feinstein recovering from a case of shingles, will enable Republicans to maintain their leverage over the chamber.

Feinstein’s medical leave is especially concerning to Democrats. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, her absence has caused committee Democrats to postpone a number of confirmation votes for Biden’s nominees. “Among the delayed nominees is First Circuit Court nominee Michael Delaney, who has faced criticism over his handling of a school sexual assault case,” Politico reported.

The Hill reported additional nominations that were postponed:

Among the nominees who’ve been delayed is Charnelle Bjelkengren, who President Biden tapped to serve as a district court judge for the Eastern District of Washington. Bjelkengren has been the target of GOP opposition after she stumbled over some questions during her confirmation hearing.

The panel also held off on voting to advance Orelia Merchant’s nomination for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn and two other nominees for trial court seats in New Jersey.

Democrats hold an 11-10 advantage on the panel, but are unable to advance their nominees without Feinstein or winning GOP support for any individual nominee.

It is unknown when Fetterman and Feinstein will return to work, but media reports suggest they will not return this week.

FLASHBACK: John Fetterman Claimed Doctors Said He Was ‘Absolutely Ready’ to Become Senator

Follow Wendell Husebø on Twitter @WendellHusebø. He is the author of Politics of Slave Morality.


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