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.
This morning, I tested positive for COVID-19. Thankfully, I am fully vaccinated and boosted and only experiencing minor symptoms. I will quarantine consistent with CDC guidelines and follow advice from my doctor while I continue to work remotely.
— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) March 19, 2023
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.
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