Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), the oldest member of the Senate, has been hospitalized after being diagnosed with shingles during the Senate recess in February.
Feinstein, who turns 90 in June, was not present for several roll call votes this week and did not attend Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with Attorney General Merrick Garland.
A spokesperson earlier Thursday had said that the senator was in California “dealing with a health issue” but did not specify the nature of the issue.
The senior senator from California recently announced she would not seek reelection in 2024 to the seat she has held for decades. For the past few years, she has faced questions about and media coverage of her perceived decline in mental acuity.
She has frequently waved off those criticisms, saying last year, “The real question is whether I’m still an effective representative for 40 million Californians, and the record shows that I am.”
Feinstein declined to be considered this year for the Senate president pro tempore position, which would have put her third in line to the presidency. The post traditionally goes to the longest-serving senator in the majority party.
Democrats, who hold a 51-49 majority in the chamber, also have been dealing with the absence of Sen. John Fetterman (Pa.), who checked himself into a hospital last month to be treated for clinical depression.
Feinstein has been active in California politics for more than 50 years. She was elected first to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1969. She became the city’s mayor after the assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978. She was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992 and is the longest-serving female senator.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has said that if Feinstein were to step down before the end of her term, he would appoint a Black woman to replace her. On the day she announced that she would not seek reelection, the senator swatted away the idea that she would leave before 2024.
“There are times for all things under the sun, and I think that will be the right time,” she said.
Three Democratic House members are among the candidates vying for Feinstein’s seat: Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter and Adam B. Schiff.