The absence of US senators — due to unforeseen medical complications or for unexplained reasons — is delaying key votes and legislation, according to a new report.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) were all hospitalized in recent weeks for health reasons and will not be back for several weeks.
Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) were not present for votes last week and have not offered explanations. They are both expected back this week, their offices confirmed.
According to Politico, the last time the Senate had full attendance by all 100 senators was Aug. 7, 2022, when Democrats passed the Inflation Reduction Act on a party-line vote.
The absences have thrown confirmation proceedings in the Senate Judiciary Committee into disarray, as controversial First Circuit Court nominee Michael Delaney awaits a vote.
Feinstein was treated for shingles earlier in March and has not yet returned to the Senate. Delaney has also faced questions from members of both parties about his handling of a sexual assault involving an underage victim.
“I’m anxious, because I can’t really have a mark-up of new judge nominees until she’s there,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who serves as his party’s whip in the upper chamber, told Politico.
Durbin is quarantining this week after having tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday.
A spokesperson for Feinstein said she was not expected for votes this week “as she continues to recover at home in San Francisco.”
Fetterman is expected to remain hospitalized for a few more weeks at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after having sought treatment for clinical depression in February, which pushes Democrats below their narrow 51-vote majority in the Senate.
But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told Politico the absences would not affect the majority’s work.
“We’ve always worked through attendance issues and we’re still able to confirm a record number of judges and pass legislation,” he said.
Fetterman’s staff shared pictures of the senator hard at work this month from his room at Walter Reed, in an apparent effort to quiet concerns about his fitness for office. The Pennsylvania Democrat has cosponsored multiple bills since seeking medical care.
McConnell is receiving inpatient care at a rehab facility after a fall this month that gave him a concussion and minor rib fracture — an accident that has forced Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) to guide the GOP’s legislative efforts.
While it has not hindered votes against the Biden administration on the unpopular D.C. crime bill, for instance, McConnell’s injury could complicate a vote this week that would revoke war powers’ authorization that Congress permitted during the Iraq war.
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