McConnell says GOP won’t help Democrats replace Feinstein on Judiciary panel

Washington — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said GOP senators will not help Democrats temporarily replace Sen. Dianne Feinstein on the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, ending any hopes among Democrats that Republicans would allow them to push through judicial nominations as the California Democrat recovers from an illness.

“Let’s be clear: Senate Republicans will not take part in sidelining a temporarily absent colleague off a committee just so Democrats can force through their very worst nominees,” McConnell said on the Senate floor on Tuesday, calling it an “unusual request.”

Democrats need Feinstein to help push through President Biden’s judicial nominees, since the Judiciary Committee is evenly split between the parties in her absence.

Feinstein has missed dozens of votes since she was diagnosed with shingles and hospitalized in February. She left the hospital in early March. Last week, she said she asked Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to replace her on the Judiciary Committee until she could return to Washington, which she vowed to do “as soon as possible once my medical team advises that it’s safe for me to travel.”

Calling Feinstein a “titanic figure” and a “stateswoman,” McConnell said that the Judiciary Committee has continued to function without her.

“Our colleague’s temporary absence has really not ground the Judiciary Committee to a halt,” McConnell said. “So far this Congress, the committee has reported out 40 judicial nominees. Listen to this — more than half of them on a bipartisan basis.”

The Kentucky Republican added that “the administration does not face any obstacle to moving nominees who are remotely qualified for the job. People who are mainstream and qualified have a path forward.”

A number of Republicans said Monday they would not support Democrats’ efforts to replace Feinstein on the committee until she returns to Washington. The process for replacing a member of a committee requires the unanimous consent of all senators, or a floor vote that would require 10 Republicans to vote with the Democrats.

Feinstein, 89, has faced calls for her resignation over the past several years, which have only grown louder during her continued absence. She announced earlier in February that she would not seek reelection in 2024, kicking off a high-profile race to fill her seat.

Alan He contributed reporting.

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