Senate Democrats Lose Majority With Feinstein Hospitalization

89-year-old lawmaker announced she is hospitalized with shingles

Chuck Schumer
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) / Getty Images
March 3, 2023

After Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) on Thursday announced she is hospitalized with shingles, Democrats have temporarily lost their upper-chamber majority, with Sen. John Fetterman (D., Pa.) still hospitalized for depression.

"I was diagnosed over the February recess with a case of shingles. I have been hospitalized and am receiving treatment in San Francisco and expect to make a full recovery," the 89-year-old California senator said in a statement. "I hope to return to the Senate later this month."

The announcement means Democrats temporarily lose their majority, with the Senate split 49-49, and they may need Vice President Kamala Harris to break tie votes. The vice president this week broke a tie for the second time to confirm one of President Joe Biden's judicial appointments.

Fetterman has been hospitalized off and on since early February. He was rushed to a hospital on Feb. 9 after experiencing lightheadedness and then checked himself into Walter Reed Medical Center on Feb. 16 for "severe" clinical depression, according to his office. The diagnosis raises questions about the doctors' notes that his campaign cited to claim Fetterman was able to carry out his tasks as a senator.

The absences will slow Democrats' break-neck approvals of Biden judicial picks, Fox News reports:

"The danger of having such a small majority is that one or two illnesses can bring things to a halt. The administration has been aggressive and effective on judicial nominees, but that's all on hold for now," political strategist Doug Heye told Fox News Digital. …

The president and his allies have celebrated the fast-paced court confirmations they have enjoyed over Biden's first two years in office. Democrats were buoyant earlier this month after confirming 100 judicial nominees to lifetime appointments. In his first year alone, Biden got more lower-court picks confirmed by the Senate than any past president since President Kennedy, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institute.