Democrats and Republicans both currently hold 50 seats in the United States Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of her Democratic colleagues.
Those numbers leave Democrats with only a tenuous hold on the chamber, which is why some were understandably concerned when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) appeared to go on hiatus.
Politico reported that the long-time Democratic senator was absent from Washington D.C. on Monday due to her husband, Richard Blum’s, illness, which caused her to miss a crucial vote on suspending the federal debt limit.
The vote broke down along partisan lines, with all other members of the Democratic caucus being present and voting in favor of the measure.
Democrats were desperate to see it pass so as to avoid a government shutdown, but the resolution failed to receive the 60 votes needed to make it happen.
It was also reported that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) subsequently changed his vote from “Yes” to “No,” so as “to preserve a procedural ability to bring the legislation to the floor again.”
Although GOP members were united in their opposition, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) was also absent and thus unable to cast a vote.
SFGATE noted that this was not the only vote that Feinstein has missed, as she had apparently been absent from the nation’s capital for a week.
Tom Mentzer, who serves as the senator’s spokesperson, provided a statement to the San Francisco Chronicle explaining that Feinstein returned home due to health problems experienced by her husband, which left him hospitalized.
“Sen. Feinstein is returning to Washington this evening after staying in San Francisco while her husband was hospitalized,” Mentzer told the outlet Tuesday. “Her husband is now recovering at home.”
Feinstein, who turned 88 this past June, is the Senate’s oldest member, and as a result, some have begun to question her own health, given the ramifications her sudden resignation from Congress would have on the razor-thin majority held by Dems in the upper chamber.
The New Yorker reported in December that Feinstein is said to be struggling with short-term memory loss, something that lead to a conversation with Majority Leader Schumer about potentially stepping down from her role as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee. However, Feinstein allegedly forgot the conversation and had to be spoken to a second time.