Dem 51
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GOP 49
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She's Baaaaaack!

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) may or may not feel well enough to return to work in Washington. She may or may not want to return to work in Washington. She may or may not have the cognitive capacity to return to work in Washington. However, the vagaries of the American political system dictate that her vote is very much needed, and can only be cast in Washington. And so, to Washington she will return.

Different outlets are reporting the story a little differently; some say she's returning to Washington soon (future tense), some say she's already returned (past tense). Her office has not posted anything to her website, and the main source of information here seems to be Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Whatever the case may be, surely she'll be back to work on Monday, if not sooner.

Thus far, Feinstein's Democratic colleagues have juggled things pretty aggressively to compensate for her absence. But there are now several things where Schumer simply must have Feinstein's +1. The first of those is the appointment of Julie Su to succeed Marty Walsh as Secretary of Labor. Su is pretty lefty, and is definitely not white, and between those two things her confirmation is going to be very close, one way or the other. The fact that Su has not withdrawn, but Schumer has not brought her up for a vote while Feinstein was away, may suggest that the Majority Leader has whipped the votes, and it's going to be 50-50 (with Kamala Harris casting the tiebreaker).

Another tricky matter is the confirmation of Michael Delaney to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which just so happens to be the Circuit that would hear appeals on the National Association of Government Employees (NAGE) debt-ceiling case we wrote about yesterday. Delaney has a distinguished record, but also accepted some not-so-admirable clients when he was in private practice, such that even some Democrats are not too sure about him. The vote on him will be as tight as the one on Su, most likely.

And then there's the debt ceiling. Schumer can't know what's going to happen there, but he does know that he's got (maybe) 51 votes, at least two of which (Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema) are eager to show they are not in lock-step with the blue team. Maybe three, depending on what Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) is seeing in polls. There are also three Republicans (Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski) that might be gettable, but here again, having an extra vote could make all the difference in the world. One can only hope that Feinstein is able to do what she needs to do without undue physical unpleasantness. It's no fun to go into work when you're really not up to it, but you have no real choice. (Z)

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