Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) returned to her post on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday and greenlit the passage of three judicial nominees who had been stalled during her lengthy health-related absence.
Feinstein appeared roughly 90 minutes into the meeting to an ovation from senators and staff, and the nomination votes were held shortly after, putting the nominees on track for votes on the Senate floor in the coming weeks.
“I believe I speak for all of us with feelings of relief and support for our colleague, Sen. Feinstein, who has returned to Washington. I know that she’s been through some significant health challenges and we all wish her the very best,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said to open the hearing.
Those who were finally voted through the committee were Charnelle Bjelkengren, tapped to be a district court judge in Washington state; Marian Gaston, nominated to become a district judge in California; and Kato Crews, who was nominated to be a district judge in Colorado.
The three advanced with only Democratic support as all had earned unanimous GOP opposition on the panel. Bjelkengren stumbled during her confirmation hearing when asked what Article 5 of the Constitution is, Gaston was grilled during her hearing over her past writings about sex offenders, and Crews was unable to define what a Brady Motion is.
Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) laced into the qualifications of the partisan nominees ahead of the vote.
Prior to Feinstein’s arrival, the panel advanced three more judicial nominations with the help of some Republicans on the committee: Jeremy Daniel to become a district judge in Illinois, Brendan Hurson to become a district judge in Maryland, and Darrel Papillion to be a district judge in Louisiana.
Among those voting to advance them were Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the committee’s ranking member, Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and John Kennedy (R-La.).
One judicial nominee before the committee was still unable to receive a vote. Michael Delaney, who has been tapped to fill a spot on the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, remains in limbo over his handling of a sexual assault case at a boarding school in New Hampshire.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told The Hill Wednesday that he remains undecided on Delaney’s nomination.
Prior to Thursday’s meeting, the panel voted out eight additional nominees with bipartisan support in recent weeks without Feinstein’s presence.
Updated at 12:13 p.m.