Concerns over the health of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) returned on Thursday following a Senate vote in which the Senator repeatedly said the wrong thing and had to be prompted by aides when a simple “aye” or “nay” was needed.
For years, the health declination of Senator Feinstein has been a recurring issue in both California and Washington D.C. Most notably, Feinstein faced numerous health questions in 2017 following the installation of a pacemaker and in 2020 after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg when many commentators noted health issues between the two.
The most intense questions to date came earlier this year in February, when recovery from shingles at her home in San Francisco took longer than expected. In April, she temporarily left the Judiciary Committee, hoping to have an interim replacement cover for her. However, Republicans rejected the plan, forcing the Committee to only approve Judges whom members from both parties could agree on. With many potential judges held back, critical Senate votes coming up that were reliant on passage with a vote from Feinstein, and concerns growing about her health, Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA) began to lead the charge to get her to resign. At its peak, dozens of Congressional members, Senators, and leftist/liberal groups pressured Feinstein to resign.
While she eventually returned in May, the whole ordeal ultimately raised too many questions. While she had announced earlier that she wouldn’t be running for Senate reelection in 2024, the shingles saga led many to continue to pine for her resignation, with several groups even beginning to pressure Governor Gavin Newsom on who to choose for his interim pick. Complicating matters was the reveal that Feinstein’s health problems were also much worse than originally reported, further fueling resign talk.
For the last several months, Feinstein has made a show of being active in the Senate. Going back to her job quieted resignation talk for a short time. However, on Thursday, a new concerns over her fitness to serve in the Senate came back during a Defense Appropriations hearing in Washington.
Latest health concern for Feinstein
During the hearing, Senator Feinstein simply had to say “Aye” or “Nay” when her name was called for a vote by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). Murray had to keep repeating herself asking for Feinstein to vote, with Feinstein not responding. Then, instead of saying “aye,” she started reading from prepared remarks, with nervous aides stopping her and trying to tell her what to do.
This prompted Murray to ask for her vote two more times before Feinstein finally did so, apparently laughing off the confusion in the matter. The whole exchange can be seen here.
A spokesperson for Feinstein said later on Thursday that Feinstein’s confusion in the matter was due to the rush to get all appropriations bills sorted before recess, with the changing order of bills and voting throwing the Senator off.
“Trying to complete all of the appropriations bills before recess, the committee markup this morning was a little chaotic, constantly switching back and forth between statements, votes, and debate and the order of bills,” said the spokesperson. “The senator was preoccupied, didn’t realize debate had just ended and a vote was called. She started to give a statement, was informed it was a vote and then cast her vote.”
Feinstein supporters also pointed to recent issues that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has had, including a press conference freeze up earlier in the week, showing that it is just a symptom of older age, and not necessarily a reason to call for them to resign.
However, even if it was just a matter of confusion, the incident did not help Feinstein’s public image this week, with some experts saying that it is only giving further ammunition to those that want her to resign.
“Feinstein is 90 now,” Bay Area pollster Evelyn Archer told the Globe Friday. “What happened in the Senate yesterday is just further proof to many that Feinstein just can’t do it anymore. It may have been, as they said, chaotic, but a sitting Senator is expected to work through that and remain on point. Her team also kind of failed her there. They should have kept her on track, and they obviously didn’t.”
“She hasn’t had any blunders in the past few months, but you still expect better from lawmakers. They’re human too, and they make mistakes. You’re late for a meeting or something embarrassing comes up from the past. Most people tend to understand that sort of thing. But with Feinstein it has been a constant thing. For most lawmakers, not making a big mistake in a few months timeframe is normal. For Feinstein, it’s an achievement. That’s not good.”
“Polls have shown that two-thirds of the state want her to resign. After this, it will be about 70% in all likelihood. I mean more than two-thirds of the state agreeing on something. That doesn’t happen every day. This little incident, even if an innocent mistake, is not going to bode well for her.”
As of Friday, Feinstein has not plans to resign from the Senate.
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