Amidst growing concerns regarding California Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D) mental faculties following three months away from Congress due to illness, a new report suggested the 89-year-old had already begun displaying signs of confusion in the presence of Vice President Kamala Harris.
Serving out her fifth and final full-term in the Senate, having first been elected in a 1992 special election, Feinstein’s ailing health and desired spot in the upper chamber have placed her at the center of controversy.
Even before she had announced that she would not be seeking reelection next year, bids to run for her office had been declared by the likes of Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter. Now, after having her acuity further questioned over a remark in the Senate Judiciary Committee about her presence, The New York Times reported that the congresswoman had been confused when Harris had stood in for tie-breaking votes in 2022.
“At times she has expressed confusion about the basics of how the Senate functions,” the Times report read. “When Vice President Kamala Harris was presiding over the chamber last year in one of many instances in which she was called upon to cast a tiebreaking vote, Ms. Feinstein expressed confusion, according to a person who witnessed the scene, asking her colleagues, ‘What is she doing here?’ Staff members have been overheard explaining to her that she cannot leave yet because there are more votes to come.”
The outlet also painted a picture of performative representation as it described an aiding frequently whispering in her ear during a hearing and noted, “The scene was typical of Ms. Feinstein’s day-to-day existence on Capitol Hill, where she is surrounded by a retinue of staff members who serve not only the roles of typical congressional aides — advising on policy, keeping tabs on the schedule, drafting statements and speeches — but also as de facto companions to a senator whose age, frail health and memory issues make it difficult for her to function alone.”
As previously covered upon her return following a three month-absence after contracting the shingles virus, Feinstein had been reported saying “No, I haven’t been gone. You should — I haven’t been gone. I’ve been working.”
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When it was suggested that she meant working from home, the senator was said to have “turned feisty” before insisting, “No, I’ve been here. I’ve been voting. Please. You either know or don’t know.”
Ongoing concerns about her continued capacity to serve her constituents have led to a growing number of legislators suggesting Feinstein gracefully step down before publicly deteriorating any further. Just last week, New York Democratic Rep. Ritchie Torres went on record stating, “I think if you’re a member, and you become a shadow of your former self, you should resign. Once you’re no longer the best person to represent your state, you have a duty to move on.”
His suggestion had followed Democratic colleagues Reps. Ro Khanna (Calif.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Dean Phillips (Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) in calling for Feinstein’s resignation.
As Khanna had tweeted while she remained absent in April, “It’s time for @SenFeinstein to resign. We need to put the country ahead of personal loyalty. While she has had a lifetime of public service, it is obvious she can no longer fulfill her duties. Not speaking out undermines our credibility as elected representatives of the people.”
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