Reports have emerged that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) exhibited confusion over Vice President Kamala Harris’ constitutional role in presiding over the Senate during tie-breaking votes. This incident, among others, raises crucial questions about Feinstein’s ability to fulfill her duties, given her declining health.
Feinstein, who at 89 is one of the oldest-ever members of the Senate, was reportedly perplexed by the presence of Harris in the Senate. A New York Times report stated that she asked colleagues, “What is she doing here?” This query came despite Harris having previously broken numerous ties in her constitutional role as President of the Senate.
Report: Dianne Feinstein Confused by Sight of VP Kamala Harris Presiding over Senate https://t.co/Y0yhfCnVU2
— Michael.F.M. (@mfme63) May 29, 2023
Such incidents are not isolated. Feinstein’s declining health and memory have been well-documented, and her recent comments indicating confusion and apparent unawareness of Harris’s duties are cause for concern. A split Senate has necessitated Harris’s tie-breaking votes numerous times during the Biden administration. Feinstein’s confusion suggests a potential inability to grasp the current political realities of the Senate.
After suffering from complications related to shingles, Feinstein was absent from the Senate for three months earlier this year. Upon her return, she was reportedly heavily dependent on her aides, who allegedly had to push her wheelchair, remind her of voting procedures, and explain unfolding events when she seemed confused.
These reports underscore the critical debate on whether Feinstein, with her diminishing health, can continue to represent the interests of nearly 40 million Californians effectively. Feinstein’s continued service becomes even more relevant when we consider that she has announced that she would not run for reelection in 2024, yet is adamant about finishing her current term.
Despite calls from fellow Democrats, including Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ritchie Torres (D-NY) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) for Feinstein to step down, she remains resolute. Interestingly, Feinstein has found an unlikely supporter in Hillary Clinton, who has reportedly advised her to persist despite the challenges.
The circumstances surrounding Feinstein’s health and insistence on continuing her service underline the need for a deeper conversation on age, health, and political service. It also provides a cautionary tale for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to prioritize the representation of their constituents above all else.