Although 89-year-old U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has faced speculation from both sides of the aisle that she is no longer capable of serving in Congress, Democratic leaders have pushed for her to continue occupying her seat in part to allow the party to advance President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees.
She has been absent from Capitol Hill for months while recovering from what media reports described as a bad case of shingles. Last week, she finally returned — but concerns about her cognitive function only grew deeper.
Upon being wheeled up to the Senate building, a feeble-looking Feinstein could be heard asking: “Where am I going?”
Dianne back in action (sort of) after missing 91 votes… https://t.co/e7pI2zMUcg
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) May 11, 2023
Despite her less-than-auspicious arrival, the senator’s handlers assured voters that she would be able to continue working a “lighter schedule” as stipulated by her doctors.
Days later, however, Feinstein fielded questions from reporters including Jim Newell of Slate, who began by asking how she felt.
“Oh, I’m feeling fine,” she replied. “I have a problem with the leg.”
From there, the back-and-forth only sparked further speculation about her declining mental acuity.
Another reporter asked Feinstein about her reaction to the reception she received from Senate colleagues upon returning to the chamber.
“What have I heard about what?” she asked.
After the question was repeated, Feinstein seemed to not recall her extended absence, claiming: “I haven’t been gone. You should … I haven’t been gone. I’ve been working.”
The reporter attempted to give Feinstein the benefit of the doubt, suggesting that she meant that she had been working from home.
“No, I’ve been here,” the senator shot back. “I’ve been voting. Please, you either know or don’t know.”
Her aides quickly put the kibosh on the interview by simply rolling her wheelchair away from the reporters.
Of course, concerns about the aging senator’s mental faculties predate her recent bout with shingles. More than a year ago, one anonymous lawmaker described a “jarring” encounter he had with Feinstein.
“I have worked with her for a long time and long enough to know what she was like just a few years ago,” the individual said. “Always in command, always in charge, on top of the details, basically couldn’t resist a conversation where she was driving some bill or some idea. All of that is gone.”