Microphones caught the moment a colleague was forced to remind Senator Dianne Feinstein to vote. During a meeting of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee recently, debate on an issue had ended. Senators were called upon to vote by saying “Aye” or “Nay” but when it was her turn, Senator Feinstein appeared confused and began reading prepared script. Fellow Democrat Patty Murray then asked Feinstein to simply say “Aye.” She was prompted two more times before eventually laughing and saying “Aye.”
A spokesperson for the 90-year-old Congresswoman – the oldest on Capitol Hill – said the meeting was chaotic and the Senator was preoccupied and so didn’t realize the debate had ended.
The Californian Senator announced earlier this year that she would not seek re-election in 2024, but recent illnesses and absences have led to calls for her to resign before then. In March, she was diagnosed with shingles and was absent from Congress until May, causing delays in judicial appointments that fellow Democrats complained were affecting citizens’ rights.
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said, “Her refusal to either retire or show up is causing great harm to the judiciary – precisely where reproductive rights are getting stripped. That failure means now in this precious window Dems can only pass GOP-approved nominees.”
Feinstein’s apparent confusion, and her recent absence, are helping to keep a spotlight on the issue of age in the nation’s legislature. Mitch McConnell, GOP leader in the Senate, recently froze mid-sentence while speaking to reporters, and appeared in a trance-like state before being led away by colleagues. The 81-year-old also suffered a fall earlier this year which caused a concussion. He has reportedly fallen on numerous less-publicized occasions.
In the wake of the McConnell incident, Republican Presidential candidate Nikki Haley reiterated her call for mental acuity tests for candidates for high office but also said there should be time limits on how long Members of Congress can serve.