Should the Dems in congress force Feinstein out, simply because she's can't show up?
Maybe she's "not all there" as the WSJ claims several Dems have said off the record? Yes, she might be messing up their agenda. But it's the razor-sharp residents of California that elected her and their job to pull the plug.
Besides, age is no more an issue in her case than it is for our president.
The Age of Dianne Feinstein
Many agendas are hostage to whether the senator chooses to stay or leave.
William McGurn, WSJ
May 8, 2023 6:25 pm ET
Polite society holds that a woman’s age is nobody’s business but her own. But as Dianne Feinstein is learning, Washington will never be confused with polite society.
The Beltway is now consumed with the California senator’s age and related health issues. At 89, Mrs. Feinstein is the oldest member of Congress. But she hasn’t been seen in the Senate since late February owing to a case of shingles. Her record as a trailblazer for women hasn’t stopped younger congressional colleagues such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) from calling on Ms. Feinstein to step down.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has been joined in her call by other whippersnappers such as fellow squad member Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.). But she’s also supported by progressives and an increasing number of colleagues who are quoted anonymously saying Ms. Feinstein isn’t all there anymore. Even those not willing to go that far are finding it hard to defend Ms. Feinstein, as Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin did Sunday on CNN when Jake Tapper noted they were all “very ginger and very polite” in not acting decisively to get rid of her.
Mr. Durbin conceded Ms. Feinstein’s absence was affecting the Democrats’ ability to get on with their business. Mr. Tapper likened the situation to what happened when Democrats failed to coax Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to retire so that Barack Obama could choose her successor.
“How’d that work out for you?” Mr. Tapper asked Mr. Durbin.
Mr. Tapper is on to something. Notwithstanding the many public expressions of sympathy and hope for a speedy recovery, Democrats want Ms. Feinstein to step down if she can’t show up for votes. The truth is that many other agendas in Washington are hostage to her decision.
The most obvious is Joe Biden’s judicial agenda. The Senate Judiciary Committee is divided 11-10 in favor of Democrats. But Ms. Feinstein’s absence brings the balance to 10-10, and Democrats no longer have the votes to get the judicial nominees out of committee without Republican support.
Ms. Feinstein’s absence affects larger votes too. In a Senate where Democrats have a 51-49 majority, a senator whose votes can’t be relied on may put a president’s entire legislative program on hold—especially with Pennsylvania’s Sen. John Fetterman out as well until very recently.
On the surface, Republicans appear more elder-friendly because they have been encouraging Ms. Feinstein not to retire if she doesn’t want to. But that’s because they have an interest in depriving Democrats of a functioning committee majority—which itself depends on California’s senior senator continuing to miss votes. This explains why Republicans blocked a floor resolution in April that would have let Majority Leader Chuck Schumer replace Sen. Feinstein on Judiciary. The hope is that if Mrs. Feinstein continues to be a committee no-show, Mr. Biden will have to moderate his judicial picks.
President Biden has personal interests here too. Questions about Mrs. Feinstein’s age and health inevitably draw unwelcome attention to his own plainly diminishing mental faculties. Nikki Haley, the former Republican governor of South Carolina and current presidential candidate, recently made the link between Mrs. Feinstein and Mr. Biden explicit when she said both should have to pass a cognitive test.
Finally, ambitious California Democrats are eyeing Mrs. Feinstein’s Senate seat. In February she announced she won’t seek re-election in 2024. But if she were to retire before that, Gov. Gavin Newsom would appoint someone to serve out her term.
Unless that person agreed not to run for election, it would cease to be a primary for an open seat. Already three Democrats have announced they’re running—Reps. Adam Schiff, Barbara Lee and Katie Porter. Were one of them to be appointed, he or she would have the advantage of running as an incumbent.
Whispers of decline have plagued Mrs. Feinstein for years but the stakes are now higher. After she issued a defiant press release Thursday promising to return but not saying when, the New York Times didn’t mince words. On Friday the Times editorialized that it’s time Mr. Schumer set “aside the antique Senate gentility” and make her an offer she can’t refuse.
The irony is that the Senate is usually an ideal place for people Ms. Feinstein’s age. Senators enjoy exceptional healthcare, and they lack the day-to-day executive responsibilities that keep governors and presidents in the public eye. They also have large staffs to do most of the work.
So long as a senator’s party has a sufficiently large majority that his votes aren’t needed for bills or nominations, no one much minds what shape he’s in mentally. When it really matters, anyone can be trundled in to cast a vote.
The knives come out when a senator can’t do even that. Just ask Dianne Feinstein.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.