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Sen Dianne Feinstein appears confused and is instructed to vote ‘aye’ by fellow senator at meeting

California senator has faced calls to resign early amid concerns about persistent episodes of confusion

John Bowden
Washington DC
Friday 28 July 2023 17:08 BST
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) begins giving a speech when asked to vote on the defense appropriations bill.

One of the frequent instances in which Senator Dianne Feinstein has appeared confused and unsure of the business of the Senate at hand has been caught on camera, a day after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell froze at a press conference and was ushered away after appearing unable to talk.

The Democratic senator from California was attending a meeting Thursday of the Senate Appropriations Commitee, where during votes she appeared to lose track of the proceedings and began to motion for a vote that was already in progress.

The beginning of her speech prompted a fellow Democratic senator, Patty Murray, to lean in and tell her: “Just vote ‘aye’”.

It was a concerning moment made all the more relevant by the display of Mr McConnell a day earlier; after pressing from reporters throughout the afternoon and into the evening, it was eventually born out that the Senate GOP leader, who suffered a concussion after a fall this past spring, was the victim of another fall just a few weeks ago at DC’s Reagan airport.

The incident was branded “awkward” by NBC’s congressional reporter Sahil Kapur, and it drew the issue of the Senate’s graying membership back into the headlines for a second day in a row.

A spokesperson for the senator offered this explanation to Fox News: “Trying to complete all of the appropriations bills before recess, the committee markup this morning was a little chaotic constantly switching back and forth between statements, votes, and debate and the order of bills. The senator was preoccupied, didn’t realize debate had just ended and a vote was called.”

"She started to give a statement, was informed it was a vote and then cast her vote,” they continued.

Ms Feinstein, 90, is one of the chamber’s oldest members and has long been the subject of stories and anecdotes wherein she appears unsure or confused about her immediate surroundings or the proceedings of the Senate. The concerns have escalated to the point where there are now persistent calls for her retirement on social media, something that the senator has pledged to do at the end of her term.

A crowded field has already emerged to vie for her seat next year; California US House members Adam Schiff, Barbara Lee and Katie Porter are all contending to succeed her in what is expected to be one of the most expensive statewide races in 2024.

The senator returned to work earlier this year after a two-and-a-half month absence, related to illness; the void left by her leave prevented the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Democratic majority from compelling Supreme Court Justice John Roberts to testify at a hearing called to discuss ethical issues plaguing the nation’s highest judicial authority.

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