May 30, 2023

Voters Want 89-Year-Old Sen. Dianne Feinstein Out, but Politicians Want Her To Stay

The senator has refused to resign despite constant concerns about her physical and mental well-being and capabilities.
Voters Want 89-Year-Old Sen. Dianne Feinstein Out, but Politicians Want Her To Stay
Sen. Dianna Feinstein, 2014

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By Joanna Button

Unfit for office: Last week, a poll by the University of California, Berkeley revealed that two-thirds of registered Californian voters believe 89-year-old Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s recent health issues prove she is unfit for office, and 42 percent believe she should step down. The Democrat returned to the Senate earlier this month after a two-and-a-half-month absence due to illness.

Health issues: Feinstein was hospitalized for a shingles infection and resulting brain inflammation in early March. By the time she returned to the Senate in May, she had missed 93 votes. Her health complications, including partial facial paralysis and hearing difficulties, and apparent cognitive decline—she insisted she hadn’t been gone when a reporter asked about her absence—immediately raised concerns about her ability to serve.

Calls for resignation: No Senate Democrats have called for her resignation, but numerous House Democrats have since April. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said most of her colleagues believe Feinstein should retire but won’t admit it for fear of backlash. (A group of female senators previously labeled calls for her resignation as “sexist.”)

Political strategy: Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, argues Feinstein shouldn’t retire due to her seat in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which approves the president’s nominations for federal judges. Feinstein’s absence created a deadlock in the narrowly divided committee. Democrats worry Republicans will keep Feinstein’s seat vacant if she resigns, allowing them to block President Joe Biden’s judicial nominations.

Feinstein’s term won’t end until January 2025, and she won’t seek reelection. If she does resign, California Gov. Gavin Newsom promised in 2021 to appoint a black woman to succeed Feinstein.

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