Those who lobby for term limits in Congress are very aware that many senators and representatives have made a career on Capitol Hill, staying in office long past their effectiveness and capabilities.
Although some individuals stay energetic and alert in later years, some who are aged may not be able to keep pace with politics, are out of touch with constituents, and are actually figureheads supported by staffers.
Such situations are fodder for comedy on television and in movies, but there are actual instances of this present in our government today.
California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein at 89 years has been a senator since 1992, for thirty years. Such experience is valuable unless the person holding it is experiencing cognitive decline and confusion. There have been reports of years of such cognitive decline surrounding Feinstein.
The New York Times reported last May regarding Feinstein that “Democrats have quietly accepted the California senator’s memory issues as the status quo, even as her inner circle frets that the spectacle of her difficulties on the job could tarnish her legacy.”
The Times noted that she “sometimes struggles to recall the names of colleagues, frequently has little recollection of meetings or telephone conversations, and at times walks around in a state of befuddlement – including about why she is increasingly dogged by questions about whether she is fit to serve in the Senate representing the 40 million residents of California” according to half a dozen lawmakers and aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“Really, for the last couple of years, I’ve been hearing that Dianne Feinstein has been struggling, particularly with short-term memory issues, so that her staff will brief her and then she’ll forget what she’s been told or that she’s been briefed at all,” The New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer said in 2020.
So it is no secret that Feinstein’s reign is coming to an end. But in a recent press conference, she stated that she would be running again. As she made the statement, her staffers rushed to correct her.
After announcing her retirement online Tuesday, Feinstein, 89, was recorded at a press gaggle saying: “Well, I haven’t made that decision. I haven’t released anything. “A staffer responded to her: “Senator, we put out the statement.” Feinstein replied, “You put out the statement? I didn’t know they had put it out. So, it is what it is. I think the time has come.”
The press overheard the exchange that she did not know that her staff had announced her retirement and that she had not made the decision to not run in 2024. National Journal reporter Savannah Behrmann said the recording sounded as if Feinstein said: “I should have known they put it out.”
.@SenFeinstein appeared to be unaware that her staff released a statement that she's stepping down in 2025.
Here's audio of when reporters asked her about it & she responded "I haven't released anything."
In recent years, questions have arisen about her short term memory. pic.twitter.com/HLvZTaNTqs
— Elex Michaelson (@Elex_Michaelson) February 15, 2023
And with that unfortunate exchange, it was revealed not only that Feinstein is ending her Senate career, but also that it is a wise and timely decision. She is the oldest sitting Senator serving at this time. Her statement implies that she will still be active in the Senate during her remaining months in matters that affect her state of California.
“I am announcing today I will not run for reelection in 2024 but intend to accomplish as much for California as I can through the end of next year when my term ends,” she said
Other Democrats have already been jockeying into position to claim the long-standing seat. California Democratic Reps. Katie Porter and Adam Schiff launched campaigns for Feinstein’s seat last month, Just The News reports.
Katie Porter is a 49-year-old newly elected member of the House of Representatives representing California’s 47th District. She attended Yale and Harvard Law School. Her website states that she is a “nationally renowned leader in the fight to protect consumers, taxpayers, and middle-class families” as a consumer advocate against big business.
Adam Schiff was in the California State Senate before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2001. the 62-year-old attended Stanford and Harvard Law School. Schiff has recently made news when he was kicked off the House Intelligence Committee by new leader Republican Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy also removed Democrat Eric Swalwell of California from the committee, and alleged that both men had failed to rise to the level of integrity needed for placement on such a delicate committee. McCarthy stated, “integrity matters, and they have failed in that place.”
Although new Minority leader Hakeem Jeffries has protested the change, and asked that they be reappointed saying there is no “precedent or justification ” for rejecting them, appointments to the Intelligence panel are the prerogative of the Speaker alone.
Accused of making moves out of revenge of what the Democrats did in the last congress, replacing Republicans on committees, McCarthy stated, “this is not similar to what the Democrats did. Those members will have other committees but the Intel committee is different. The Intel committee’s responsibility is to the national security to America.” McCarthy has alleged that both men’s actions are contrary to that responsibility.