Concerned Democrats are whispering about the cognitive decline of powerful Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a progressive who represents California.
Party insiders spoke of their concerns to the San Francisco Chronicle, recounting incidents of memory loss in conversations with Feinstein.
“It’s bad, and it’s getting worse,” one Democratic senator told the newspaper.
Another anonymous insider identified as a lawmaker by the Chronicle admitted that Feinstein’s capabilities have declined from her prime.
“I have worked with her for a long time and long enough to know what she was like just a few years ago: always in command, always in charge, on top of the details, basically couldn’t resist a conversation where she was driving some bill or some idea.”
“All of that is gone,” said the member of Congress, who spoke only on condition of not being identified in any way, according to the Chronicle.
“She was an intellectual and political force not that long ago, and that’s why my encounter with her was so jarring. Because there was just no trace of that.”
The lawmaker recounted having to introduce themselves to Feinstein several times in one conversation, with the episode serious enough that they’ve considered the possibility of an “intervention” to convince Feinstein to retire.
Feinstein, 88, has filed paperwork that allows her to run for reelection in 2024, the Chronicle reported.
However, in a statement provided to Los Angeles Magazine, she’s indicated that her Federal Election Commission filing doesn’t mean she’s decided to run for reelection yet again.
The Democratic sources are said to have agreed that Feinstein’s memory is rapidly declining, and that she can no longer fulfill her job duties without undue reliance on her staff.
Feinstein has served in the Senate since 1992, the fifth-longest current tenure in the chamber.
The Chronicle described its sources as four senators (one of them a Republican), three former members of Feinstein’s staff, and three House members.
None of the Hill insiders were willing to identify themselves publicly.
In a concerning twist, thanks to the upcoming retirement of Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Feinstein would stand to become the president pro tempore of the Senate in the next session of Congress if Democrats keep their majority in November.
This position, which traditionally goes to the senior member of the majority caucus, would put Feinstein third in line for the presidency, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, if Democrats retained their majority in the House.
Both parties have leadership dominated by older Americans, but the Democratic Party distinguishes itself through reliance on leaders who are nearly or beyond 80 years old.
President Joe Biden is 79, and Pelosi is 82. The second-ranking Democrat in the House, Steny Hoyer, is also 82.