According to a new report from the San Francisco Chronicle, California Senator Dianne Feinstein — the oldest member of the United States Senate — is experiencing memory issues that have started to threaten her ability to do her job.
People close to the senator spoke with the newspaper, confirming rumors that Feinstein’s health was on the decline and that her “rapidly deteriorating” memory was preventing her from carrying out the simplest of tasks such as following policy discussions and recognizing her longtime colleagues. The Chronicle writes that the 88-year-old “can no longer fulfill her job duties without her staff doing much of the work,” recounting episodes of memory lapses that include a disturbing encounter with a fellow Democrat that Feinstein has known for 15 years. When the two had a conversation recently, Feinstein’s colleagues had to introduce themselves multiple times.
“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,” the congressperson told 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.”
While Feinstein’s colleagues admit her lapses aren’t constant, they appear to be jarring, something fellow Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have adamantly denied. Both Pelosi and Alex Padilla, the junior senator from California, have called these reports “ridiculous.” Feinstein also addressed the rumors, admitting she’s struggled over the past year because of the loss of her husband, but that hasn’t affected her mental fitness or her ability to carry out the duties of her office.
“The last year has been extremely painful and distracting for me, flying back and forth to visit my dying husband who passed just a few weeks ago,” Feinstein said. “But there’s no question I’m still serving and delivering for the people of California, and I’ll put my record up against anyone’s.”
Feinstein will soon become the longest-serving female Senator in history and though her term isn’t official up until 2024 — at which time she’ll be 91-years-old — staffers and co-workers, out of respect for her incredible career, hope that someone steps in soon to assess whether she should serve out her remaining years in office.
“It shouldn’t end this way for her,” one lawmaker said. “She deserves better. Those who think that they are serving her or honoring her by sweeping all of this under the rug are doing her an enormous disservice.”