During a Wednesday press conference, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) abruptly stopped speaking and froze for about 20 seconds until colleagues helped him walk away from the podium—days after he reportedly face-planted after getting off a plane. The 81-year old, who missed several weeks of work this year after a fall that required time at an inpatient rehab facility, later returned to the back of the group and told reporters that he was “fine.”
The day after this much-publicized incident, an enterprising reporter tracked down Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)—the 90-year-old who was out for three months recovering from complications from shingles and who had to be reminded how to vote on the Senate floor just this week—to ask her about McConnell’s apparent declining health. Her response was telling.
Feinstein first said she didn’t know about McConnell’s health scare, even though the reporter, Cameron Joseph, said it “was the central focus of most senators’ and reporters’ conversations on Capitol Hill on Thursday.” Then an aide told her it occurred while some votes were happening, and Feinstein interjected: “Oh, I know what you—. Well, I wish him well. He’s a strong man, and this is really when that kind of strength comes in. So: Say a prayer, cross my fingers, do it all.” A nonagenarian senator with health problems telling an octogenarian senate leader with health problems to stay strong rather than both of them resigning is proof that we live in hell.
Prayers and crossed fingers seem to be how Feinstein, and very likely her staff, have approached her own health struggles. It wasn’t until Feinstein got rightful flak for her absence holding up judicial confirmations that she came back to Washington. And when she returned, she bizarrely claimed that she hadn’t been gone. It was only after Feinstein finally returned to the Senate that reporters learned she’d developed encephalitis, or brain swelling, as a shingles complication.
More than two months later, she is still not inspiring confidence. The Los Angeles Times reporter said he approached Feinstein Thursday to ask about McConnell, shortly after she appeared confused during a Senate roll-call vote. Feinstein started to deliver a speech in support of an amendment to a defense appropriations bill, then an aide whispered in her ear and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) told her to “just say aye.” She smiled and said “aye.”
Feinstein said in February that she won’t seek re-election at the end of her term, but that means she’s set to remain in office until January 2025. (And that announcement came before she contracted shingles and developed encephalitis!) Meanwhile, McConnell’s term isn’t up until 2026, but on Friday, McConnell’s office said in a statement that would serve as the GOP Senate leader through 2024. (He was elected to the two-year role after the 2022 midterms.) The statement doesn’t address his plans after that.
Sir, you can simply resign right now. You’d even set a good example for DiFi.