Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has been away from the Senate for weeks because she’s still recovering from being hospitalized with shingles. The 89-year-old lawmaker has given no return date, and her absence is holding up crucial votes on federal judges and is now letting Republican-led bills pass the supposedly Democratic-controlled Senate.
Only following public outcry did Feinstein ask to be “temporarily” replaced on the judiciary committee, when she should simply resign. But several members of the Democratic caucus, including Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), have implied that it’s sexist to ask a woman tasked with representing 39 million people to step down if she’s unable to fulfill her duties during a time when basic human rights are on the line.
Now, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) has added her voice to the defense Feinstein’s decision not to resign, echoing in an interview with Isaac Chotiner of the New Yorker that calls to do so are “sexist.” Stabenow apparently doesn’t like how these calls are happening in public and explained that when she arrived in the Senate, segregationist Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) was still there and being wheeled in for votes in his late 90s. “I don’t recall people saying that [Thurmond] should step down. I don’t recall it happening to other colleagues of mine who now are also in their late eighties and having various challenges, so I’m sensitive to that.” Ma’am, this is not the defense of Feinstein you think it is.
Stabenow added that no one called for Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to resign when he was out for weeks after a fall led to a concussion and rib fracture. But, as Chotiner noted, McConnell hasn’t been facing years of questions from his own colleagues about his mental faculties. Stabenow initially tried to brush this off as political jockeying by members of Congress who are supporting different candidates for Feinstein’s seat, before saying that Feinstein “should be respected like anyone else is respected. And, yes, there are challenges. We also have male colleagues with challenges.”
Then the senator blamed Republicans for refusing to seat a replacement on the Judiciary committee. “Frankly, Republicans did something unprecedented. Normally, you respect each caucus to make its own decisions on who goes on committees. It could have been very routine.” Chotiner said it’s not surprising that Republicans wouldn’t help Democrats, and she responded, “Well, I know, but that doesn’t mean it’s right.”
Stabenow, 72, who’s been in the Senate since 2001, is not seeking re-election and will leave office in January 2025. Feinstein, who’s more than 25 years her senior, is also set to serve until then.
When Chotiner asked for her thoughts on the calls for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to resign during President Obama’s second term, she said: “I would prefer not to have public calls for people to step down. I don’t think that was helpful with Justice Ginsburg.” Immediately afterward, she noted how she’s had conversations with federal judges in Michigan about retiring, but those were done in private. She harps on that alleged indecency again and again: “With male colleagues, it’s been private conversations. With Dianne, it’s been very public. That’s all I’m saying. That’s where the antenna goes. It’s not just for me but for other women in the Senate.”
When Chotiner asked her directly about Feinstein’s mental capability, she said: “I think that she has some challenges, and she is not the only one in the Senate.” Chotiner then went in for the kill:
I don’t know if that’s the most heartening thing for voters to hear, or a great defense of Dianne Feinstein.
I guess what I would say is that, for me, this is about respecting an iconic woman leader. She’s making choices. She made the choice not to run again, which she decided is in the best interests of her state and of herself. I respect that, and I’m not interested in further analyzing this. Various people have challenges in their lives, various people have various kinds of challenges, and I’m supportive of people handling those how they think they should. That’s enough.
That’s feminism, baby!! I won’t call for the resignation of my 89-year-old colleague who is both mentally and physically impaired because SHE IS A WOMAN, and no one treats male Senators this way.
To Stabenow and anyone else who still doesn’t get it, if the the next two oldest senators who caucus with Democrats—Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is 81, and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), age 79—were holding up Biden’s judicial nominees or any part of his agenda, you can bet your ass we’d be calling for them to resign without any hesitation.