Senator Dianne Feinstein’s Health Raises Concerns About Her Fitness to Serve
Senator Dianne Feinstein's recent return to the Senate after a month-long absence due to shingles has raised fresh concerns about her health. The 89-year-old returned appearing frail and noticeably thinner, using a wheelchair to move around Capitol Hill. In a written statement, Feinstein said she had made “significant progress” but was “still experiencing some side effects from the shingles virus.” However, reports have emerged that Feinstein's health complications were more severe than previously disclosed. She also suffered from Ramsay Hunt syndrome and encephalitis, a neurological disorder that can arise from the shingles virus. Her absence from Washington caused angst among Democrats who worried that the slim margins of their majority would make their work difficult or impossible.
Feinstein's diagnosis has fueled concerns about her fitness to serve in the Senate. Her short-term memory issues have been widely acknowledged on Capitol Hill, and previous reports have suggested that her aides and staffers are performing many of her Senate duties behind the scenes. Many people close to Feinstein, a six-term senator, described seeing her operating in the Senate in her current state as “frightening.” It is a tragic end to a formidable career in politics that they worry is casting a shadow over her legacy and her achievements. The recent events have raised inquiries about Feinstein's ability to serve until her term ends next year, and some have questioned if she is suitable to continue serving at all.
Feinstein's inability to maintain the taxing schedule required of a U.S. senator and her nearly three-month absence led to some congressional Democrats calling for her to resign. One was Rep. Ro Khanna of Fremont, who said he was glad to hear of Feinstein's return and was “hopeful that she will be able to fulfill her duties.” Feinstein's relationship with Pelosi's eldest daughter, Nancy Corinne Prowda, who has been helping her navigate the halls of Congress, has raised questions about Pelosi's motives in assisting Feinstein and whether she is angling to protect the political future of her protégé, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who announced plans to run for Feinstein's seat upon her retirement next year.
If Feinstein steps down before the end of her term, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) will appoint a replacement, and has pledged to choose a Black woman, likely to be Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who has also announced plans to run for Feinstein's seat. Pelosi spokesperson Aaron Bennett defended the relationship between Prowda and Feinstein, saying Pelosi and her daughter have been friends with Feinstein for “decades,” adding, “Anyone who knows Senator Feinstein knows that her service in the Senate is entirely her own decision, and Speaker Emerita Pelosi would never suggest otherwise.”
Feinstein's health complications were more severe than previously believed, with Ramsay Hunt syndrome and encephalitis adding to her shingles diagnosis. Encephalitis can impact people's memory and language function, incur sleeping or mood disorders, bouts of confusion, headaches, and difficulties walking. Feinstein's short-term memory issues have been widely acknowledged on Capitol Hill, and previous reports have suggested that her aides and staffers are performing many of her Senate duties behind the scenes. The reports have cast a shadow over her legacy and her achievements, and questions have arisen about whether Feinstein is fit to continue serving in the Senate.
0. “Dianne Feinstein's office confirms health complications broader than previously known” The Independent, 18 May. 2023, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/dianne-feinstein-shingles-health-fitness-b2341798.html
1. “Feinstein's health complications more serious than previously disclosed” KTVU FOX 2 San Francisco, 18 May. 2023, https://www.ktvu.com/news/feinsteins-health-complications-more-serious-than-previously-disclosed
2. “Feinstein's health issues were more extensive than previously known” CBS News, 18 May. 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/feinstein-health-illness-encephalitis-ramsay-hunt-syndrome-shingles
3. “Feinstein Got Encephalitis, Ramsay Hunt Syndrome From Shingles, Office Confirms” Bloomberg, 19 May. 2023, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-05-19/feinstein-got-encephalitis-ramsay-hunt-syndrome-from-shingles-office-confirms
4. “Dianne Feinstein didn't reveal serious shingles complications: NYT” Business Insider, 18 May. 2023, https://www.businessinsider.com/dianne-feinstein-didnt-reveal-serious-shingles-complications-nyt-2023-5
5. “Sen. Feinstein's health complications from shingles more severe than disclosed” The Washington Post, 18 May. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/05/18/sen-feinsteins-health-complications-shingles-more-severe-than-disclosed/
6. “Feinstein suffered more complications from illness than were publicly disclosed” The Boston Globe, 18 May. 2023, https://www.bostonglobe.com/2023/05/18/nation/feinstein-suffered-more-complications-illness-than-were-publicly-disclosed
7. “Feinstein responds to questions about her absence from Washington” Los Angeles Times, 16 May. 2023, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2023-05-16/feinstein-absence-senate-washington-health
8. “Feinstein Faced More Severe Health Issues Than Initially Disclosed During Months-Long Senate Absence” Forbes, 18 May. 2023, https://www.forbes.com/sites/saradorn/2023/05/18/feinstein-faced-more-severe-health-issues-than-initially-disclosed-during-months-long-senate-absence