A fifth congressional Democrat has come forward calling for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 89, to retire given her age and mental state.
“I think if you’re a member, and you become a shadow of your former self, you should resign. Once you’re no longer the best person to represent your state, you have a duty to move on,” Rep. Ritchie Torres told Insider this week.
He’s the fifth Democrat to have spoken out, coming in after Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Dean Phillips, and Ro Khanna.
I agree with @RoKhanna. Senator Feinstein is a remarkable American whose contributions to our country are immeasurable. But I believe it’s now a dereliction of duty to remain in the Senate and a dereliction of duty for those who agree to remain quiet. https://t.co/lvaHhLJYsi
— Rep. Dean Phillips (@RepDeanPhillips) April 12, 2023
According to Insider, “many others” also feel similarly but have been holding their tongues.
“I’m disappointed that so many people who share the same sentiment in private conversations are simply unwilling to share them publicly,” Phillips, one of the five who’s spoken out, told Insider.
“There’s political cost to speaking the truth, and frankly, political reward for staying quiet. And that’s what we call perverse incentives,” he added.
He previously went viral earlier in the week when he told MPR News host Cathy Wurzer that Feinstein “is in no position to fulfill the duties of this job — which is bad enough, when you’re my age, 54, let alone 89 and infirm and clearly losing mental acuity.”
His remarks to MPR News came a few days after he wrote a column for The Daily Beast bluntly titled, “It’s Time for Dianne Feinstein to Resign—for the Good of the Country.”
“After battling a severe case of shingles as she approaches her 90th birthday, the senator has returned to Washington, but accounts from colleagues, reporters, and staff paint a troubling picture: The senator’s health and mental acuity render her unable to represent her constituents and fulfill the responsibilities of her office,” the piece reads.
“She—or those on whom she relies—must now decide whether to protect the senator’s personal interest or our nation’s best interests,” it continues.
Speaking with Insider, Ocasio-Cortez, another one of the five, speculated that other Democrats aren’t speaking out because they’re scared of being called sexist.
“There’s an immediate consequence and blowback. It’s not sexist in any way, shape, or form to ask and expect your member of Congress to be able to do their job,” she said.
But not everybody in her party feels that way.
“I hope that Sen. Feinstein continues to recover, and she has earned the right to make her own decisions about when she’s coming back. I think the standard she’s being held to is unacceptable and unprecedented,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a dissenter, previously told Insider.
“We have male members that have various challenges, and I’m not hearing anybody suggesting that they retire. I do think she has been treated unfairly. And so she’ll make the decision, and I will support that decision,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow added.
“For all the women that I know, I know very few who have not been subjected to comments such as ‘you’re not ready,’ ‘you can’t win,’ all of those kinds of attitudes,” Sen. Mazie Hirono likewise said.
Even former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got in on it:
Speaking with Insider this week, several Democrats anonymously confirmed that they’re hesitant to speak out about Feinstein because of how they might be perceived.
“It’s a very delicate matter. But across the board, the overwhelming assessment of a lot of House members is that she should resign,” one said.
“It’s so sad. It’s so tragic. Here is an unbelievably incredible woman whose legacy will be this. Out of respect for her humanity, I don’t want to be out there saying she should retire, but I just think it’s stunning that she hasn’t,” they added.
Another House Democrat said that it “sounds like she’s having a lot of trouble doing the job” and that “if she’s gonna keep doing the job, she should be able to do the job.”
However, he stressed that he’s involved in other issues and sees little reason to get involved in this particular one.
“I don’t think that anybody on the Senate side is gonna be making a decision based on what I think,” he said.
But Phillips didn’t care for this excuse-making, telling Insider that Feinstein’s health is “everybody’s business” and also comparing Democrats’ reticence to Republicans’ prior refusal to call out former President Donald Trump.
“I’m someone who criticized my Republican colleagues for four years during the Trump era for their reluctance to simply speak the truth, which they shared everyday with me privately. So here I am, in a position to speak my truth,” he said.
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