Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s return to Congress is being clouded by more reports calling her ability to serve into question, including a new anecdote published by Politico Thursday about an alleged memory lapse by the California Democrat in 2021.
An unnamed Senate staffer recalled the senator welcoming Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) to the chamber, apparently confusing him with Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), who had just won his seat in a special election. Both Scott, who joined the Senate in 2013, and Warnock are Black.
The unidentified congressional aide remembered Scott “play[ing] along,” and telling the veteran senator, “Your support means a lot,” according to the report, which is part of journalist Ben Terris’ upcoming book “The Big Break: The Gamblers, Party Animals, and True Believers Trying to Win in Washington While America Loses its Mind.”
The offices of Feinstein and Scott did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the report.
Feinstein’s hiatus from the Senate ended on Wednesday, following increased concern about her age and cognitive abilities. The 89-year-old had been out of office since early March after being hospitalized for a case of shingles.
A 2022 story from the San Francisco Chronicle cited an anonymous Democratic senator who said, “It’s bad, and it’s getting worse.”
A subsequent New York Times report quoted lawmakers and aides who said Feinstein “sometimes struggles to recall the names of colleagues, frequently has little recollection of meetings or telephone conversations, and at times walks around in a state of befuddlement.”
Before that, Feinstein worried colleagues when she asked the same question twice during a Nov. 17, 2020, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
Feinstein responded to the criticism in a May 2022 statement, saying that while she had a “difficult” year coping with her late husband Richard C. Blum’s terminal illness, she “remained committed to achieving results and I would put my record up against anyone’s.”
“If the question is whether I’m an effective senator for 40 million Californians, the record shows that I am,” the statement went on.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said a Feinstein staffer had shared the account of her interaction with Scott. Politico’s piece did not disclose whose office the congressional aide worked in.