Sen. Dianne Feinstein had to be reminded to “just say aye” Thursday when the 90-year-old Democrat appeared confused during a vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee and launched into a speech instead. (See the video below.)
California’s longtime senior senator, who earlier this year was absent from the chamber for three months due to an illness and complications from the shingles virus, sailed into a speech on the defense appropriations bill after Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) nudged her for a response on the vote.
“Say aye. Aye. Just say―” Murray said.
“I would like to support a yes vote on this. It provides $823 billion,” Feinstein said. “That’s an increase of $26 billion for the Department of Defense, and it funds priorities submitted―”
An aide rushed to Feinstein’s side to whisper to her before Murray spoke up again.
“Just say aye,” Murray said.
“OK, just―” said Feinstein as she turned to Murray, who was seated to her left.
“Aye,” Murray repeated, prompting a chuckle from the California Democrat.
“Aye,” Feinstein finally said.
A Feinstein spokesperson told Fox News that the committee was trying to “complete all of” its appropriations bills before the August recess ― adding that it “was a little chaotic” and senators were “constantly switching back and forth between statements, votes, and debate and the order of bills.”
“The senator was preoccupied, didn’t realize debate had just ended and a vote was called. She started to give a statement, was informed it was a vote and then cast her vote,” the spokesperson said.
Feinstein, who has been in the Senate for three decades, returned from her monthslong absence back in May.
She has since faced doubts about her ability to serve.
Half of respondents in a poll of registered California voters said Feinstein should “resign,” while two-thirds agreed that her health concerns underline “the fact that she is no longer fit to continue serving in the U.S. Senate,” according to the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies.
A day earlier, another member of Senate leadership, 81-year-old Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), froze up during a press conference, prompting questions from reporters about his health. In March, he was hospitalized for a fall in which he suffered a concussion and broken ribs.
McConnell, who has been in Congress since 1985, later said he was “fine,” and an aide stated the senator felt “light headed and stepped away for a moment.”
Today’s class of U.S. lawmakers has a median age of 59, making it among the oldest such groups in history, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. The average age of lawmakers has also increased in both the House and the Senate since 2000, according to data from FiveThirtyEight.