We’ve heard a lot of opinions about Senator Dianne Feinstein lately – her health is an ongoing concern, even more so now that we know her health issues are even more serious than we were first told. For the record, while it is heartbreaking to see her struggling just to get around, I do think the time has come for her to step down.
But before I say more about that, I’d like to tell you a few things about Senator Feinstein that you may or may not already know.
Ms. Feinstein started her political career in 1960, at the age of 27, when she was appointed by California Governor Pat Brown to the California Women’s Parole Board. From there, she moved up to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, where she served for nine years. In 1978, tragedy struck in San Francisco when Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated, and Ms. Feinstein became the acting mayor, becoming San Francisco’s first female mayor. And then, in 1992, she won the special election to fill the Senate seat vacated a year earlier when Pete Wilson resigned to take office as governor. And she has been in the U.S. Senate ever since! Nearly 31 years!
I have long advocated for congressional term limits, often citing Mitch McConnell who has been in the Senate since 1985, almost 38 years, or Chuck Grassley who has been in the Senate since 1980, 43 years! McConnell is 81 and Grassley is 89, like Ms. Feinstein. There are a number of reasons that I am in favour of term limits, but I also have somewhat mixed feelings, for if a member of Congress is doing a great job, why re-invent the wheel? But, on the flip side, they tend to get too comfortable, form alliances that may obligate them in some way, and frankly we need new blood every so often to bring new ideas.
But that said, I would not necessarily advocate Ms. Feinstein stepping down merely because she’s been in the Senate for 30 years. My reason for saying that I think she should is that she is obviously very unwell, and I was deeply concerned when, in an interview a day or two ago, she said she hadn’t been absent from the Senate (she returned to Congress just this week, after more than two months away), but that she had been right there working the entire time. She is 89 years old and has been very ill for months … so no, I really don’t think she should continue to occupy a very important Senate seat.
Senator Feinstein has had an illustrious career and I have long admired her courage, her humanitarianism, and would like to see her to leave with that legacy intact, rather than push past the limits and tarnish all the good she has done. She has long been an advocate for a ban on assault weapons and was instrumental in getting the first one passed in 1994 … sadly, it expired in 2004 and since then … well, you know what has happened since then. She helped get the Affordable Care Act passed, and she has shown the ability to work across the aisle in the spirit of bipartisanship. Her achievements are way too many for me to list here.
There is one argument for her remaining in Congress, which is that if a vacancy arises in the U.S. Supreme Court, her vote would be crucial in approving or rejecting President Biden’s nominee. However, the odds of a vacancy coming up anytime soon are slim-to-none, since most of the justices are still relatively youthful, with Clarence Thomas being the oldest at 75 years of age. And you know that ol’ Clarence is going to hang in for a while yet. I don’t think we can afford the risk of Ms. Feinstein remaining in the Senate simply for the slim contingency that a Supreme Court vacancy could arise.
As long as someone is in good health, both mentally and physically, I don’t really care how old they are. But it is quite obvious that Senator Feinstein is in very poor health, and frankly I don’t know why she isn’t actually eager to step down at this point … I sure as hell would be! All living creatures have an expiry date, so to speak, and Ms. Feinstein is nearing hers. She must now do as she has done most of her life – put the best interests of the country ahead of her own ego. Please, Senator, step down and make way for some new blood … retire and enjoy whatever time you have left on planet Earth.