Democrats are struggling to manage an open secret that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 88, is suffering from memory issues that has left her far from the towering presence she once was, The New York Times is reporting.
The California Democrat sometimes finds it difficult to recall the names of her colleagues and often has little memory of telephone conversations or meetings, the newspaper reported. At times she walks around in a state of befuddlement, according to six lawmakers and aides who asked for anonymity.
In the Capitol, it is widely acknowledged that she suffers from acute short-term memory issues. But that acknowledgment also comes privately.
According to the Times, on some days the memory issues can be ignored. However, on other days it sparks concern among those who deal with her.
Still some Democrats have called their colleagues' concerns about Feinstein "ridiculous," including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.
Pelosi, in a statement to the San Francisco Chronicle, said she had not noticed a decline in Feinstein's memory
And President Joe Biden, the oldest person sworn in as the country's chief executive, has confidence in Feinstein despite recent reports about the senator's declining mental health, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last month.
During a White House press briefing Psaki was asked whether Biden, 79, still had confidence in Feinstein.
"Yes, she's a longtime friend, a proud public servant, and someone he has long enjoyed serving with and working with," Psaki said.
Still, Feinstein is increasingly dogged about whether she is still fit to serve, the Times noted. Some say they did not expect her to serve out her full term, which ends in 2024. But Feinstein won't talk about quitting.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was pressed last week about Feinstein's ability to serve.
"I've had a good number of discussions with Senator Feinstein," he told reporters, "but I'm keeping them to myself."
The Chronicle reported that four U.S. senators, including three Democrats, as well as former Feinstein staffers and a California Democrat member of Congress said that the senator's memory had been deteriorating rapidly.
The sources told the Chronicle it appeared Feinstein no longer can fulfill her job duties without staffers doing much of the work.
But, according to the Times, she has no plans to resign before the end of her term.
And she becomes angry at the mention of any suggestion that she might consider stepping down, the Times reported. She points out that she still excels at securing funds for California, shows up to vote, and attends hearings.
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