Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who was speaking during a vote on Capitol Hill on Thursday, appeared to become disoriented.
The defense appropriations bill was being marked up, and senators were requested to take part in a roll call vote.
Feinstein was summoned first, but she started speaking instead.
“I would like to support a ‘yes’ vote on this. It provides 823 billion, that’s an increase of 26 billion for the Department of Defense and it funds priorities submitted…,” Feinstein read from a paper.
Asked to vote on the defense appropriations bill, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) begins giving a speech: “I would like to support a ‘yes’ vote on this. It provides …”
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA): “Just say aye.” pic.twitter.com/Gw2eZ9rEMv
— The Recount (@therecount) July 27, 2023
Feinstein’s speech was cut off by what appeared to be a staff member whispering in her ear, and Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) instructed her to “Just say ‘aye.'”
Feinstein chuckled as she voted “Aye,” and the process moved forward.
Some members of the press corps retreated at the time. On X, formerly Twitter, Punchbowl News writer Andrew Desiderio commented, “This was quite awkward.” Sahil Kapur from NBC agreed, calling it an “awkward moment.”
Feinstein is the Senate’s longest-serving senator at 90, and some of her colleagues have recently begun to express concerns about her mental health and capacity to perform her duties.
After she returned to the Senate this spring in a wheelchair, completing a month-long vacation during which the member was receiving treatment for and healing from the shingles, scrutiny increased.
Feinstein declared in February that she would not run for office again in 2024. Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter, and Barbara Lee, three prominent House Democrats, have declared their candidacies to succeed Feinstein in the Senate.
However, a few of Feinstein’s fellow Democrats have urged her to resign before the end of her tenure. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) is one of them, though he told POLITICO he would give the “situation the benefit of the doubt” and is “hopeful” Feinstein will be able to carry out her duties.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), a senator who is 81 years old, made headlines on Wednesday when he briefly froze while speaking to the press. Shortly after being led from the podium, McConnell returned and declared himself “fine.”
Although McConnell’s concussion from a fall earlier this year was already known, rumors that he had fallen at least twice more in recent months surfaced after the majority leader’s press conference stand-still.