Feinstein Watch

It has been obvious for quite a while that Dianne Feinstein is not capable of discharging her duties as a senator. Earlier today Feinstein became confused in a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing and began reading a statement instead of casting a vote. An aide tried to help her, and Patty Murray audibly said, “Just say ‘aye.'”

I haven’t paid much attention to the Feinstein saga because it is not surprising when an elderly senator hangs on to his or her seat. Robert Byrd had to be carried into the Senate chamber to vote. Arlen Spector, an 80-year-old cancer survivor, switched parties to run as a Democrat (unsuccessfully) rather than retire from the Senate. So Feinstein’s tenacity is nothing new.

But it turns out there is more to it. Via Stacey Matthews at Legal Insurrection, Sheldon Whitehouse explains:

More from another rabid Democrat:

So without Feinstein, the Democrats would not have a majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee. They would need Republican consent–60 votes–to put a new Democrat on the committee. And absent a committee majority, judicial nominees cannot advance without at least one Republican vote. That might be no problem with most nominees, but it would be hard to get a Republican vote for a radical nominee, especially to a Court of Appeals.

If the situation were reversed, do you think Democrats would go along with putting a new Republican on the Judiciary Committee? I don’t think so, either. The Democrats assume Republicans will act the way they would, and thus they need Feinstein to stay in the Senate as long as she is able to say the word “Aye.”

Democrats are now denouncing Senate Republicans as heartless, although the Republicans so far haven’t done anything at all. It is the Democrats who are forcing an obviously impaired and failing woman to stick to her position for their benefit. And, as one of the tweeters in the Legal Insurrection post points out, it was a mistake by Democrats to put Feinstein on the Judiciary Committee again in the current Congress, when they knew that her health and cognitive abilities had failed badly.

So it isn’t pretty, but that is where we are in the brutal game of Washington politics.

STEVE adds: Tonight Feinstein’s staff had to tell her repeatedly to vote “Yes” on a committee rollcall vote on a budget item and stop her from making an irrelevant speech:

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