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Senator Feinstein asked to ‘just say aye’ in vote mix-up

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein listens to Senate testimony on Capitol Hill on May 11. AFP/File
Sen. Dianne Feinstein listens to Senate testimony on Capitol Hill on May 11. AFP/File

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic representative from California, was asked to “just say aye” by a fellow Democratic senator. 

The incident occurred during a Senate Appropriations Committee markup of bills, where instead of responding with a straightforward “aye” or “nay,” 90-year–old Feinstein began delivering a speech in support of the measure. However, after about 15 seconds into her speech, an aide whispered in her ear, leading the committee chair, Senator Patty Murray, to intervene and urge her to simply say “aye.” 

The incident has raised eyebrows and garnered attention as it highlights concerns previously raised about the senator’s ability to effectively carry out her duties. Last year, Feinstein faced questions about her mental fitness to serve, which she vehemently pushed back against. However, this recent voting mishap has brought the issue back into the spotlight.

A spokesperson for Senator Feinstein addressed the incident, saying, “Thursday’s markup was a little chaotic as members work to wrap up government funding bills before leaving for a six-week break, with senators constantly switching back and forth between statements, votes, and debate and the order of bills.” 

The spokesperson clarified that Senator Feinstein was preoccupied during the vote and didn’t realise the debate had ended and a vote was called. The spokesperson added, “She started to give a statement, was informed it was a vote, and then cast her vote.”

This incident comes after Senator Feinstein’s prolonged absence from Washington earlier in the year due to a severe case of shingles, which raised concerns about her ability to fulfill her responsibilities. Although she returned to the Senate in May, news outlets reported additional health complications that she had experienced during her absence. Despite these challenges, Senator Feinstein has expressed her intention to retire from Congress at the end of 2024 after three decades in the Senate.

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