Feinstein Appears To Have ‘Awkward Moment,’ Reads Speech During Vote
Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, during a Senate Intelligence Committee nomination hearing for National Security Agency (NSA) director nominee Timothy Haugh in Washington, DC, US, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023.
(Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) appeared to get confused and began to deliver a speech during a vote on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

During a markup of the defense appropriations bill, senators were asked to participate in a roll call vote.

First to be called was Feinstein, who began a speech 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.

She was interrupted by what appeared to be a staffer whispering in her ear, and Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) told Feinstein to “Just say ‘aye.'” With a chuckle, Feinstein said “Aye,” and the vote continued.

The moment caused some in the press corps to recoil. “This was quite awkward,” Punchbowl News reporter Andrew Desiderio observed on X, formerly Twitter. “Awkward moment,” NBC’s Sahil Kapur similarly noted.

At 90, Feinstein is the Senate’s oldest current member — and in recent years, some colleagues had begun to raise concerns about her mental fitness and ability to do the job.

Scrutiny intensified after she made a comeback to the Senate in a wheelchair this spring, ending a months-long absence during which the lawmaker was receiving treatment for and recovering from the shingles.


Feinstein announced in February she would not seek re-election in 2024. Three prominent House Democrats — Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter, and Barbara Lee — have announced campaigns to replace Feinstein in the Senate.

But some of Feinstein’s fellow Democrats have called on her to step down before her term is up. That includes Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), though he told POLITICO he would give the “situation the benefit of the doubt” and is “hopeful” that Feinstein will be able to fulfill her duties.

Another member of the Senate, 81-year-old Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), generated headlines on Wednesday after he momentarily froze while speaking to the press. After being escorted away from the podium, McConnell returned a short time later and said he was “fine.”

While it was already known that McConnell sustained a concussion after a fall earlier this year, reports came out after the top Republican’s news conference freeze with sources saying he has fallen at least two other times in the past several months.

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