Expect this kind of confusion if Sen. Dianne Feinstein returns to Capitol Hill
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is facing calls from members of her own party to resign. Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Once a titan of the Senate, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is nearing the end of her career. The question is whether she’ll leave Capitol Hill on her own terms — she says she will serve out her current term, which ends in January 2025 — or if she’ll give in to pressure from her fellow Democrats and retire in the coming weeks or months.

Raw Story and other news organizations have recently observed a confused and forgetful Feinstein, sometimes personally contradicting official statements her office puts out in her name. For example, in August, at the tail end of an all-night vote-a-rama session, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) spoke to Feinstein as if she were a child — and helped direct the senator back to her office for a nap.

This week, Feinstein enlivened the debate over her ability to serve when she announced she’s “temporarily” stepping down from the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee after being absent for more than a month while suffering from shingles, which has stalled the confirmations of President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees.

But with California Democrats now debating whether the 89-year-old should resign – as Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) is calling for – or not – as former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seems to believe – we’ve reviewed our recent interactions with the six-term senator so you can judge for yourself.

Feinstein fumbles own retirement

In January, Feinstein told Raw Story that she wouldn’t announce her 2024 re-election plans until 2024.

“I need a little bit of time, so it's not this year,” Feinstein said from the Capitol.

Hours after Raw Story broke the news that her decision was potentially a year away, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) launched his campaign to replace her in the Senate.

Four days later, Bloomberg’s Laura Litvan reported Feinstein changed her timeline. Feinstein said she would make her decision one way or another “in the spring sometime. Not in the winter. I don’t announce in the winter.”

By February, the Capitol buzzed with alerts and salutations after Feinstein’s office released a statement announcing the senator would not seek another six-year term and retire in 2025.

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The statement seemed to end years of speculation over whether Feinstein would attempt to serve well into her 90s.

Except, it didn’t.

“I heard you finally announced you’re retiring?” Raw Story asked Feinstein as she walked through the Capitol, just minutes after her office blasted out the announcement.

“Oh no, I’m not announcing anything,” Feinstein replied.


“I will one day…” Feinstein said, “… not too far away."

National Journal reporter Savannah Behrmann then captured a bizarre exchange between Feinstein and a staffer that indicated Feinstein was unaware of her own retirement announcement.

“I haven’t released anything,” Feinstein said.

“We put out the statement,” the staffer replied.

“You put out the statement?” Feinstein asked.

Ultimately, Feinstein’s office clarified that, indeed, Feinstein would not seek a seventh term in the Senate.

Forgetting the assault weapon ban

In January, California endured back-to-back mass shootings within 48-hours of each other.

While celebrating the Lunar New Year on Jan. 21 in Monterey Park, 11 people were slaughtered and another nine left permanently scarred. Two days later, on Jan. 23, in northern California, a farmworker killed seven people while injuring at least eight others.

Later that day, as Californians reeled from their second mass shooting in two days, Feinstein’s office reintroduced the historic 1990s assault weapon ban she had championed.

Three days later, Feinstein couldn’t remember her own measure. .

“What was that?” she asked after a member of the press corps asked about her measure.

No one in the congressional press corps asked a follow-up question. They just whispered about Feinstein’s failing health.

Abortion confusion

Last year, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision that effectively overturned Roe v. Wade nationally while leaving abortion policy to each state, Democrats coast-to-coast cheered after Kansas residents voted to keep abortion legal.

It took a few moments for Sen. Feinstein to remember the earth-moving news from the Great Plains.

Once she remembered, Feinstein was optimistic as she told Raw Story that upending Roe was an "enlightened finding" by the right wing of the Supreme Court.

Feinstein’s reaction put her at odds with every elected Democrat in Washington, save Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), the anti-abortion Democrat who Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and other progressives tried to primary out of the party. Feinstein’s statement also put her at odds with herself — her own Senate website describes Feinstein as someone who “strongly supports congressional efforts to codify the protections Roe v. Wade.”

But on that historic day, Feinstein said: "This is a country of different beliefs. We're not all unilateral. So, it didn't surprise me."

‘Puppies have a nap’

In August, senators were needed for an all-night vote-a-rama before taking the rest of the month off. The following morning, Raw Story found it peculiar when Feinstein was escorted off the Senate floor by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), along with Feinstein’s chief of staff.

“Puppies have a nap, now it’s time for you to have one,” Warren told Feinstein.

The entourage then escorted Feinstein to her expansive personal office tucked deep in the Capitol’s rafters.

What’s new and what’s not?

Feinstein’s anything but predictable. In 2012, as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, she dropped classified information about a highly sensitive Obama-era prisoner swap to a hallway full of reporters.

In 2014, Feinstein’s anti-torture speech from the well of the ornate – if objectively boring – Senate floor was carried live by CNN. In 2018, she bucked critics and was, at times, energized and eloquent – well, as eloquent as any soundbite-peddling politician ever is.

As she’s done since 1992, when she first flexed and won the coveted Senate seat, that focused, perpetually fighting spirit shows itself occasionally these days.

But not often. Even before her fellow California Democrat Rep. Ro Khanna called for her to step aside, other politicians raised concerns about the ability of lawmakers of advanced age to execute their public responsibilities. While some have proposed term limits, others are now floating age limits or tests to address such concerns.

Take Nikki Haley. The GOP presidential candidate’s enviable resume – she’s a former U.N. ambassador and governor of South Carolina – is so far doing nothing to outshine former President Donald Trump, who’s also running in 2024 and happens to be Haley’s former boss.

Haley needs headlines, and she got them this January for proposing a mental health test for lawmakers who are 75-year-old or older. While popular among voters, the odds Congress would pass a law subjecting its own members to such scrutiny are about as likely as any of them living to age 150.

At the time, Raw Story asked Feinstein about it.

“I don't have a problem with it,” Feinstein told Raw Story.

“You’d embrace it?”

“No,” Feinstein replied. “But I don’t have a problem with it.”