Though her ongoing effectiveness in the Senate has been questioned by colleagues over the last year, Dianne Feinstein has made it official that she doesn't intend to retire before her current term is up.
Senator Feinstein put out the expected announcement Tuesday that she intends to retire from the Senate, but not until early 2025 when her current term is done. Her announcement comes weeks after two members of the House announced their intentions to run for her seat in 2024, assuming she would not be seeking reelection at age 91 — which is how old she will be next fall when the election occurs.
"I am announcing today I will not run for re-election in 2024 but intend to accomplish as much for California as I can through the end of next year when my term ends," Feinstein said in her statement. "Even with a divided Congress, we can still pass bills that will improve lives. Each of us was sent here to solve problems. That’s what I’ve done for the last 30 years, and that’s what I plan to do for the next two years."
This will mean two more years of Feinstein serving on the Judiciary Committee — though she voluntary ceded her position as ranking Democrat and chair of the committee two years ago — and being generally dotty when she ends up on camera. And it will mean, pending unforeseen circumstances or health issues, that Governor Gavin Newsom will not get to appoint anyone to her seat.
As the New York Times puts it, the Senator "has had acute short-term memory issues for years that sometimes raise concern among those who interact with her. [But] She has never acknowledged the problems."
And as the Chronicle puts it, "Feinstein’s influence in Washington, once substantial, has been waning for several years."
Feinstein earlier told the LA Times that she planned to make an announcement about her future this spring, but the paper notes that pressure appears to have mounted since House colleagues have begun making their announcements about their runs.
House Reps. Katie Porter [D-Orange County] and Adam Schiff [D-Pasadena/Burbank] announced their candidacies for the Senate seat last month, with Schiff getting the big endorsement from Nancy Pelosi as a reward for his years of loyalty. Rep. Barbara Lee [D-Oakland] is expected to announce her candidacy shortly, and the race is likely to grow more crowded from there.
Feinstein, currently 89 and turning 90 this June, is the oldest currently serving senator. Following the death of Alaska Rep. Don Young last year, Feinstein became the oldest sitting member of Congress as well.
As a trailblazing, often fierce female presence in the Senate, Feinstein cut a path for other female senators to follow. She was elected to the Senate in 1992, two years after an unsuccessful bid to become governor of California, and four years after leaving office as mayor of San Francisco. She infamously became mayor in November 1978 following the assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk — she was President of the Board of Supervisors at the time, and therefore first in the line of succession. She has subsequently been a staunch advocate for gun control in Washington.
Colleagues have tried to toe a respectful line over the last year in discussing Feinstein's mental acuity, though multiple stories have bubbled up in the media suggesting she is frequently confused and/or not as sharp as she once was, at least on some days.
The Chronicle published its bombshell report about Feinstein's increasing dottiness last April. One anonymous staffer of a California Democrat told the paper, "There’s a joke on the Hill: We’ve got a great junior senator in Alex Padilla and an experienced staff in Feinstein’s office."
Since then, pundits and colleagues alike have pointed out that male senators have reached age 90 and beyond in the Senate and died in office without being called out as Feinstein has been, with Strom Thurmond hitting age 100 and then dying just a few months after his retirement. And many have said that Feinstein deserves the dignity and respect to remain as long as she likes. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa is also, by the way, turning 90 this year and he was just reelected to an eighth term in November, meaning he will be 96 by the time he finishes this term.
Image: WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 12: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) walks through the Senate Subway on her way to a vote at the U.S. Capitol September 12, 2022 in Washington, DC. As lawmakers return to Washington this week, Congress has until September 30 to pass to a continuing resolution to fund the government and avert a government shutdown. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)