Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., told CNN Thursday that “change is overdue” in regard to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., still holding office at 89 years of age while dealing with serious health issues, and called for changes to address “infirm” lawmakers like her and Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa.
The congresswoman, who is running to replace Feinstein in the Senate in 2024, noted that it is well past time for new leadership in that position, and advocated for new congressional policies that would account for “infirm” members of the body that are absent for periods of time.
Porter’s comments were made just days after Feinstein returned to the U.S. Senate after a nearly three-month long absence. She also surprisingly invoked Fetterman, whose health issues from a stroke and clinical depression have been well-documented.
Feinstein took a leave of absence to deal with a shingles diagnosis earlier this year. Upon her return, Feinstein generated headlines for apparently forgetting that she had been gone when asked about her time away by a reporter. There have been other reports in recent years of her forgetting names and faces.
She insisted to the reporter, “I haven’t been gone. You should … I haven’t been gone. I’ve been working.” When asked whether she was referring to working from home, the lawmaker asserted, “No, I’ve been here. I’ve been voting. Please, either know or don’t know.”
CNN’s Poppy Harlow asked Porter if it concerned her and if she believes the senator is fit to serve “right now.”
Porter continued, claiming she hasn’t spoken to Feinstein since her return: “So I’m not able to comment on how she’s doing in her recovery, but I do think that the Senate and our country needs to look forward and think about, how are we going to address these issues going forward?”
“We’re going to have more people who are absent, we’re going to have more people who fall sick, we are going to have more Senators who age given the age of the body,” Porter said. “And I think we need some forward-looking policies, not just focus on Senator Feinstein – although I understand the concerns – but really look at how we’re going to deal with this structurally.”
Porter added: “This is unfortunately not the first time that we’ve had this situation where we had real concerns about how senators are recovering and whether they’re able to come back and really do the job.”
Harlow concluded: “It’s a very fair point. Who steps in and does the job when you can’t?”