The 89-year-old Senator is the oldest person in Congress at a month shy of 90, but her recent health issues have fellow lawmakers to calling for her resignation.
The California Democrat recently returned to Washington after a battle with shingles that has left her with multiple complications, including a vision impairment, balance issues, and facial paralysis.
Perhaps most “frightening,” as her condition has been described, is the development of encephalitis, a rare side effect from the disease that causes brain swelling.
— bodysoulsone (@SherryP70005680) May 24, 2023
Despite being absent from the Senate for ten weeks, while she recovered at her home in San Francisco, Feinstein was not aware that she had been absent since falling ill in February.
“No, I haven’t been gone,” she said when asked about her recovery. “You should follow the — I haven’t been gone. I’ve been working.”
Though the six-term Senator has opted not to pursue re-election in 2024, she refuses to step down from her post.
She is currently being aided by fellow California Democrat and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s daughter, who is acting as her caretaker at the Capitol.
While Pelosi has backed Rep. Adam Schiff to run for Feinstien’s seat in the upcoming race, fellow California congresswomen, Reps. Katie Porter and Barbara Lee, have declared their candidacy.
Two House Democrats, California Rep. Ro Khanna and Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips called for Feinstein to retire immediately.
It’s time for @SenFeinstein to resign. We need to put the country ahead of personal loyalty. While she has had a lifetime of public service, it is obvious she can no longer fulfill her duties. Not speaking out undermines our credibility as elected representatives of the people.
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) April 12, 2023
“It’s time for [Feinstein] to resign,” Khanna tweeted on April 12.
Phillips agreed shortly after. “Senator Feinstein is a remarkable American whose contributions to our country are immeasurable,” he wrote.
“But I believe it’s now a dereliction of duty to remain in the Senate and a dereliction of duty for those who agree to remain quiet.”
Should Feinstein, who is working a lighter schedule due to her health concerns, choose to bow out before her term ends in January 2025, it will fall on Newsom to pick her successor.
The California governor could select one of the three declared challengers for the seat, but risks interfering in the 2024 election and potentially going against Pelosi’s pick.
Newsom has previously promised that if Feinstein’s seat was vacated, he would replace her with a Black woman.
That means choosing Black lawmaker Lee over both Porter, who is white, and Schiff, who is a white man.
“He made the commitment and I do not believe there is any wiggle room for the governor not to honor his commitment,” Democratic strategist Kerman Maddox told the Associated Press.
The governor could skirt around disrupting the race for Feinstein’s seat by naming a caretaker, rather than a successor.
That’s where Winfrey comes in. Her name is reportedly being floated around as someone who can step in for the remainder of Feinstein’s term without swaying the 2024 election outcome.
The former talks show host caused an uproar in the lead up to the 2020 presidential election, when it was speculated she would run.
Winfrey was quick to shoot down the rumors while stumping for Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in 2018.
“I am not here because I am making some grandstand, because I’m thinking about running myself,” she commented.
“I don’t want to run. I am not trying to test any waters, don’t want to go in those waters.”
One thing’s for sure, if Winfrey is tapped by Newsom, she certainly has the party talking points down.
In a recent commencement speech at her alma mater TSU, the media titan’s address turned extremely political when she mentioned the gun violence, book banning, climate change, LGBTQ rights, and systemic racism that graduates had already endured in their young lives.
“You’ve witnessed the storming of the Capitol and the death of civility,” she told them. “You’re acutely aware that voting rights are being gutted. Women’s rights are being dismantled.”
Once a TSU TIGER always a TSU Tiger! Alumna Oprah Winfrey kicked off her commencement address with “I’m so glad I go to TSU!” She followed with an inspiring speech telling graduates to OWN every room they walk in! pic.twitter.com/IFTCQvx2kR
— Tennessee State University (@TSUedu) May 6, 2023
“Books are being banned. History is being rewritten. The Supreme Court is being corrupted. The debt ceiling is being held hostage,” Winfrey detailed.
“The Cold War is back. The leaders are behaving like children,” she concluded. “The children are being gunned down by military-grade assault rifles.”