Tuesday, September 12, 2023

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Time For Political Departures?

Almost everything in Washington, DC is now politically 

hyper-partisanized, and that especially includes the

current brouhaha over two aged and ailing senators: 

Diane Feinstein, California Democrat; and Mitch 

McConnell, Republican minority leader from Kentucky.

Senator Feinstein is 90, visibly frail and frequently

hospitalized or otherwise absent from the Senate

chambers. She is a key vote on the senate judiciary

committee which confirms federal judges, and

because two of her colleagues, West Virginia Senator

Joe Manchin and Arizona Senator Kirstin Sinema,

frequently decline to vote with their party, a vital vote

for any Democratic legislation. (If Manchin and Sinema

don’t vote with the Democrats, and Feinstein is absent,

the Republicans have a 49-48 majority.)

Senator McConnell is 81, and following a recent fall and

resulting concussion, has appeared to “freeze” during

at least two very public appearances. Although he seems

so far able to serve as a Kentucky senator, it appears he

is struggling to fulfill the added duties of being his party’s

leader in the Senate. Polls indicate that a large majority

of voters think he should step down as minority leader.

Because the Senate is almost evenly split, any retirement

before the 2024 elections has been unlikely. But because

public opinion is now so overwhelming regarding Senators

Feinstein and McConnell, the fact that they are from

the two major parties, might provide a brief window in

which Senator Feinstein could resign and Senator

McConnell could step down as minority leader without

upsetting the current fragile make-up of the Senate.

Senator Feinstein is from California, and would be

immediately replaced by another Democrat appointed

the state’s Democratic governor. He has already

announced he would appoint a “caretaker” interim

senator whose term would end in January, 2025 (so as

not to interfere with the already-begun campaign to

replace Senator Feinstein who is retiring at the end of

her current term next year).

Because Kentucky has a Democratic governor, it would

not be necessary or likely that Senator McConnell should

leave the senate after retiring as minority leader. There

is no indication that his age and health would prevent

him from serving out his current term as senator.

At least three senior Republican senators have the

stature to replace McConnell as minority leader should

he step down now.

This brief window of opportunity for departure of the

two senators would have some impact. Democrats

would lose her key vote on the judiciary committee,

and the relationships of the Republican senate minority

created over time by Mr. McConnell vis a vis the

senate majority and the White House (now occupied

by a president who is a Democrat) would inevitably

change somewhat under a younger new leadership.

If the two individual senators and their party colleagues

do not voluntarily take advantage of this window now,

they might have no choice at a later date — as public

pressure, already substantial, becomes so great that

one, or both, have no choice. 

They are also not the only elected figures in Washington,

DC facing doubts about their ability to serve because of

health and age issues. Senator Fetterman of Pennsylvania

has not seemed to recover fully from an earlier illness,

and President Biden, 81, himself has shown increasing

frailty in his public appearances.  

(Eighteen members of the House of Representatives of both 

parties are in their 80s, as well as many in their 70s. Along

with several senators on their 70s and 80s, most of them

continue to serve ably and in good health,)

Left unresolved, Senators Feinstein and McConnell face

becoming even more controversial figures as the 2024

national election cycle goes directly to the voters in an

already bitter and partisan campaign environment.


Copyright (c) 2023 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.


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