Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended Senator Dianne Feinstein for remaining in office after a series of health issues, dismissing concerns about Ms. Feinstein’s continued ability to serve as a sexist double standard.
Speaking to Politico for an article published Thursday, Ms. Pelosi stressed that the California senator, a longtime colleague and neighbor, was “doing OK” and minimized Ms. Feinstein’s recent fall, for which she was briefly hospitalized, as a “very little fall, it was like nothing.”
She suggested that the criticisms of Ms. Feinstein, 90, and questions related to her eventual retirement were gendered.
“It’s OK, you know, they can vote, and it’s all they need to do,” Ms. Pelosi, 83, said of the rationalizations offered for male elected officials who have faced age-related health concerns. “And then Dianne comes along and then they’re making such a fuss? Uh-uh. It’s a guy thing, but that’s the way the world is.”
(The health woes that kept Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi absent from the Senate were well documented. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who is 89, has also faced scrutiny about his age.)
Recent incidents involving older politicians have again prompted uncomfortable debate about how old is too old to stay in public office.
In July, a video circulated of Ms. Feinstein appearing confused when asked to vote in committee — which followed an illness that kept her away from Washington for over two months that was more serious than her office publicly disclosed.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the longtime Republican leader, had two recent moments when he was captured freezing midsentence. Though Republicans largely rallied around Mr. McConnell, a handful expressed concerns: Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, 43, said the G.O.P. couldn’t “have it both ways” while attacking President Biden, 80, as enfeebled. Mr. Biden, meanwhile, was among the first to offer words of support to Mr. McConnell.
A spokesman for Ms. Pelosi declined to comment further.
Ms. Feinstein, who has faced calls to retire from those in her own party, including members of Congress, has maintained she will serve out the remainder of her term but will not run for re-election in 2024. The race to fill her seat is already crowded.
Ms. Pelosi has served in the House for close to four decades, and stepped down from leading House Democrats at the beginning of this Congress after nearly 20 years at the helm. However, she remained in office.
She left the door open to running for her congressional seat again after raising millions of dollars in the first half of this year, according to Politico: “I haven’t been thinking much about it yet, but I will. When I need to, I will.” At another point, she said encouragement to run again was something she has “been hearing constantly.”
Ms. Pelosi has also defended Mr. Biden when it comes to his age and the Republican attacks on his competency. Democratic voters, in poll after poll, indicate that Mr. Biden’s age is among their biggest concerns as he prepares for a re-election fight. The front-runner in the Republican primary, former President Donald J. Trump, is 77.
On Monday, Ms. Pelosi rejected concerns about Mr. Biden’s age. She told the BBC’s Stephen Sackur that “Joe Biden is wise,” adding that, “he has strategic thinking about getting things done — that’s why his presidency has been so successful on the domestic front.”