Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, passed away Thursday night at her home in Washington, according to her staff.
Dianne Feinstein, the longest-serving female US senator in history with three decades in the Senate, died after months of failing health. She was 90 years old.
Her death gives California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom the authority to appoint a lawmaker to finish out Feinstein’s tenure, preserving the party’s majority in the chamber until early January 2025.
If Dianne Feinstein resigns, Newsom has openly committed to selecting a black woman, and he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” earlier this month that he would pick an “interim appointment” who would not be any of the people running for the position in next year’s election.
Feinstein’s death additionally comes as federal funding is poised to expire and Congress is at odds over how to prevent a government shutdown, but Senate Democrats retain a majority even without her.
Feinstein, the previous San Francisco mayor, was a major figure in California politics for generations and became the Democratic Party’s national face after being elected to the US Senate for the first time in 1992.
Throughout her political career, she smashed a number of glass ceilings, and her impact was felt heavily in some of Capitol Hill’s most momentous works in recent history, including the now-defunct federal assault weapons restriction in 1994 and the 2014 CIA torture report.
Dianne Feinstein’s health was the subject of increased scrutiny and conjecture in her final years, and the California Democrat was conspicuous among aging politicians whose decisions to stay in office garnered criticism, particularly in an era of thin party victories in Congress.
When Dianne came back to Capitol Hill three months afterward, it came to light that she experienced numerous complications during her recovery, such as Ramsay Hunt syndrome and encephalitis, as a result of hospitalization for roofing in February.
This sparked complaints from Democrats, as Feinstein’s absence slowed the approval of Democratic-appointed judicial candidates. She was temporarily admitted in August following a fall. Feinstein, the Senate’s oldest member at the time of her passing, was also questioned about her mental clarity and leadership abilities.
However, widespread suspicion that Feinstein might retire rather than run for reelection in 2024 prompted numerous Democrats to declare campaigns for her seat even before she declared her plans. In February, she confirmed her decision not to run for reelection, saying, “The time has come.”
Rep. Nancy Pelosi praised her colleague from California as a “champion for the Golden State,” while Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois called her “one of the great ones.” Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who is also from California, opened his comments to reporters on Friday morning by lauding Feinstein as someone who “blazed a path for women.”
During an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer requested a moment of silence. Dianne Feinstein’s desk was covered in black cloth and topped with a bouquet of white flowers, as is customary in the Senate.
Dianne Feinstein History
Dianne Feinstein was born in San Francisco in 1933 and received his bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in 1955. After working as a San Francisco County supervisor, Feinstein was elected mayor in 1978, following the murder of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, the state’s first openly gay official.
Dianne rarely spoke about the day Moscone and Milk were killed, but she did so in a 2017 interview. Feinstein was a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors at the time, and murderer Dan White was a friend and coworker.
Dianne disclosed in November 2020 that she would resign as the most senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee next year, following scathing remarks from liberal activists over her management of the proceedings for then-President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court candidate, Amy Coney Barrett.
While Democratic senators were unable to stop Barrett’s nomination in the Republican-controlled Senate on their own, liberal activists were outraged when Feinstein praised then-Judiciary Chairman and South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham’s leadership of the process.
Dianne stated at that moment that she was going to keep working as a senior Democrat on the Judiciary, Intelligence, Appropriations, Rules and Administration, and Rules and Administration committees, focusing on issues such as gun safety, criminal justice, and immigration.