Dianne Feinstein, longest-serving woman in U.S. Senate, dies at 90

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., arrives at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on May 11, 2023. It was her first time at the Capitol in three months after recovering from shingles. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI

Sept. 29 (UPI) — Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the longest-serving woman in the U.S. Senate, died Friday. She was 90 years old.

Feinstein, D-Calif., died at her home in Washington, according to a statement by her chief of staff, James Sauls.

“Her passing is a great loss for so many, from those who loved and cared for her to the people of California that she dedicated her life to serving,” the statement said.

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said it was a “very, very sad day for all of us” as he planned to address Feinstein’s death on the Senate floor.

“She’s a legend. A legend in California as the first woman senator. A legend in the Senate. She was the leader on so many different issues,” Schumer said.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., hailed Feinstein for her long career and her record of breaking ground for women in government.

“Dianne Feinstein, right from the start, was an icon for women in politics,” Pelosi said.

President Joe Biden on Friday hailed Feinstein as a “true trailblazer” and a “cherished friend.”

“Often the only woman in the room, Dianne was a role model for so many Americans — a job she took seriously by mentoring countless public servants, many of whom now serve in my administration, he said. “She had an immense impact on younger female leaders for whom she generously opened doors. Dianne was tough, sharp, always prepared, and never pulled a punch, but she was also a kind and loyal friend, and that’s what Jill and I will miss the most.”

Feinstein was briefly hospitalized in August after she fell at home. She had missed nearly three months in the Senate while being treated for shingles, Ramsay Hunt syndrome and encephalitis.

Her lengthy absence from the Judiciary Committee became an issue for Democrats as confirmation votes for President Biden’s judicial nominees were delayed.

As her advancing age and health issues raised questions about her capacity to serve, Feinsten announced she wouldn’t seek reelection to another term.

Biden praised Feinstein’s service after she announced her retirement, calling her one of the very best U.S. senators. He said she was a passionate defender of civil liberties and a strong voice for national security policies “that kept us safe while honoring our values.”

Feinstein is the California’s longest-serving senator. Her public service career goes back over a half-century. She started as a San Francisco County Supervisor in 1969 before becoming San Francisco Mayor.

She was hugely influential in both California and national politics.

Three Democratic U.S. Reps. — Katie Porter, Adam Schiff and Barbara Lee — are running for Feinstein’s seat.

Gov. Gavin Newsom can appoint a replacement for Feinstein to serve until the 2024 election.


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