Dianne Feinstein, Longest-Serving Senator in US History, Dies at 90
(CNN) — Dianne Feinstein, the longest-serving senator in US history, has passed away at the age of 90, according to a family source. Feinstein’s death will give California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, the power to appoint a lawmaker to serve out the remainder of her term, ensuring that the Democratic majority in the chamber is maintained until early January 2025. Newsom had previously stated that if Feinstein retired, he would appoint a Black woman from his list of “multiple” replacements.
Feinstein, a Democrat, had been a prominent figure in California politics for decades. She was first elected senator in 1992 after an influential political career in San Francisco.
Throughout her life, Feinstein shattered glass ceilings and left a lasting impact on Capitol Hill. Her notable achievements include the 1994 federal assault weapons ban, which has since expired, and the 2014 CIA torture report, a six-year review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program during the George W. Bush administration.
In her later years, Feinstein’s health became a subject of scrutiny and speculation. She faced hospitalizations and complications, including Ramsay Hunt syndrome and encephalitis. Concerns were also raised about her mental acuity and leadership abilities. Feinstein, however, maintained that she remained an effective representative for Californians.
There had been strong speculation that Feinstein would retire instead of running for re-election in 2024. Several Democrats had already announced their candidacy for her seat before she made her plans official in February 2023.
Feinstein hailed from San Francisco, where she was born in 1933. Before becoming a senator, she served as the city’s mayor following the assassination of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay politician elected to public office. Feinstein, in fact, announced their double murder to the public and became San Francisco’s first female mayor.
Feinstein’s political career was marked by a series of historic firsts. She was the first woman to serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the first chairwoman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, and the first chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Feinstein also served on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, among other leadership roles.
While Feinstein represented the liberal city of San Francisco, she was known for her willingness to work across party lines with Republicans. She believed in finding a center on the political spectrum that could effectively represent America’s diverse population.
Feinstein’s accomplishments in the Senate drew attention beyond politics. She was portrayed by actress Annette Bening in the 2019 film “The Report,” which examined the CIA’s use of torture after the September 11 attacks.
In November 2020, Feinstein announced her resignation from the top Democratic post on the Senate Judiciary Committee following criticism from liberal activists over her handling of the hearings for then-President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.
Even in the face of criticism, Feinstein remained committed to her priorities, including gun safety, criminal justice, and immigration.
Feinstein’s passing marks the end of an era in US politics. Her influence, legacy, and contributions to the nation will be remembered.