US Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the trailblazing California Democrat who broke gender barriers throughout her five decades in politics, died Thursday night at her Washington, DC home following a number of health scares. She was 90.
James Sauls, Feinstein’s chief of staff, confirmed her death in a mid-morning statement, saying: “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 … There are few women who can be called senator, chairman, mayor, wife, mom and grandmother. Senator Feinstein was a force of nature who made an incredible impact on our country and her home state. She left a legacy that is undeniable and extraordinary.”
The California Democrat was the oldest member of the Senate and had announced plans to retire at the end of her term.
Her death was first reported by ABC7 Insider. NBC News also reported her death, citing two sources familiar with the matter.
Feinstein cast her last vote in the Senate late Thursday morning. Her cause of death has not yet been confirmed.
She had faced calls for her resignation in recent years over concerns about her health.
In August, the long-serving senator was rushed to a hospital after tripping and falling in her hometown of San Francisco, her office announced at the time.
“Senator Feinstein briefly went to the hospital yesterday afternoon as a precaution after a minor fall in her home. All of her scans were clear and she returned home,” a spokesperson told The Post.
The Democrat suffered “no serious injuries” from the tumble, her spokesperson stressed.
Feinstein had earlier missed out on three months in the Senate following a battle with shingles.
During her absence, the senator missed dozens of key votes and was blamed by some progressives for slowing the progress of President Biden’s controversial picks for federal judgeships through the Senate Judiciary Committee.
She returned to the Senate in May, being wheeled into the Capitol with one eye nearly closed.
A few days later, she suggested to reporters she had not been absent.
“I haven’t been gone,” she said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
When asked whether she meant she had been working from home, Feinstein said: “No, I’ve been here, I’ve been voting.”
When she announced her plans to retire from office in February, Biden praised his former colleague — calling her “a passionate defender of civil liberties and a strong voice for national security policies that keep us safe while honoring our values.”
“I’ve served with more U.S. Senators than just about anyone,” he said in a statement at the time. “I can honestly say that Dianne Feinstein is one of the very best.”
Feinstein was born in San Francisco on June 22, 1933, the daughter of a former model and a doctor.
She started out as the first female president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, then went on to become the first female mayor of San Francisco following the murder of Mayor George Moscone and fellow Supervisor Harvey Milk.
Feinstein said she had heard the gunshots and saw the gunman leaving the supervisors’ office.
“He whisked by, everybody disappeared,” she recounted to CNN in 2017.
“I walked down the line of supervisors’ offices. I walked into one and found Harvey Milk — put my finger in a bullet hole trying to get a pulse.
“You know, it was the first person I’d ever seen shot to death.”
Feinstein made a name for herself in Congress as a vocal advocate for gun control, consistently pushing for more restrictive measures since the assault weapons ban expired in 2004, and led a multi-year review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation measures in the aftermath of 9/11 as the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
It found that the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” did not lead to the collection of critical intelligence to disrupt a terrorist plot; that the CIA provided inaccurate information about the program and its effectiveness; and that it was more brutal than the CIA led lawmakers and the public to believe.
The investigation ultimately prompted Congress to pass legislation banning the use of torture.
But Feinstein also butted heads with some of the more liberal members of her party, as she tried to find common ground with Republicans.
She parted ways with the liberal Democrats on a number of issues, including opposing the idea of single-payer, government-run health care and speaking out against the Green New Deal — which she argued was politically and fiscally unfeasible.
Then, when she hugged Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for his handling of then-Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings in October 2020, Feinstein faced a number of calls to step down as the ranking member of the panel.
She ultimately caved in, and announced plans to step down in November 2020, saying she planned to focus her efforts on combating climate change and the coronavirus pandemic, Politico reported.
Democratic Reps. Katie Porter, Adam Schiff and Barbara Lee are now running for Feinstein’s seat.
Following the news of her passing Friday, the Democrat was remembered for her decades of service.
“Sen. Dianne Feinstein was a trailblazer who lived an incredible life dedicated to public service,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) said in a statement.
“She was one of the most effective legislators in recent memory because of her willingness to work across the aisle in good faith in order to solve complex problems. It was [an] honor to serve with her.
“Susan and I extend our deepest condolences and prayers to Senator Feinstein’s family and staff during this difficult time.”
Feinstein was predeceased by her husband, investment banker Richard Blum, who died last year.
She is survived by her daughter, Katherine Feinstein, a San Francisco County Superior Court judge; her son-in-law, Rick Mariano; and her granddaughter, Eileen Feinstein Mariano.
SOURCE: New york post