(Image From NBC News).
California senator Dianne Feinstein, who was known for being a vocal advocate for fun control measures, abortion access, and environmental protection, has died aged 90. Feinstein was the longest-serving female senator, elected in 1992 until her death (Sky News, 2023).
The Democratic Party politician, who tried to find common ground with Republicans for over three decades in the Senate, died on 28 September, despite plans to retire at the end of her term (Sky News, 2023).
Her plans to retire partly stemmed from facing calls to resign over concerns about her health, particularly as she was the oldest member of the chamber (Sky News, 2023). In March, Feinstein’s spokesperson said she was dealing with a “health matter” after she missed votes at the end of February, and her final vote was cast in the first of three votes at the Senate on Thursday, only hours before her death (Sky News, 2023).
According to a statement from her office issued on Friday, 29 September, she died Thursday night at her home in Washington DC.
The statement also said: “Senator Feinstein never backed away from a fight for what was just and right. 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. She left a legacy that is undeniable and extraordinary.” (Sky News, 2023).
Due to her passing, California Governor Gavin Newsom must now appoint a replacement. He had previously vowed to nominate a black woman to serve out the remainder of her term, which ends in 2025 (BBC, 2023).
She is survived by a daughter, Katherine, who reportedly has held power of attorney over her mother’s legal affairs amid mounting family tensions (BBC, 2023).
Born in 1933, Feinstein grew up in San Francisco and graduated from Stanford University (BBC, 2023).
Feinstein was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1969 and became its first female president in 1978 (BBC, 2023). In that same year, Mayor George Moscone was gunned down at City Hall alongside Supervisor Harvey Milk. She recounted later how she rushed to Mayor Mascone’s office, finding a bullet wound as she searched for his pulse, which left a permanent impression on her ever since (BBC, 2023). She became the state’s first female mayor in the wake of the tragedy (The Guardian, 2023).
Feinstein was one of California’s first two female senators, the first woman to head the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the first to serve as the Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat (Sky News, 2023).
Feinstein championed the assault weapons ban signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994 and continued to fight for restrictive laws after that ban decades later (BBC, 2023). She also served as a chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, leading reviews of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, which was created after the 9/11 terror attacks (BBC, 2023). Her work was key to the introduction of laws banning the use of methods of torture, including waterboarding, on terrorism suspects (BBC, 2023).
In her own words, she said in 2005, “I recognise that women have had to fight for everything they have gotten, every right” (Sky News, 2023).
President Joe Biden hailed Feinstein as a “pioneering American” and a “trailblazer” after learning of her death. He also described her as a “passionate defender of civil liberties” and how she “made her mark on everything, from national security to the environment to protecting civil liberties” (The Financial Times, 2023).
“I’ve served with more U.S. Senators than just about anyone,” stated Mr. Biden, “I can honestly say that Dianne Feinstein is one of the very best.” (Sky News, 2023).
Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said she was “deeply saddened” by her death (Sky News, 2023). The ex-First Lady posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, stating that Feinstein “blazed trails for women in politics and found a life’s calling in public service” (Sky News, 2023). She went on further, adding, “I’ll miss her greatly as a friend and colleague and send my condolences to all who loved her” (Sky News, 2023).
Missouri Senator Josh Hawley described his late California colleague as “tough, incredibly smart and effective”. Posting on X, he went on to write how Feinstein was “always willing to work across the aisle to get things done, she was a person of unquestioned integrity” (Sky News, 2023).
Another post on X by Virginia Congressman Don Beyer wrote: “Senator Feinstein’s career spanned 50+ years of service to the Bay Area, California, and the nation. She survived the assassination attempts to become the longest-serving woman Senator, a pioneer for LGBT rights and civil liberties, and a national leader in gun violence prevention. RIP.” (Sky News, 2023).
Maxwell Frost, a Central Florida congressman, praised her as a “champion for gun violence prevention that broke barriers at all levels of government”, and remarked that “we wouldn’t have had an assault weapons ban if it wasn’t for Senator Feinstein and due to her tireless work, we will win it back” (Sky News, 2023).
California Governor Gavin Newsom described Feinstein as a “political giant” whose “tenacity was matched by her grace” (Daily Mail, 2023).
US Representative Nancy Pelosi, a fellow California Democrat, said Feinstein’s “extraordinary” career would inspire “countless young women and girls to pursue public service for generations to come” (BBC, 2023).
Edited by: Shahnawaz Chodhry
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