U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, a centrist Democrat who was elected to the Senate in 1992, the “Year of the Woman” and who broke gender barriers during her long career in local and national politics, has died . She is 90 years old.
Three people familiar with the matter confirmed her death to The Associated Press on Friday.
Feinstein, the nation’s oldest sitting senator, is a passionate advocate for her state’s key liberal priorities, including environmental protections, reproductive rights and gun control, but is also known as a pragmatic legislator who has offered her support to Republicans People reach out and seek middle ground.
She was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1969 and became its first female president in 1978, the same year that Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were sworn in at City Hall. Shot to death of disgruntled former supervisor Dan White. Feinstein discovered Milk’s body.
After Moscone’s death, Feinstein became the first female mayor of San Francisco. In the Senate, she was one of California’s first two female senators, the first woman to chair the Senate Intelligence Committee and the first woman to serve as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.
Although Feinstein was not always championed by the feminist movement, her experiences shaped her perspective during her fifty years in politics.
In 2005, as the Judiciary Committee prepared to hold hearings on President George W. Bush’s nomination of John Roberts to succeed Sandra Day O., she told The Associated Press: “I recognize that women have to fight for everything they get. , fight for every right.” Connor on the Supreme Court.
“So I have to tell you, I try to focus on women’s rights. I also try to pass legislation to address what I see as problems and do my best to work across party lines,” she said.
Her bipartisanship has helped her achieve legislative victories throughout her career. But it also proved to be a liability in her later years in Congress, as her state became more liberal and the Senate and voters became increasingly polarized.
A fierce debater who doesn’t suffer fools, the California senator has long been known for her acerbic rhetoric and sharp comebacks when challenged on the issues she’s most passionate about. But she lost that edge in her later years in the Senate, as her health deteriorated significantly and she often became confused when answering questions or speaking in public. In February 2023, she said she would not run for a sixth term next year. In the weeks after the announcement, she was absent from the Senate for more than two months while recovering from shingles.
Feinstein resigned as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee after the 2020 election, just as her party was on the verge of gaining a majority, due to health concerns. In 2023, she said she would not serve as Senate president pro tempore or as the most senior member of the majority party, even though she would have been qualified for the position. The president pro tempore opens the Senate each day and performs other ceremonial duties.
One of Feinstein’s most important legislative achievements came early in her career, when the Senate approved her amendment banning the manufacture and sale of certain types of assault weapons as President Bill Clinton signed it into law in 1994 part of the Crime Bill. The ban expired after 10 years and was never renewed or replaced, a poignant victory after her career was significantly impacted by gun violence.
Feinstein remembers discovering Milk’s body and sliding her finger into the bullet hole as she felt for a pulse. She would retell the story often in the years that followed as she pushed for stricter gun control measures.
Although she is often challenged, she has little patience with Republicans and others who oppose her on the issue. In 1993, during the debate over an assault weapons ban, Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig accused her of not knowing enough about guns and gun control issues.
Feinstein spoke passionately about the violence she experienced in San Francisco and retorted: “Senator, I know what some of the guns are used for.”
Twenty years after a horrific school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 children and six educators, first-term Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas Similar challenges have been raised against Feinstein in the legislative debate over a permanent weapons ban.
“I’m not a sixth grader,” Feinstein retorted to the much younger Cruz, a comment that later went viral. She added: “It’s great that you want to teach me about the Constitution. I appreciate it. Just know that I’ve been here a long time.”
After the killings of Moscone and Milk in 1978, Feinstein became mayor of San Francisco and led the city through one of the most tumultuous periods in its history. Even her critics considered Feinstein a calming influence, and she won re-election in her own right to two more four-year terms.
As her success and statewide profile grew, so did her profile on the national political stage.
Feinstein was considered Walter Mondale’s vice presidential choice in 1984, but her husband, Richard Blum, faced questions about his business dealings. In 1990, her use of news footage announcing the assassinations of Moscone and Milk in a television ad helped her win the Democratic nomination for governor of California, making her the first female major-party gubernatorial nominee in the state’s history.
Although she narrowly lost the general election to Republican Pete Wilson, the stage was set for her election to the Senate two years later to fill the Senate seat Wilson vacated to run for governor.
Feinstein ran jointly with Barbara Boxer, who was running for the state’s other U.S. Senate seat, and both won, benefiting from positive press coverage and excitement about their historic campaign. California has never had a female senator, and interest in female candidates and voters was galvanized by the Supreme Court hearings, in which the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Anita Hill about nominee Clarence Anita Hill questioned over sexual harassment allegations against Thomas.
Feinstein was appointed to the Judiciary Panel and eventually to the Senate Intelligence Committee, becoming chairman in 2009. She is the first woman to lead the intelligence group, a high-profile position that gives her a central oversight role in U.S. intelligence controversies, setbacks and incidents. From the killing of Osama bin Laden to leaking NSA surveillance information.
Under Feinstein, the intelligence committee conducted a wide-ranging five-year investigation into CIA interrogation techniques during the administration of President George W. Bush, which included waterboarding of terrorism suspects in secret prisons overseas. The resulting 6,300-page “torture report” concluded, among other things, that waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” did not provide key evidence in the hunt for bin Laden. A 525-page executive summary was released in late 2014, but the rest of the report remains confidential.
The Senate investigation at the time was rife with intrigue, including mysteriously missing documents and accusations between the Senate and the CIA that each other had stolen information. The drama was filmed in a 2019 film about the investigation called “The Report,” for which actress Annette Bening was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role as Feinstein.
In the years since, Feinstein has continued to aggressively push for the report’s eventual declassification.
“I firmly believe that one day this report should be declassified,” Feinstein said. “This must be a lesson: torture doesn’t work.”
Feinstein has sometimes frustrated liberals by taking dovish or hawkish positions, putting her at odds with the Democratic left and more liberal boxers who retired from the Senate in 2017. Feinstein defended the Obama administration from a broad group of Americans. For example, despite protests from other Democratic senators, we are keeping phone and email records out of necessity to protect the country. “This is about protecting America,” Feinstein said at the time.
Those tensions escalated during Donald Trump’s presidency, when many Democrats had little appetite for compromise. Feinstein became the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee in 2016 and guided her party’s message through three Supreme Court nominations — a role that angered liberal advocacy groups who wanted to see a more aggressive Party leader.
Feinstein ended Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing with a hug from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and publicly thanked him for his job. “This was one of the best hearings I’ve ever been to,” Feinstein said at the end of the hearing.
Liberal advocacy groups that had fiercely opposed Barrett’s nomination to replace the late liberal icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg were furious and called for her to resign as committee leader.
A month later, Feinstein announced she would remain on the committee but resign from the top Democratic post. The then 87-year-old senator did not reveal why. She said in a statement that she would “continue to do our best to bring about positive change in the coming years.”
Feinstein was born on June 22, 1933. Her father, Leon Goldman, was a prominent surgeon and medical school professor in San Francisco, but her mother was an abusive woman with a violent temper who often targeted Feinstein and her two children. younger sister.
Feinstein graduated from Stanford University in 1955 with a bachelor’s degree in history. She married young and became a divorced single mother to daughter Catherine in 1960, a status that was still unusual at the time.
In 1961, Feinstein was appointed by then-Gov. Pat Brown joins the Women’s Parole Board, where she served before running for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Typical of the era, much of the early coverage of her entry into public life focused on her appearance, with her always described as stunning, tall, slender and jet-black-haired.
Feinstein’s second husband, Bert Feinstein, was 19 years older than her, but she described the marriage as “10 years old” and kept him even after Feinstein died of cancer in 1978. Surname. In 1980, she married investment banker Richard Blum and thanked Feinstein for his help. His wealth, she is one of the richest members of the Senate. He died in February 2022.
In addition to her daughter, Feinstein has a granddaughter, Erin, and three stepchildren.