California’s Dianne Feinstein, the longest-serving female senator in U.S. history and three-time mayor of San Francisco, died Thursday at the age of 90. An icon of Democratic politics who was planning to step down at the end of her term amid a series of health issues, she is being remembered by the many colleagues she had over her decadeslong career in public service.
A tearful Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) led the Senate in a moment of silence on Friday and addressed the chamber, where flowers had been placed on Feinstein’s desk. “Her integrity was a diamond,” Schumer said. “Her integrity shone like a beacon across the Senate and across the country for all to see and hopefully emulate.
“She is in a class of her own,” the Senate leader added. “Of course, it wasn’t just the assault weapons ban she fought for. Her accomplishments also included championing the Violence Against Women Act, protecting oversight authority during the investigation into U.S. torture. Fighting for climate justice and fighting for marriage equality and fighting for reproductive justice, the list goes on and on.”
President Joe Biden, who served as a senator for Delaware from 2009-17, also paid tribute to his former colleague. “Senator Dianne Feinstein was a pioneering American. A true trailblazer. And for Jill and me, a cherished friend,” Biden wrote in a statement.
“Serving in the Senate together for more than 15 years, I had a front row seat to what Dianne was able to accomplish. … 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. 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.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is now tasked with appointing Feinstein’s replacement until the state can elect a new senator in 2024, called her “a powerful, trailblazing U.S. Senator; an early voice for gun control; a leader in times of tragedy and chaos,” adding that she was “a role model not only for me, but to my wife and daughters for what a powerful, effective leader looks like.”
Alex Padilla, Feinstein’s fellow California U.S. senator, said that she “leaves behind a legacy of service, leadership, and a deep love for our country and our democratic ideals. May she rest in peace, and may her legacy continue to inspire us all.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also made remarks on the floor remembering Feinstein, who was devoted to bipartisanship throughout her career. We were “actual friends,” McConnell said, adding that he still keeps an artwork of the Capitol she gave him as a wedding present in his office. “Dianne was a trailblazer in her beloved home state of California, and our entire nation is better for her dogged advocacy and diligent service.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who also served in the upper chamber alongside Feinstein as a senator from New York from 2009-13, wrote that she was “deeply saddened” by her passing. “She blazed trails for women in politics and found a life’s calling in public service. I’ll miss her greatly as a friend and colleague and send my condolences to all who loved her.”
“Throughout her career she drove change — she was a one of the first women mayors of a major city, a leader against torture, a pioneer in the effort to reduce gun violence, passing the first assault weapons ban in 1994, and a champion of the Violence Against Women Act,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) wrote of her colleague. “I’m grateful I had the opportunity to serve with Senator Feinstein, and I know her legacy will endure.”