S. E. Williams
Once heralded as a liberal but in recent years positioned herself more as a solid centrist, California’s senior U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein is dead at the age of 90.
Feinstein died Thursday night at her home in Washington, D.C.
Her death was announced on the Senate floor by Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “Dianne Feinstein was one of the most amazing people who ever graced the Senate, who ever graced the country,” he praised. Adding, “As the nation mourns this tremendous loss, we know how many lives she impacted and how many glass ceilings she shattered along the way.”
Feinstein was absent from the senate floor for months earlier this year due a battle with shingles but returned in a wheelchair in May looking frail and weak according to reports.
In recent months there were growing calls for Feinstein to retire as a series of illnesses raised growing concerns among a number of Democrats regarding her ability to serve. However, many of her supporters, including former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, defended Feinstein declaring such calls for Feinstein to step aside were a double standard. Similar calls were not being made for men in high power positions, like Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley for example, who was born in 1933, the same year as Feinstein.
Feinstein was not only the oldest serving senator, she was also the longest serving female senator in U.S. History.
Although Feinstein had a penchant for taking a more centered approach to politics on many issues, her passion and commitment for liberal causes important to the State of California never seemed to waiver. These included issues like environmental protections, reproductive rights and significantly–gun control.
Feinstein’s rise to political prominence came in 1978 after two unsuccessful bids for mayor San Francisco, on the heels of the tragic murders of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and County Supervisor Harvey Milk.
At the time of their assassinations, Feinstein was president of the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors and happened to be present in City Hall when the killings occurred. She also discovered Milk’s body in his office shortly after he was assassinated.
This event and what followed set in motion Feinstein’s rise to the mayoral position she’d sought, propelled her into the national spotlight and eventually, upon winning a seat in the U.S. Senate in a special election in 1992, she became California’s first female senator.
Just as the death’s of Moscone and Milk infused her lifetime commitment to politics, it also imbued her with an enduring commitment to gun safety and control, an issue that she championed throughout her senate career.
“[E]arlier this morning, we lost a giant in the Senate,” lamented an emotional Schumer when announcing her death in the senate chamber. “As the nation mourns this tremendous loss, we know how many lives she impacted and how many glass ceilings she shattered along the way.”
President Joe Biden, reflecting on her life and contributions to the nation declared, “Dianne made her mark on everything from national security to the environment to protecting civil liberties. She’s made history in so many ways, and our country will benefit from her legacy for generations.”