In a somber announcement, the office of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) confirmed her passing on Thursday night at the age of 90. Feinstein had been a prominent figure in California politics since 1992, making her the longest-serving senator in the state. The seasoned Democrat, who held the title of the oldest member of the Senate, had previously disclosed her intention to retire at the conclusion of her term. Her decision was influenced by ongoing health challenges and mounting calls for her resignation.
Feinstein’s absence had been conspicuous in recent months as she contended with health setbacks, including a bout with the shingles virus that kept her away from Capitol Hill for an extended period. A fall last month resulted in a brief hospitalization. During her final days in the Senate, the senator was observed navigating the Capitol in a wheelchair, occasionally displaying signs of confusion during official proceedings.
The senator’s health struggles had not gone unnoticed, with an April 2022 article in the San Francisco Chronicle reporting concerns among her political colleagues about her fitness for duty. In response, Feinstein asserted her commitment to serving Californians, highlighting her focus on critical issues such as the economy, water, and fire.
Feinstein’s political legacy was marked by her unwavering advocacy for gun control, notably proposing a handgun ban in San Francisco during her tenure as mayor in 1984 and authoring the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban. Her stance on abortion was nuanced, as she voted against a 2003 proposal to ban partial-birth abortion but later supported legislative measures to protect abortion rights following the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
President Joe Biden, who served alongside Feinstein in the Senate, expressed his admiration for the late senator, calling her “one of the very best.” Biden’s praise acknowledged Feinstein’s lengthy and impactful political career, which included opposition to President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and sponsorship of the Respect for Marriage Act in 2022, aimed at ensuring recognition of same-sex marriages at both federal and state levels.