California U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a centrist Democrat who was elected to the Senate in 1992, in what was then dubbed the “Year of the Woman,” has died at age 90 . Three of his relatives confirmed the news to the Associated Press on Friday morning.
Mme Feinstein has shattered glass ceilings on gender equality throughout her long political career.
The longest-serving U.S. senator, the politician was a fierce advocate for her state’s progressive priorities — environmental protection, reproductive health, gun control — but was also known as a pragmatic legislator who reached out to the Republicans and sought common ground.
She was elected as a San Francisco councilor in 1969 and became the first woman to lead the city in 1978, after Mayor George Moscone was shot alongside Councilman Harvey Milk at City Hall by Dan White, a disgruntled former supervisor. It is also Mme Feinstein who found Mr. Milk’s body.
In the U.S. Senate, she was one of the first two female senators from California, the first woman to head the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the first woman to serve as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.
And even if Mme Feinstein was not always beloved by the feminist movement, but her experiences influenced her views during her five-decade political career.
A fierce debater, with no patience for fools, the California senator has long been known for her rants and scathing retorts. But she lost that edge during her final years in the Senate, as her health visibly declined and she often became confused when speaking publicly.
In February 2023, she announced that she would not seek a sixth term. A few weeks after this announcement, she was absent from the Senate for more than two months to recover from shingles.
Given concerns about his health, Mr.me Feinstein stepped down as Democratic leader on the Judiciary Committee after the 2020 election, when her party was poised to take the majority. In 2023, she said she would not be president pro tempore of the Senate, that is to say the most senior member of the majority party, even if she was in the running for this position. President pro tempore opens the Senate daily and performs other ceremonial duties.
One of M’s greatest legislative achievementsme Feinstein dates back to the beginning of his career, when the Senate approved his amendment to ban the manufacture and sale of certain types of assault weapons as part of a crime bill that President Bill Clinton pushed promulgated in 1994.
Although the assault weapons ban expired 10 years later and was never renewed or replaced, it was a poignant victory after his career was scarred by gun violence.
Mme Feinstein remembers finding Mr. Milk’s body, her finger slipping through a bullet hole as she felt for a pulse. It’s a story she will tell often in the years to come, as she campaigned for stricter gun control measures.
She had little patience for Republicans and others who opposed her on this issue, although it was often contested.
In 1993, during the debate over the assault weapons ban, Senator Larry Craig (a Republican from Idaho) accused her of not knowing enough about guns and the issue of gun control. Mme Feinstein spoke fiercely about the violence she experienced in San Francisco and retorted, “Senator, I know something about guns. I know what guns can do. »
Two decades later, after 20 children and six educators were killed in the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas issued a similar challenge to Mr.me Feinstein during a debate on a law that would have permanently banned guns.
“I’m not a sixth grader,” she retorted to Mr. Cruz, who was in his first term, a moment that later went viral. She added: “It’s very good that you want to lecture me on the Constitution. I appreciate. Just know that I’ve been here a long time.