Dianne Feinstein hailed as a trailblazer after death at 90

Democratic and Republican colleagues of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), who represented California in the Senate for more than three decades, paid tribute to her Friday as a trailblazer and a public servant after she died Thursday night at age 90.

Addressing the chamber on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) opened with a moment of silence for Feinstein. A black cloth was draped over Feinstein’s desk, with a vase of white roses resting on top.

Schumer said Feinstein’s most striking trait was her integrity, which, he said, “shone like a beacon, across the Senate and across the country, for all to see and, hopefully, emulate.”

“Dianne didn’t just push down doors that were closed for women,” Schumer said. “She held them open for generations of women after her to follow her.”

Feinstein’s fellow senator from California, Alex Padilla (D), said his colleague “broke barriers.”

“Her leadership as the City of San Francisco’s first female mayor in the aftermath of the tragic assassination of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk showcased her unique ability to lead with grace and strength in the face of adversity,” Padilla said in a statement.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who previously served as House speaker, hailed Feinstein’s tenure as San Francisco’s mayor at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and her service as the first woman to lead the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“Her indomitable, indefatigable leadership made a magnificent difference for our national security and personal safety, the health of our people and our planet, and the strength of our Democracy,” Pelosi said in a statement.

Speaking on the House floor, Pelosi said Feinstein “left on her own terms” — a reference to calls from some, including admirers, for Feinstein to resign as evidence mounted of her cognitive decline.

Female senators, in particular, thanked Feinstein for paving the way for other women in politics.

“Dianne Feinstein was a force to be reckoned with. She was one of the most powerful voices in the Senate, and she blazed a trail for generations of women who followed her into elected office,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), wrote on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter. “I was so grateful to have her as my role model, my mentor, and a dear friend.”

President Biden, who served with Feinstein in the Senate, recalled recruiting her to serve on the chamber’s Judiciary Committee when he was chairman because he “wanted her on our team.”

“There’s no better example of her skillful legislating and sheer force of will than when she turned passion into purpose, and led the fight to ban assault weapons,” Biden said in a statement. “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.”

Vice President Harris, who represented California in the Senate alongside Feinstein, said Feinstein was a leader “when the cameras were on and when they were off.”

“In the tradition of so many great Senators from California, she was not only a leader for our state, but for our nation and our world,” Harris said in a statement. “Through her long career, Senator Feinstein worked across the aisle to help our nation live up to its promise.”

Feinstein had suffered serious health problems recently, leading to increased calls for her to resign. She was hospitalized in February with shingles and was then absent from the Senate for more than two months as she recovered from complications, including encephalitis, or swelling of the brain.

Upon her return to Congress in May, Feinstein said she had not fully recovered from the virus and would be working a lighter schedule. In hallway interviews at the Capitol, she appeared confused by questions at times and seemed to struggle with her vision and memory.

Feinstein voted on the Senate floor for the last time on Thursday.

On Friday, Feinstein’s Republican colleagues in the Senate praised her as a good colleague and a strong advocate for her constituents.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called her a “truly remarkable individual” in a speech on the chamber’s floor.

“You know how we all refer to each other as a friend from whatever state it is? Honestly, frequently, that’s not true. But Elaine and I were actual friends of Dick and Dianne,” McConnell said, referring to his wife and to Feinstein’s husband.

“She was an incredibly effective person at every line — at every level — and she was at all of those levels on the way to the Senate,” McConnell added.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said he most remembers working with Feinstein on water infrastructure legislation.

“I remember the hours and the nights that we would have to work to try to work through — and the challenges,” he said at a news conference. “We come from different parties. We have different philosophies, but we put our state first.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) praised Feinstein as “a strong and effective leader.” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said she “dedicated her life to public service.” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who is running for president, praised her “lasting legacy of service in the Senate.”

“Senator Dianne Feinstein was a strong woman who was gracious to all,” wrote Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.). “She was a liberal lion, and although we disagreed civilly on many issues, I always admired her determination and intellect.”

“Senator Dianne Feinstein was a trailblazer,” the Senate Republicans account on X said. “She leaves an indelible mark on the Senate and the country.”

Democratic politicians celebrated Feinstein’s legacy on policy issues, including gun violence prevention.

“From 1994, when she passed the Assault Weapons Ban as a first term Senator, until the tragedy in Newtown, Dianne Feinstein was a lonely voice fighting against gun violence,” wrote Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). “The modern anti-gun violence movement, now stronger than the gun lobby, would not exist but for Dianne.”

Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) said he was grateful to have worked with Feinstein on immigration policy.

“She passionately defended civil rights, was an ally to the LGBTQ community, and was a tireless champion for America’s children,” he added in a statement.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) called Feinstein “a political giant, whose tenacity was matched by her grace.”

“She broke down barriers and glass ceilings, but never lost her belief in the spirit of political cooperation,” he said in a statement.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D), who represents California in the House and is running for Feinstein’s Senate seat next year, said Feinstein’s “legacy is unmatched.”

“She fought powerful agencies to investigate and uncover torture — and made sure it would never happen again,” Schiff said in a statement. “She helped protect California’s natural beauty and preserve its lands for generations. And she always fought for LGBTQ rights and women’s equality throughout her career.”

Rep. Katie Porter (D), a fellow House member from California also in the Senate race, said Feinstein’s “leadership on gun violence prevention and anti-torture made our nation more just.”

“I wish her loved ones strength during this difficult time,” Porter wrote.

Paul Kane contributed to this report.

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