Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Long-Serving Calif. Democrat, Dies at 90

Dianne Feinstein, a seasoned Democratic senator from California known for her gun control efforts and her involvement in the release of a report on the CIA’s questionable detention practices, passed away at age 90, as confirmed by various media sources on Friday.

Reports of her passing first emerged through Punchbowl news. There was no immediate statement from Feinstein’s office regarding the news.

A pioneer in Washington, Feinstein became the first female to lead the crucial Senate Intelligence Committee.

Her tenure in the Senate, spanning nearly 31 years, showcased a blend of moderate and liberal stances, occasionally facing criticism from the progressive wing of her party. She commenced her Senate journey in 1992 after securing victory in a special election, and was re-elected five times, solidifying her position as the longest-serving female senator.

Feinstein’s political trajectory was significantly influenced by her experiences with gun violence.

In 1978, following the tragic murders of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, she assumed the role of San Francisco’s mayor. She was serving as the president of the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors during the incident. Dan White, a previous supervisor, was responsible for the deadly shootings. Shockingly, Feinstein was nearby and discovered Harvey Milk’s bullet wound while trying to find his pulse.

This harrowing incident deeply affected Feinstein, propelling her to champion a federal prohibition on military-style assault weapons from 1994 to 2004. It’s worth noting that Moscone and Milk were murdered using a .38-caliber handgun.

In the aftermath of a 2021 mass shooting in California, Feinstein expressed her frustration over the country’s gun control laws, lamenting the continued loss of innocent lives. Following a horrific school shooting in Connecticut in 2012, she spearheaded an initiative for stricter gun control measures. Unfortunately, the proposed legislation faced vehement opposition and was defeated in the Senate.

Towards the end of her political journey, health concerns hindered Feinstein’s duties. She disclosed in February that she wouldn’t be running for re-election. An illness forced her to step back from Congress for several months.

As chair of the Intelligence Committee in 2014, Feinstein championed the disclosure of a report unveiling the CIA’s covert detainment and interrogations post the 9/11 attacks. She was firm in her stance against the agency’s unethical practices, urging the nation to confront these dark episodes and vow to prevent their recurrence.

Senator John McCain, who endured torture during his captivity in Vietnam, commended Feinstein’s brave stand.

In addition to her work on national security, Feinstein also made headlines with her defense of the U.S. surveillance programs revealed in 2013 by Edward Snowden. While she supported some measures during President George W. Bush’s term, she was also a critic, especially of unauthorized domestic surveillance.

Feinstein occasionally faced criticism from progressive Democrats who believed she was not sufficiently critical of Republicans. This sentiment was evident when she faced backlash for embracing Senator Lindsey Graham in 2020.

Born on June 22, 1933, in San Francisco, Feinstein pursued her education at Stanford University. Her early political career began with her election to the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors in 1969, eventually leading to her becoming the city’s first female mayor.

After an unsuccessful gubernatorial run in 1990, she was elected to the Senate in 1992, breaking barriers as California’s first female senator.

Feinstein married three times; her last marriage was to investment banker Richard Blum, who passed away in 2022.