Unfortunately, California’s Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein has passed away at the age of 90.
The trail-blazing Feinstein had faced mounting health problems in recent years; her replacement will be selected by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.). Feinstein already announced she would not run for reelection in 2024, and the race for her seat is already underway.
In 1992, Feinstein made history as the first woman elected to represent California in the Senate. She quickly rose to become one of the most influential figures in the Capitol. In her role as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, she engaged in a heated dispute with the Obama administration regarding the confidential report on the CIA’s use of torture after the September 11th attacks. Her leadership commanded admiration from members of both the Republican and Democratic parties.
According to Sen. Thom Tillis, who served with her on the Judiciary Committee, she was a highly effective legislator due to her ability to collaborate with members from both parties in a genuine effort to address intricate issues.
Feinstein was also a renowned proponent of gun safety legislation. As fellow advocate Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said on Friday morning: “For a long time, between 1994 and the tragedy in Newtown in 2012, Dianne was often a lonely but unwavering voice on the issue of gun violence.”
Three Democratic representatives from California, namely Adam Schiff, Katie Porter, and Barbara Lee, are currently vying for the six-year term in the 2024 election. The individual chosen to temporarily replace Feinstein will remain in office until next year, and Governor Newsom’s decision is bound to create tension and distance within the community.
Governor Newsom previously promised to choose a Black woman for his second Senate appointment. However, he has now stated that if Senator Feinstein does not fulfill her term, he will instead choose a temporary senator instead of candidate Barbara Lee, who is running for Feinstein’s seat. Lee strongly criticized Newsom for this decision.
Following her successful reelection for a fifth term as senator in 2018, Feinstein encountered health issues. As a result, she resigned from her position as the leading Democrat on the Judiciary Committee and declined to serve as Senate pro tempore, which would have put her in the line of succession for the presidency.
However, despite a prolonged absence due to a shingles diagnosis earlier this year, Feinstein has resumed her duties in Washington and continues to support President Joe Biden’s choices for the judiciary, both in voting and during Senate sessions. She voted in favor of moving forward with an important spending bill on Thursday morning, but was unable to attend two votes in the afternoon.
The passing of the individual, as confirmed by two sources familiar with the matter, reduces the effective majority of Senate Democrats to 50 votes, while Republicans maintain 49 votes. Two additional Democratic senators have contracted Covid this week, and the majority of the caucus is urging Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who is facing charges, to step down.
There has been no statement released by Feinstein’s office regarding her passing.
Jennifer Haberkorn and Jeremy B. White made contributions.