(The Epoch Times)—The oldest member of Congress has died, according to sources. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has passed away at age 90, three people familiar with the situation said.
Her cause of death was not immediately conveyed. Ms. Feinstein’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Ms. Feinstein became a U.S. senator in 1992. She was reelected five times. Before her time in Washington, she was San Francisco’s mayor and a member of the city’s Board of Supervisors. Ms. Feinstein’s latest husband, Richard Blum, died in 2022.
Ms. Feinstein had been struggling with health issues. She was briefly hospitalized in August after a fall. She was cared for in a hospital for months after contracting shingles in March. Complications from the infection included Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, which can cause facial paralysis. When she returned to the Senate, she was being pushed around in a wheelchair.
Ms. Feinstein had handed over power of attorney to her daughter as part of a battle over Mr. Blum’s estate. The seat held by Ms. Feinstein will be temporarily filled by a person chosen by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat.
Under the U.S. Constitution, states have the power to fill vacancies that arise. Ms. Feinstein’s seat was already set to become vacant in early 2025, as she had opted not to run for another term.
The race for the seat includes U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). Republicans running include attorney Eric Early and businesswoman Sarah Sun Liew.
No Republican has represented California in the U.S. Senate since 1992. Democrats currently hold a majority in the Senate. With Feinstein, that majority was 51–49. Without her, it is 50–49. Congress is working on passing a new budget as a government shutdown looms.
History in Congress
Ms. Feinstein was praised Friday by colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
“Dianne Feinstein was a treasured friend to the Wyden family. She was an extraordinary advocate for San Francisco, for California, and for the West,” Sen. Ron Wyden (R-Ore.) said in a statement.
“Sen Feinstein did an outstanding job representing the people of California,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) added.
Ms. Feinstein helped craft a federal ban on some guns that was in place from 1994 to 2004.
She said her efforts to impose stricter regulations on gun ownership stemmed in part from the assassinations of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. Ms. Feinstein became the city’s mayor after Mr. Moscone was killed.
Ms. Feinstein rallied for approval of new gun control laws after the 2012 mass killing of people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012.
In Washington in 2021, Ms. Feinstein described America as “a gun-happy nation, and everybody can have their gun.”
“Unfortunately we’re not making the laws that could protect people in this kind of gun crimes,” she added, referring to a mass shooting in San Jose.
Ms. Feinstein was for years the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. During her tenure, the panel reported on how the CIA ran secret detention facilities outside America and interrogated suspected terrorists in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States. The report’s summary said that the CIA’s interrogation techniques in some cases “amount[ed] to torture.” The actual report has remained classified.
“The CIA’s actions are a stain on our values and our history,” Ms. Feinstein said at the time.
The CIA said the report “provided an incomplete and selective picture of what happened.”
Ms. Feinstein sometimes frustrated liberals by adopting moderate or hawkish positions that put her at odds with the left wing of the Democratic Party.
Ms. Feinstein defended the Obama administration’s expansive collection of Americans’ phone and email records as necessary for protecting the country, for example, even as other Democratic senators voiced protests in the wake of the collection’s exposure by National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
“It’s called protecting America,” Ms. Feinstein said then.
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Ms. Feinstein was also criticized for how she handled confirmation hearings for former President Donald Trump’s three Supreme Court picks, especially when she embraced Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) after confirmation hearings for Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
Ms. Feinstein stepped down as the top Democrat on the panel shortly afterward but remained on the committee.
Ms. Feinstein was born on June 22, 1933. She graduated from Stanford University in 1955, with a bachelor’s degree in history. She married young and was a divorced single mother of her daughter, Katherine, in 1960, at a time when such a status was still unusual.
In 1961, Ms. Feinstein was appointed by then-Gov. Pat Brown to the women’s parole board, on which she served before running for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
Ms. Feinstein’s second husband, Bert Feinstein, was 19 years older than she, but she described the marriage as “a 10” and kept his name even after his death from cancer in 1978. In 1980, she married Mr. Blum, an investment banker. Thanks to his wealth, she was one of the richest members of the Senate.
In addition to her daughter, Ms. Feinstein leaves behind a granddaughter and three stepchildren.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.