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President Biden, Gov. Newsom, others react to death of Sen. Dianne Feinstein

Dianne Feinstein
Posted at 8:36 AM, Sep 29, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-29 13:40:30-04

(CNS) – President Joe Biden, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria were among the many politicians who offered their condolences following the passing of Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Friday.

Feinstein, who was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992, died at her Washington D.C., home on Friday at age 90, her staff confirmed.

Feinstein was the senior senator from California and one of the first two women elected to the U.S. Senate from California.

"Dianne Feinstein, right from the start, was an icon for women in politics," former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told ABC News.

Feinstein was the first woman mayor of San Francisco and the first woman president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Feinstein was born in San Francisco on June 22, 1933, and graduated from Stanford University in 1955. She was elected to the U.S. Senate for the first time in 1992, joining Barbara Boxer.

"Sadly, Senator Feinstein passed away last night at her home in Washington, D.C. Her passing is a great loss for so many, from those who loved and cared for her to the people of California that she dedicated her life to serving," James Sauls, chief of staff to Feinstein, said in a statement.

"Senator Feinstein never backed away from a fight for what was just and right. At the same time, she was always willing to work with anyone, even those she disagreed with, if it meant bettering the lives of Californians or the betterment of our nation."

President Biden said in a joint statement with first lady Jill Biden that Feinstein was a pioneering American. "A true trailblazer. And for Jill and me, a cherished friend."

"In San Francisco, she showed enormous poise and courage in the wake of tragedy, and became a powerful voice for American values. Serving in the Senate together for more than 15 years, I had a front row seat to what Dianne was able to accomplish. It's why I recruited her to serve on the Judiciary Committee when I was Chairman -- I knew what she was made of, and I 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. 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," Biden said.

"Often the only woman in the room, Dianne was a role model for so many Americans -- a job she took seriously by mentoring countless public servants, many of whom now serve in my administration. She had an immense impact on younger female leaders for whom she generously opened doors. Dianne was tough, sharp, always prepared, and never pulled a punch, but she was also a kind and loyal friend, and that's what Jill and I will miss the most."

Gov. Newsom issued the following statement on Feinstein:

“Dianne Feinstein was many things – a powerful, trailblazing U.S. Senator; an early voice for gun control; a leader in times of tragedy and chaos. But to me, she was a dear friend, a lifelong mentor, and a role model not only for me, but to my wife and daughters for what a powerful, effective leader looks like.

She was 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. And she was a fighter — for the city, the state and the country she loved. Every race she won, she made history, but her story wasn’t just about being the first woman in a particular political office, it was what she did for California, and for America, with that power once she earned it. That’s what she should be remembered for.

There is simply nobody who possessed the strength, gravitas, and fierceness of Dianne Feinstein. Jennifer and I are deeply saddened by her passing, and we will mourn with her family in this difficult time.”

San Diego Mayor Gloria stated:

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Senator Feinstein was a trailblazer, breaking down barriers for women in politics and serving the public for over 50 years. Her career was marked by a tireless commitment and unwavering dedication to the betterment of our nation. Her advocacy on critical issues such as gun safety, women’s rights, environmental protection and healthcare reform reflected her deep concern for the welfare of her fellow Californians and all Americans.

As a former mayor, Senator Feinstein was always a champion for cities in the Senate. San Diego was fortunate to have her as our representative in Washington, and our city is a better place because of her.

Today, San Diego joins the nation in mourning Senator Feinstein’s passing, but we are filled with immense gratitude for her service and all she has done for our city, state, and nation. Godspeed, Senator.”

Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins said:

“California – and our nation – has lost an incredible leader who dedicated her career and life to public service, and opened doors for women in politics. We are fortunate to have benefitted from Senator Feinstein’s courage, strength, and governance for so many years – her legacy is one of a class few can hope to match.”

San Diego-based Rep. Sara Jacobs issued this statement:

“My thoughts and prayers are with Senator Feinstein’s family and loved ones today. Senator Feinstein paved the way for so many women to enter and succeed in public service, helping to break into the ‘boys club of politics’ and change the mold of who we think is ‘ready’ and ‘capable’ of leadership. I feel so grateful to have grown up in California, where we had two strong female senators who normalized women being in power. Senator Feinstein always led from her heart and pushed our country to live up to its values and protect the most vulnerable, especially children and the LGBTQ+ community. From passing the federal assault weapons ban to establishing the Amber Alert network to fighting for marriage equality, she always sought to make our communities safer, fairer, and more just. Her legacy will live on far beyond the halls of Congress and inspire little girls everywhere that they’re enough and they can do anything.”

San Diego County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer cited Feinstein as one of her inspirations to become involved in politics.

"At a young age, I had the honor of meeting Senator Dianne Feinstein and it was a life-changing experience for me. Senator Feinstein built a legacy that will forever be remembered," she said. "We all should take a moment to reflect on the trails she blazed for so many of us to follow and further. Senator Feinstein will be sorely missed, but never forgotten."

U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu posted on social media that "California and the country lost a barrier-breaker and an icon."

"Through grit, grace and incredible intelligence, she succeeded in politics at a time when few women could. She paved the way for a historic number of women to have a seat at the table and a voice in Congress," Lieu, a Democrat who represents the 36th District in Congress, posted on social media.

"I am grateful to have known Senator Feinstein. It was an honor and a privilege to have worked with her on many issues impacting Californians -- including helping our veterans. She had an incredible career guided by a love of our country and American values. We're a better nation because of her leadership. I join her family, friends and our country in mourning her."

U.S. Congressman Robert Garcia posted on social media "Senator Dianne Feinstein was an icon who represented California valiantly throughout her career."

"Her legacy of progressive leadership on LGBTQ+ rights forged a path for a more equal country. She was a hero to our community and I'm incredibly saddened by this loss for our nation," Garcia, a Democrat represents the 42nd District in Congress, posted on social media.

Sauls called Feinstein a force of nature.

"There are few women who can be called senator, chairman, mayor, wife, mom and grandmother. Senator Feinstein was a force of nature who made an incredible impact on our country and her home state.

"She left a legacy that is undeniable and extraordinary. There is much to say about who she was and what she did, but for now, we are going to grieve the passing of our beloved boss, mentor and friend."

U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff said Feinstein's legacy is unmatched.

"Today, the nation has truly lost a giant of the U.S. Senate, California has lost its trail-blazing leader, and I lost a real friend and mentor. Senator Dianne Feinstein was one of the finest legislators we have ever seen, and her accomplishments made our country and world a better place," Schiff, a Democrat who represents the 28th District in Congress, said in a statement.

"Senator Feinstein single-handedly pushed an assault weapons ban over the finish line, and never gave up her fight to end gun violence. She fought powerful agencies to investigate and uncover torture -- and made sure it would never happen again. 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."

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said in a statement she was saddened by the passing of Feinstein and called her one of the nation's great leaders.

"Senator Feinstein was a trailblazer on whose shoulders I, and women in elected office all across America, will always stand. She worked harder than anyone I knew on Capitol Hill, and she will be remembered as one of the most effective and impactful Senators in American history," Bass said.

"Senator Feinstein's grit and heart enabled her to bring her city together after she was thrust into San Francisco's mayor's office in the wake of a horrific tragedy. She saved countless lives through her work to keep assault weapons off of our streets, and she was a patriot who boldly stood against the use of torture and, in doing so, reminded America what we are supposed to stand for. She loved all of California, and led landmark legislation to create Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park and protect millions of acres across our desert landscape representing the largest effort to protect public lands in the lower 48 states."

Bass said the flags flying at all city facilities will be lowered to half-staff in memory of Feinstein.

"May her memory be a blessing, as her life certainly was. I extend my deepest condolences to her family and to all who loved her," Bass said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated:

"We lost a giant in the Senate. Senator Dianne Feinstein was one of the most amazing people who ever graced the Senate, who ever graced the country. She had so many amazing qualities wrapped up in one incredible human being. She was smart. She was strong. She was brave. She was compassionate. But maybe the trait that stood out most of all was her amazing integrity."

Former President Barack Obama offered this statement:

"Dianne Feinstein will be rightly remembered as a trailblazer — the first woman to serve as mayor of San Francisco and the first woman elected to the Senate from California. But once she broke those barriers and walked through those doors, she got to work.

I first got to know Dianne in the Senate, where she was a fierce advocate for gun safety measures and civil rights. Later, when I was president, I came to rely on her as a trusted partner in the fight to guarantee affordable healthcare and economic opportunity for everyone.

The best politicians get into public service because they care about this country and the people they represent. That was certainly true of Dianne Feinstein, and all of us are better for it. Today Michelle and I are thinking of her daughter, Katherine, and everyone who knew and loved her."

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. said:

"Senator Feinstein was a political pioneer with a historic career of public service. Intelligent, hard working & always treated everyone with courtesy & respect. May God grant her eternal rest."

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. said:

"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. The modern anti-gun violence movement, now stronger than the gun lobby, would not exist but for Dianne."

Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif. said:

"It is with profound sadness that I bid farewell to my dear friend, colleague, and champion for the State of California, Senator Dianne Feinstein. Dianne Feinstein was a towering figure not just in modern California politics, but in the history of our state and our nation."

Feinstein was the first woman to chair the Senate Rules Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee. She authored the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 1994. The legislation, prompted by the 101 California Street shooting where a gunman opened fire at a law firm in San Francisco's financial district killing eight people, led to a 10-year restriction on the sale and ownership of certain semi-automatic weapons.

"I worked with Republican and Democrats alike," said Feinstein in an interview with CSPAN. "Ten Republicans along with 46 Democrats voted in favor of the amendment."

Feinstein was experiencing health problems in recent years. She was hospitalized with shingles in February 2023, when she was 89. That same month, Feinstein announced she would retire from the U.S. Senate when her term was up in 2024.

Feinstein was married three times and had one daughter, Katherine, from her first marriage. She married her third husband, investment banker Richard Blum, in 1980. They were married until his death from cancer in 2022.

Some of her more notable accomplishments in the U.S. Senate include creating a federal coordination of Amber Alerts, passing the California Desert Protection Act, which protected millions of acres of California deserts and created the Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks, reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act and authorized the Respect for Marriage Act in 2022 to ensure marriage equality into federal law.

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