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Dianne Goldman Berman Feinstein (/ˈfaɪnstaɪn/; born Dianne Emiel Goldman; June 22, 1933 – September 29, 2023) was a prominent American political figure who held the position of United States Senator from California from 1992 until her passing in 2023. She was a stalwart member of the Democratic Party and previously served as the Mayor of San Francisco from 1978 to 1988.
A native of San Francisco, Feinstein graduated from Stanford University in 1955. Her political journey commenced with her election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1969, where she swiftly assumed the role of the board’s first female president in 1970. Notably, in 1978, while serving as president of the board for the third time, Feinstein found herself in the spotlight following the tragic assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk. She stepped into the role of mayor, marking the first time a woman had held the position in San Francisco’s history. During her tenure, she spearheaded the revitalization of the city’s iconic cable car system and managed the 1984 Democratic National Convention. Despite a recall attempt in 1983, Feinstein remained a beloved mayor and was acclaimed as the most effective mayor in the nation by City & State in 1987.
Following an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in 1990, Feinstein secured election to the U.S. Senate in a special election in 1992. In November of that year, she became California’s first female U.S. senator, and shortly thereafter, she ascended to the position of the state’s senior senator when Alan Cranston retired in January 1993. Feinstein’s popularity was evident through her reelection five times, with her receiving a record 7.86 million votes in the 2012 election, the highest number ever garnered by a U.S. Senate candidate.
Feinstein’s legislative accomplishments included authoring the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban and breaking gender barriers as the first woman to chair both the Senate Rules Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee. She also made history as the first woman to preside over a U.S. presidential inauguration. Feinstein chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee from 2009 to 2015 and served as the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee from 2017 to 2021.
During her later years in office, concerns about her mental fitness to serve arose as her health declined with age. In February 2023, Feinstein announced her decision not to seek reelection in 2024. Sadly, she passed away in office on September 29, 2023, at the age of 90. At the time of her passing, Feinstein held several distinctions, including being the oldest sitting U.S. senator and member of Congress. She also held the record as the longest-serving U.S. senator from California and the longest-serving female senator in U.S. history.
Among Senator Feinstein’s many legislative accomplishments:
Environment and natural resources
Fuel Economy Standards - Increasing fleetwide fuel economy standards for cars, trucks and SUVs by at least 10 miles per gallon over 10 years or from 25 mpg to 35 mpg by Model Year 2020 – the largest increase in more than two decades, and the first Congressional action on global warming. Her bipartisan legislation ultimately led the Obama administration to put in place a mandate for a fleetwide 54.5 miles-per-gallon requirement by model year 2020.
California Desert Protection - Protecting more than 7 million acres of pristine California desert, the largest such designation in the history of the continental United States. She was also a vocal champion for the creation of three new national monuments, safeguarding millions of additional acres.
Lake Tahoe Restoration - Passed two bills to preserve and restore this treasured natural resource, a total of $715 million in federal funds to match investments by California, Nevada and local authorities.
CALFED - Authorizing $395 million for a balanced program to increase California’s water supply, reliability and quality and help restore sensitive water ecosystems.
Healthy Forests - Reducing the risk of catastrophic fire in our forests by expediting the thinning of hazardous fuels and providing the first legal protection for old-growth forests in our nation’s history.
Headwaters Forest Agreement - Obtaining funding and brokering agreement to save the “Headwaters Forest,” a 7,500-acre national treasure and the largest privately held stand of uncut old-growth redwoods.
San Francisco Bay Wetlands Restoration - Negotiating public-private purchase of 16,500 acres of salt ponds along the San Francisco Bay - the largest such wetlands restoration project in California history.
Revitalizing the Senate Intelligence Committee - After becoming chairman of the committee in 2009, Senator Feinstein oversaw the enactment of six consecutive intelligence authorization bills following a five-year drought. The committee also released a bipartisan review of the Benghazi attacks.
Reviewing CIA Use of Torture - Senator Feinstein oversaw a six-year review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, culminating in the December 2014 release of the report’s executive summary.
FISA as the exclusive means for domestic electronic surveillance - Requiring the federal government to follow the requirements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) when conducting electronic surveillance of American citizens for foreign intelligence purposes.
Border Security and Visa Entry Reform - Helping prevent terrorists from entering the United States through loopholes in our immigration system.
Criminalization of Border Tunnels - Closed a loophole in federal law by criminalizing the act of constructing or financing a tunnel or subterranean passage across an international border into the United States.
Protecting America’s Seaports - Securing our nation’s 361 seaports from terrorism and organized crime through the creation of new criminal offenses.
Crime and justice
Assault Weapons Ban - Prohibiting the manufacture and sale of 19 types of military-style assault weapons from 1994-2004.
Crime Victims’ Rights - Giving victims of violent crime a core set of procedural rights under federal law and ensuring that they have standing to assert their rights before a court.
Combat Meth Act - Giving law enforcement the tools needed to combat the spread of methamphetamine by restricting the sale of products necessary to cook methamphetamine and authorizing $585 million for enforcement, training, and research into meth treatment.
National AMBER Alert Network - Creating nationwide AMBER Alert communications network to help law enforcement find abducted children.
Phthalate Ban - Protecting children from harmful phthalates chemicals in toys using the precautionary principle.
Internet Pharmacies - Banning rogue Internet pharmacies from selling drugs without prescriptions.
Breast Cancer Research Stamp - Raising more than $81 million for breast cancer research.
Senator Feinstein’s career has been one of firsts. She was the first woman president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the first woman mayor of San Francisco, the first woman elected Senator of California, the first woman member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the first woman to chair the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, the first woman to chair the Senate Intelligence Committee and the first woman to serve as ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
A native of San Francisco, Senator Feinstein served for nine years as a San Francisco County Supervisor, starting in 1969. She became mayor of San Francisco in 1978 following the assassination of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.
The following year she was elected to the first of two four-year terms. As mayor, Dianne Feinstein managed the city’s finances with a firm hand, balancing nine budgets in a row. In 1987, City and State Magazine named her the nation’s “Most Effective Mayor.”
As a senator, Dianne Feinstein has received a number of awards for her service including the 2017 Legislative Leadership Award from the Association of California Water Agencies, the 2016 Ansel Adams Award from The Wilderness Society, the 2014 Beacon Prize from Human Rights First, the 2012 Outstanding International Public Service Award from the World Affairs Council, the 2007 Legislator of the Year award from the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association, the 2007 Charles Dick Medal of Merit from the California National Guard, the 2006 Grammy on the Hill Award from the Recording Academy, the 2006 Congressional Leader of the Year Award from the League of California Cities, the 2006 William Penn Mott Jr. Park Leadership Award from National Parks Conservation Association, the 2005 Outstanding Member of the U.S. Senate Award from the National Narcotic Officers Associations Coalition, the 2004 Funding Hero Award from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the 2004 Women of Achievement Award from the Century City Chamber of Commerce and the 2001 Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service.
Senator Dianne Feinstein Political Career
Senator Dianne Feinstein started her political career as a fellow at the San Francisco’s Coro Foundation from 1955 to 1956. She became the San Francisco Board of Supervisors president in 1978 after two unsuccessful attempts to become the Mayor. But, Feinstein became San Francisco’s city mayor after the assassination of Mayor Moscone.
After losing her governorship race in 1990, she won a special election to the U.S. Senate in 1992. Then, she became the first female U.S. Senator. This was after Pete Wilson resigned from the U.S. senate. She was re-elected five times in 1994, 2000, 2006, 2012, and 2018.
She has filed the initial Election Commission paperwork needed for re-election in 2024. She is California’s longest-serving Senator and also oldest sitting senator at age 88.
Senator Dianne Feinstein Achievements
Senator Dianne Feinstein has built her reputation in U.S. politics as a strong and independent voice. She has worked hard to find solutions to problems facing Californians.
Since she was elected in 1992, Dianne has recorded a significant legislative achievement. She secured billions of dollars for the development of the Californian community. She also contributed to the improvement of tech and healthcare across the U.S.
Among her notable legislative achievements was her quest for the enaction of stricter gun control laws. To improve security, she wrote and passed a 10-year ban on assault weapons in 1994. She also continues to be an advocate of proper gun laws.
Dianne created the national AMBER Alert Network aimed at finding abducted children. She is one of the few running senators that voted for authorizing the Iraq war in 2002.
Feinstein sponsored the Desert Protection Act. Regarded as the largest designation in the U.S., the act protected more than 7 million acres of land. This act also aided the creation of three national parks in the Californian Desert.
Dianne was a leading voice in the legalization of gay marriage. She also voted against the Defense of Marriage act to ensure rights for the LGBT community.
While serving as a top Democrat at the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dianne reformed criminal law, immigration, and civil rights. She also worked hard to strengthen national security. She also fought for the prohibition of human, sex, and drug abuse and trafficking.
Senator Dianne Feinstein Criticisms
Feinstein’s age has been a question in her political effectiveness. She was rumored to have a diminished short-term memory. While interrogating Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in 2020, Feinstein asked him the same question twice without realizing it.