Mrs. Feinstein’s death was confirmed Friday by the Associated Press, which cited three people “familiar with the situation.” She was the oldest sitting member of the Senate and the subject of increasing scrutiny over her fitness to serve. Mrs. Feinstein was hospitalized in February with shingles, an illness later reported to have been complicated by encephalitis.
She returned to the Senate in May after a nearly three-month absence. Her inability during that time to vote on Biden administration judicial nominees, along with gathering evidence of her cognitive decline, led even some admirers to urge the senator to resign to avoid tarnishing what was by all accounts a remarkable legacy as a stateswoman. In August she was briefly hospitalized after a fall at her home in San Francisco.
At 90, she was the oldest member of the Senate and the longest-serving Senator from California (she had served six terms since 1992). She had also been mayor of San Francisco for a decade before going to Congress. Feinstein was a reliable Democratic centrist, and although criticized for not paying enough attention to women’s issues, and lately for not resigning in view of her age, she’s still an icon to Democrats. Her most well known achievement was getting the Federal Assault Weapons Ban passed in 1994. Sadly, it expired in 2004, and it’s not clear that it was efficacious.
Feinstein was in the last year of her current term, and had announced she would not run for re-election in the fall of 2024. What will happen now is that Californa governor Gavin Newsom, with the assent of the California legislature, will appoint a one-year replacement. He’s a Democrat, so we don’t have to worry.