No matter how you may have seen her time in the Senate, California’s Democratic leader and institution, Dianne Feinstein, was a pillar of democracy here in the US. First elected to the Senate in 1992, and before that was a San Francisco County Supervisor and later Mayor. Her dedication to the people of San Francisco was nothing short of legendary, and right or wrong, she stuck to her guns.
As her website biography rightfully boasts, “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 and first woman ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the first woman to chair the Senate Rules and Administration Committee and the first woman to chair the Senate Intelligence Committee.”
Her role in the Assault Weapons Ban in 1994 is one of her most controversial and most remembered moments. While many still debate the narratives of her argument almost 30 years later, you cannot argue the legacy it has left. For many a conservative, she was one of the fiercest fighters they would ever encounter on Capital Hill.
She also challenged the CIA to use appropriate techniques, even when dealing with the most heinous criminals on the planet. The six-year review of those techniques was completed in 2014 and eliminated certain post-9/11 tactics that many had been using to get forced confessions from people. These “extreme” tactics ruffled the feathers of many countries across the globe, never the least leaving the tactics of al Qaeda up for discussion.
Sen. Feinstein had declined the idea of taking the president pro tempore, meaning she would be the most senior member of the majority party. While it was her title and duty to have, she declined it. As the oldest member of the Senate, she had earned it. Given her signing over power of attorney to her daughter earlier this year, many wondered if she should have stepped down then. Now she’s passed, and her role will leave some big shoes to quickly fill.