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From California to Capitol Hill, tributes to Dianne Feinstein flood in after her death

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California who was first elected in 1992, died Thursday at the age of 90.
Saul Loeb
AFP via Getty Images
Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California who was first elected in 1992, died Thursday at the age of 90.

Updated September 29, 2023 at 12:27 PM ET

Even as lawmakers worked to address a rapidly approaching government shutdown, many in Congress paused in mourning Friday. Remembrances flooded from both sides of the aisle in reaction to the death of Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

On the floors of the Senate and the House, proceedings paused as leaders took turns paying tribute to Feinstein, whose death was announced Friday morning. She was 90.

As a vase of white roses rested at Feinstein's seat, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer ticked off a list of Feinstein's legislative accomplishments: the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, her advocacy on marriage equality and climate justice.

"When you asked her how is she voting on something, [she would say] 'Let me study this issue before taking a position,'" Schumer said. "And when she came back — if she believes the cause of the vote was right and vital to many issues she cared about — she not only voted for it, there was no stopping her in getting it done."

In the House, House Rules Committee Chair Tom Cole, R-Okla., interrupted a meeting on stopgap funding bill to announce the reports of her death.

"I know many of us had the opportunity to deal with her, and certainly all of us, on both sides of the aisle, respected her," he said as he called for a moment of silence.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, recalled working with Feinstein on water legislation in the midst of the state's record-breaking drought in the mid-2010s. "I remember the hours, the nights that we would have to work to try to work through the challenges. We come from different parties, we have different philosophies — but we put our state first," he said, speaking to reporters at the Capitol.

Feinstein served in the Senate for more than 30 years. She was the longest-serving woman senator in history, and the first woman to serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

President Biden, who served alongside Feinstein in the Senate for more than 15 years, paid tribute to his former colleague in remarks at an event at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Va.

"She was a historic figure, a trailblazer for women, and a great friend. Dianne made her mark on everything from national security to the environment, to gun safety, to protecting civil liberties. The country will miss her dearly, and so will Jill and I," he said.

Earlier this year, Feinstein had faced calls to resign amid worrying signs about her memory. She resisted those calls, but also said she would not seek reelection in 2024.

Speaking on the House floor with a large group of colleagues gathered around her, fellow Californian Rep. Nancy Pelosi lauded that Feinstein "left on her own terms" after a career in which the senator had led with "great dignity, great effectiveness, and great leadership."

"Rather than talk about her, let us just pray that she rests in peace," Pelosi said as she called for a moment of silence in the Capitol.

Flags over the U.S. Capitol were lowered to half-staff, as were flags at city buildings in Los Angeles in Feinstein's home state of California.

"Senator Feinstein was a trailblazer on whose shoulders I, and women in elected office all across America, will always stand," said Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who now must appoint Feinstein's replacement, thanked her for her service to their state and hometown of San Francisco, where both served as mayor.

"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," Newsom said.

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Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.