UNITED STATES NEWS

The Dianne Feinstein they knew: Women of the Senate remember a tireless fighter and a true friend

Sep 29, 2023, 9:05 PM | Updated: Oct 4, 2023, 5:28 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — When Washington Sen. Patty Murray received a call early Friday morning that Sen. Dianne Feinstein had died, she immediately started calling her fellow female senators.

The Democrat’s first call was to Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who had worked with Feinstein almost as long as she had. Murray and Feinstein were elected in 1992 — “the year of the woman” — and Collins was elected just four years later. Murray then called several other female Senate colleagues, hastily arranging a tribute.

“My immediate response was my women Senate colleagues that have been her friends and her family for so long, and that we needed to be together on the floor.” Murray said in an interview in her Capitol office Friday afternoon.

They were all there when the Senate opened at 10 a.m., just hours after Feinstein had died at her home in Washington after serving more than three decades in the Senate. Standing near Feinstein’s Senate desk, now draped in black cloth, the senators — along with some of their male colleagues — described her indomitable, fierce intelligence, her impact on the Senate and her deep knowledge of every issue she touched. They talked about how she had paved the way for so many women as the first female mayor of San Francisco, one of California’s first two female senators and the first female chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

But the women also talked about their private times with Feinstein that were at odds with her tough public persona — how she would invite them out to dinners, how she would sometimes give them the clothes off her back, and how she brought them together for bipartisan gatherings as their ranks in the Senate grew from just a handful to one-quarter of the chamber. Several of them teared up as they spoke.

It was a peek into Feinstein’s friendships and also the private, collegial side of the Senate that the public rarely sees — and that has faded in recent years as Congress has become more partisan and divided. Feinstein often received criticism from the left flank for her bipartisanship.

“I think it’s important that people understand that here in the United States Senate, a place that can be so divisive at times, that true friendships actually exist,” said Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican.

Murkowski spoke about sharing dinners with Feinstein when the Senate would stay in town over a weekend and they weren’t able to fly home to their faraway states. She joked that Feinstein, always impeccably dressed, probably wouldn’t have approved of the shoes she was wearing.

As the senators spoke, Feinstein’s daughter Katherine watched from the gallery, sitting with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Members of California’s House delegation lined the back wall.

Collins said Feinstein held an engagement party for her before she was married more than a decade ago. She displayed a painting that Feinstein had painted for her that now hangs in her office “and will have a place of honor there always,” Collins said.

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said that when attending an event in San Francisco around 15 years ago, Feinstein invited her to stay the night at her mansion in the city. When Klobuchar woke up early the next morning, Feinstein summoned her to her room, where she was wearing fuzzy slippers — and reading a 200-page bill. She proceeded to quiz Klobuchar on the details.

“That was Dianne,” Klobuchar said, noting that the California Democrat had to work harder than everyone else as she rose up through politics at a time when there were so few women.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., also brought a drawing Feinstein had given her and wore red lipstick in her honor. Murray told a story about admiring one of Feinstein’s purses, and then receiving one in the mail from the California senator a few days later. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., said she was wearing shoes she said Feinstein had once admired.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, was wearing a scarf Feinstein had given her on the spot when she had told her she liked it.

“She just took it off and gave it to me,” Hirono said. “We had to be careful about admiring anything Dianne had, because she would likely take it off and give it to us.”

Wyoming Sen. Cynthia Lummis, a Republican, said Feinstein was “particularly kind to other women senators. She was the first to invite other women senators to dinner, to lead our gatherings and to focus our attention on things that are good for all Americans without regard to political ideology.”

Feinstein was one of the leaders and hosts of regular bipartisan dinners with all the women of the Senate, even as the group got a bit too large for them all to sit around one table and as the gatherings became a bit less frequent.

When eating with Feinstein, said Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Feinstein “would have a little parting gift for you, a little coin purse or something to show you just truly who she was.”

Speaking at an event Friday, former New York Sen. Hillary Clinton told her own story about a gathering at Feinstein’s home.

After she lost the Democratic presidential primary to Barack Obama in 2008, Clinton said, she called Feinstein when the two former opponents — and then-senators — wanted to talk privately and weren’t sure how to do so without attracting attention. Clinton said she and Obama ended up in Feinstein’s living room, talking about what Clinton would do to support the future president while Feinstein would occasionally pop in, asking if they wanted more Chardonnay.

“I had total trust in her,” Clinton said at The Atlantic Festival in Washington.

For Murray and Collins, one of the places where they had worked most closely with Feinstein was on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which Murray now leads with Collins as the top Republican. The three women served together for decades on the committee, which is known for its bipartisanship.

One of the female senators Murray contacted Friday morning was Alabama Sen. Katie Britt, a first-term Republican and former staffer on the Appropriations Committee. Britt texted back that Feinstein had blazed a trail for her, along with Murray, and asked to sit with the other women senators on the floor during the tribute. “My heart is so sad,” Britt texted her.

Murray said the text brought her to tears.

“There was a side of Dianne that most people probably never saw, which all of us who are so lucky to be her friends here saw,” Murray said.

On the Senate floor, Murray teared up again as she recalled seeing Feinstein there just Thursday, casting her last vote.

“I’m so sorry I didn’t hug her when she went back out that door yesterday,” Murray said.

United States News

Associated Press

There was a fatal shooting at this year’s ‘Jeep Week’ event on Texas Gulf Coast. Here’s what to know

CRYSTAL BEACH, Texas (AP) — A popular event drew tens of thousands of visitors over the weekend to Texas Gulf Coast beaches, where a fatal shooting erupted and nearly 300 people were arrested, authorities said Monday. Three separate shootings were reported Saturday on the Bolivar Peninsula during the annual “Jeep Week” event, including one that […]

54 minutes ago

Associated Press

Bankruptcy judge approves Genesis Global plan to refund $3 billion to creditors, crypto customers

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A bankruptcy court judge has approved a plan by the cryptocurrency lender Genesis Global to return about $3 billion to its creditors and investors, including thousands of people who New York regulators say were defrauded by the company. The plan and settlement approved Friday by Judge Sean H. Lane includes up […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Billionaire rains cash on UMass graduates to tune of $1,000 each, but says they must give half away

MEREDITH, N.H. (AP) — The clouds weren’t alone in making it rain on the commencement ceremony at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth last week. On stage, billionaire philanthropist Rob Hale surprised the graduating class of more than 1,000 by pointing to a nearby truck holding envelopes stuffed with cash. Huddling under ponchos and umbrellas at […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

California county’s farm bureau sues over state monitoring of groundwater

HANFORD, Calif. (AP) — A lawsuit has been filed over California’s decision to take over monitoring groundwater use in part of the fertile San Joaquin Valley under a landmark law aimed at protecting the vital resource. The Kings County Farm Bureau and two landowners filed a lawsuit last week over a decision by the State […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Judge rules Ohio law that keeps cities from banning flavored tobacco is unconstitutional

An Ohio law prohibiting cities from banning the sale of flavored tobacco products is unconstitutional, a judge has ruled. The state is expected to appeal the ruling issued Friday by Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Mark Serrott, who had issued a temporary restraining order in April that stopped the law from taking effect. The […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

University of California academic workers strike to stand up for pro-Palestinian protesters

SANTA CRUZ, California (AP) — Graduate students at the University of California, Santa Cruz walked off their jobs and went on strike Monday, the first campus to do so as part of a systemwide protest against a public university they say has violated the speech rights of pro-Palestinian advocates. United Auto Workers Local 4811 represents […]

5 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

The Dianne Feinstein they knew: Women of the Senate remember a tireless fighter and a true friend