Biden, other political leaders honor Sen. Dianne Feinstein's legacy

Feinstein served in the Senate for over 30 years.

September 29, 2023, 12:41 PM

President Joe Biden and other political leaders paid tribute to Sen. Dianne Feinstein's legacy Friday following her death Thursday night.

Biden, who served alongside Feinstein in the Senate for over a decade, said the California Democrat was a "pioneering American" and a "true trailblazer."

"She's made history in so many ways, and our country will benefit from her legacy for generations. ... Dianne was tough, sharp, always prepared, and never pulled a punch, but she was also a kind and loyal friend, and that's what Jill and I will miss the most," Biden said in a statement released by the White House on Friday.

Biden also began his remarks at a retirement ceremony for outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley by remembering Feinstein as a "historic figure, a trailblazer for women and a great friend."

"Dianne made her mark on everything from national security to the environment, gun safety to protecting civil liberties. The country's going to miss her dearly, and so will Jill and I," he said.

Milley early in his remarks took a moment to "acknowledge the tremendous service of Senator Feinstein."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who also worked with Feinstein in the Senate for decades, at varying points seemed to choke back tears as he memorialized Feinstein, "one of the most amazing people to ever grace the Senate," in floor remarks Friday morning.

"She was smart and strong. She was brave. She was compassionate, but maybe the trait that stood out most of all was her amazing integrity. Her integrity was a diamond. Her integrity shone like a beacon across the Senate and across the country," he said.

He appeared to fight back tears as he concluded his remarks.

"We're comforted in knowing how many mountains Dianne moved, how many lives she impacted, how many glass ceilings she shattered along the way," Schumer said. "America is a better place because of Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Today I join with our colleagues in mourning our beloved friend and colleague," he added.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also memorialized a person he said was a close personal friend of his.

"Those of us who were fortunate to call Dianne our colleague are safe to say we served along the longest serving female Senator in history," McConnell said. "Dianne was a trailblazer and her home state of California and our entire nation is better for her dogged advocacy and diligent service."

Sens. Patty Murray, Susan Collins, Dick Durbin and Lisa Murkowski also rose to memorialize Feinstein, 90.

The American flag at the U.S. Capitol flies at half staff in honor of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who died overnight at her Washington home at the age of 90, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 29, 2023.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who worked alongside Feinstein during her Senate career, said Feinstein was "absolutely fearless, but also very open."

“Well, I was, yes, a friend but also a great admirer of Dianne Feinstein. She was an extraordinary public servant and political leader, first in California, well, first in San Francisco, then California and obviously, in our country. I just -- I saw her as somebody who was a true trailblazer because of her devotion to finding solutions to problems,” Clinton said at The Atlantic Festival in Washington, D.C. on Friday.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who will be tasked with appointing a temporary successor to hold Feinstein's seat ahead of the 2024 election, called the late senator "a leader in times of tragedy and chaos."

"She was a political giant, whose tenacity was matched by her grace. 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," he said.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a Feinstein ally who steadfastly defended her decision not to step down as Senate colleagues urged her to resign, rose on the House floor Friday to "speak with great sadness and emotion about the loss of our great senator, our senior senator from California, Senator Dianne Feinstein."

"Her legacy will be a long one that we will all be inspired by," she added, apparently holding back tears before the House held a moment of silence for Feinstein.

ABC News' Oren Oppenheim contributed to this report.