The nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. As soon as she learned that Sen. Dianne Feinstein had passed away early Friday morning, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington began contacting her fellow female senators.
Susan Collins, a Republican senator who had worked with Feinstein for nearly as long as she had, received the Democrat’s initial contact. Murray, Feinstein, and Collins were elected in 1992, dubbed “the year of the woman” Collins was elected president four years later. Murray expeditiously organized a tribute by contacting a number of her female Senate colleagues.
My initial thought was of the female senators who have been her longtime companions and family, and how we needed to be on the floor together. Murray stated during an interview on Capitol Hill on Friday afternoon. They were all present when the Senate convened at 10 a.m., just hours after Feinstein passed away at her residence in Washington after more than three decades of service.
The senators, along with some of their male colleagues, gathered close to Feinstein’s now-draped-in-black-cloth Senate desk and discussed how she had paved the way for a great number of 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.
In contrast to her stern public image, the women discussed their personal interactions with Feinstein. They described how she would invite them to dinner parties, occasionally give them the clothes off her back, and bring the women in the Senate together for bipartisan gatherings as their numbers grew from a handful to a quarter of the chamber. As they spoke, a number of them began to weep.
It was a view into Feinstein’s friendships and the secretive, camaraderie-filled side of the Senate that the public rarely sees and which has diminished in recent years as Congress has become more polarized and divided. Feinstein has encountered opposition from the left due to her partisanship.
Lisa Murkowski, a senator from Alaska and a member of the Republican Party, stated, “It’s imperative that people recognize that genuine alliances exist in the United States Senate, a place that can at times be so contentious. Murkowski mentioned having banquets with Feinstein when the Senate spent the weekend in town and they were unable to fly back to their remote home states.
She joked that Feinstein, who was typically well-groomed, probably would not have approved of the shoes she was wearing. Katherine Feinstein, who was seated next to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, observed the senators’ remarks from the gallery. The rear wall was lined with the California House delegation.
Collins asserted that Feinstein threw her an engagement party prior to her marriage more than a decade ago. She presented Feinstein’s painting to her, which is currently displayed in her office. Collins stated that the painting “will have a place of honor there forever.”
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, claimed Feinstein invited her to spend the night at her residence in San Francisco when she attended an event there approximately 15 years ago. When Klobuchar awoke early the following morning, Feinstein summoned her to her room, where she was perusing a 200-page bill while wearing fuzzy slippers. She then demanded information from Senator Klobuchar.
At a period when there were so few women in politics, Klobuchar remarked, “That was Dianne,” pointing out that the California Democrat had to labor more than anybody else to advance.
New York Democrat Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand honored Feinstein by donning red lipstick and bringing a sketch she had received from Feinstein. Murray recalled admiring one of Feinstein’s purses and receiving one from the California senator shortly thereafter. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-New Hampshire) asserted that Feinstein had once admired her sandals.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) was wearing a scarf that Feinstein had given her as soon as she discovered she enjoyed it.
“She just took it off and gave it to me,” Hirono remarked. Dianne would likely steal everything we admired and give it to us, so we had to exercise caution.
Cynthia Lummis, a Wyoming Republican senator, asserted that Feinstein was “particularly kind to other women senators.” She was the first female senator to host a dinner for other female senators, to lead our meetings, and to direct our attention to issues that benefit all Americans regardless of political ideology.
Feinstein was one of the organizers and hosts of regular bipartisan meals with all the women of the Senate, even as the group grew too large to accommodate around a single table and the events became a little less frequent.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat from Nevada, remarked that Feinstein “would have a small parting gift for you, like a coin purse or something to show you who she was.”
Former New York senator Hillary Clinton spoke at a meeting on Friday and recounted her personal experience at Feinstein’s home.
After Barack Obama won the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, Clinton claimed she called Feinstein because the two former rivals, who were senators at the time, wanted to speak privately but had no place to do so. Clinton claimed that they ultimately discussed how she would support Obama in Feinstein’s living room, with Feinstein periodically inquiring if they desired more Chardonnay.
Clinton stated at The Atlantic Festival in Washington, “I had complete faith in her.”
Katie Britt, a former member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a Republican senator from Alabama, was one of the female senators Murray met with on Friday morning. Britt responded to the text message by stating that Feinstein had paved the way for her and requesting a seat on the floor with the other female senators during the tribute. Britt texted, “My heart is so broken.
Murray stated that the text moved her to tears.
Murray added that those of us who were privileged enough to be Dianne’s friends witnessed a side of her that most people probably never saw.
Murray started crying again on the Senate floor as she recalled seeing Feinstein there on Thursday casting her final vote.
Murray continued, “I’m so regretful I didn’t give her a hug yesterday when she left through that door.