Dianne Feinstein was considered a trailblazer of women's political issues
Dianne Feinstein, whose three decades in the US Senate made her the longest-serving female senator in history, has died at the age of 90, it has been confirmed by a family member.
Initial reports have not yet indicated the cause of death.
Feinstein, who had for several months faced questions about the state of her health, was the oldest member of the US Senate and had last taken part in a vote as recently as Thursday.
In April, the former San Francisco mayor was admitted to the hospital after experiencing what was referred to as a "minor fall" in her home.
Feinstein had indicated her intention to retire at the end of next year but resisted calls from fellow lawmakers to step down amid growing concerns about her ability to perform her role.
Following the announcement of her planned retirement next year, US President Joe Biden called Feinstein a "passionate defender of civil liberties" and commended her for her "strong voice for national security policies that keep us safe while honoring our values."
Feinstein's death will give California Governor Gavin Newsom an opportunity to appoint a replacement to serve the remainder of Feinstein's term. In March of 2021, Newsom said that he had identified "multiple" potential replacements and suggested that he intended to appoint a black woman to the role.
The 90-year-old had been absent from the US Capitol for almost three months earlier this year following a diagnosis of shingles. Feinstein assumed a lighter work role upon her return to the legislature and was frequently seen using a wheelchair in Washington. The elderly Feinstein was often accused of displaying confusion during interviews and in committee hearings or votes in the latter part of her political career.
A report published by the San Francisco Chronicle in April 2022 contained comments from anonymous Democratic colleagues who expressed concerns about Feinstein's mental acuity. In response, Feinstein said that her ability to govern remained strong but acknowledged that she was experiencing an "extremely painful and distracting period" as her husband, the late financier Richard Blum, fought cancer.