Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Dianne Feinstein Has Passed Away

This news broke mere moments before we were set to make this post live. ABC's San Francisco affiliate, and shortly after that many other outlets, reported that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) died last night at the age of 90.

Feinstein was a legend in Washington and a trailblazer in politics, both as a woman and a Jew, not to mention being a kingmaker and queenmaker in her home state. Her general centrism did not sit well with some California Democrats, but it was just fine and dandy with the majority of them, as well as a fair number of independents and moderate Republicans, with the result that she collected more votes in her lifetime than any U.S. Senator in American history. The final chapter of her Senate career was not a highlight, of course, but she died with her boots on, which is clearly what she wanted to do.

Her replacement will be chosen by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA), who immediately has two tough judgment calls to make. The first is how quickly to name someone. Newsom wants to be respectful to someone who was not only a legend, but was a mentor of his. That said, given the situation with the budget, the Democrats are not in a great position to be one person down right now. Though it's possible that, out of respect to Feinstein's career, one of her longtime colleagues will agree to the arrangment that was once common, and withhold their vote to balance out her missing vote.

Newsom's second tough decision will be choosing a replacement. He's already said that he wants to pick a Black woman, and that he doesn't want to give anyone an undue advantage in next year's Senate race. That means a placeholder. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), who at 85 is also nearing the end of a long and successful career, would seem to be an obvious pick. If not her, then maybe L.A. mayor Karen Bass, who is 69. However, Bass just won that job after a tough campaign, and likely wouldn't want to give it up for a fairly brief Senate term.

In view of the fact that Feinstein first took office in 1992, over 30 years ago, there are millions of Californians who have never known a U.S. Senate without her. She will be well and rightfully honored in the next several days. Yehi zichra baruch—May her memory be a blessing. (Z)

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