As California’s senior Senator and the longest-serving woman senator ever, Dianne Feinstein has built a reputation as an independent voice, working hard to find commonsense solutions to problems facing California and the nation.
Since her election to the Senate in 1992, Senator Feinstein has built a significant record of legislative achievements across a wide range of issues.
Senator Feinstein led a bipartisan group of senators in passing legislation to drastically increase the fuel efficiency of cars. She was a leading voice in the effort to legalize gay marriage and ensure rights for LGBT Americans. She’s a champion for the preservation of the Mojave Desert, Lake Tahoe and California’s forests. She helped create the nationwide AMBER Alert network, passed bills to criminalize border drug tunnels and has long focused on improving California’s water infrastructure and reducing the threat of wildfires. She also continues to advocate for commonsense gun laws.
Among her most notable achievements are the enactment of the federal Assault Weapons Ban in 1994, a law that prohibited the sale, manufacture and import of military-style assault weapons that expired in 2014 and the six-year review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program that culminated in the 2014 release of the report’s executive summary and passage of legislation ensuring that certain post-9/11 interrogation methods are never used again.
Senator Feinstein authored the first major cybersecurity bill to be signed into law in years. She has been an aggressive opponent of sex trafficking and authored legislation to help prevent sex abuse of amateur athletes. And she is a vocal advocate for consumers, authoring bills to review chemicals in personal care products, ban chemicals in toys, crack down on rogue pharmacies and strengthen food safety.
In 2017, Senator Feinstein became the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee – the first woman to assume that role – where she helped shape policy on criminal law, national security, immigration, civil rights and the courts. She held that position until 2021.
Senator Feinstein was the first woman to chair the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, a position she held for six years beginning in 2009. During her tenure as chairman, Senator Feinstein oversaw the passage of six intelligence authorization bills – after five years without a single bill – and the release of a key bipartisan report on the Benghazi terrorist attacks. She remains a senior member of the committee.
Senator Feinstein is a senior member of the Appropriations Committee where she serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. She has secured billions of dollars for California communities, including critical transportation, water supply and federal building projects. She has worked with members of both parties to secure and safeguard spent nuclear waste and has used her seniority to oppose the development of new nuclear weapons and hold down the rapidly increasing costs of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
Two of Senator Feinstein’s consistent priorities have been combating wildfire and drought. She was a key figure in securing higher salaries for federal wildland firefighters to help with recruitment and retention and played a central role in securing additional aerial firefighting resources. She has also been very active in helping prepare for and alleviate drought, including securing passage of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act in 2016 that devoted significant federal resources to help modernize California’s water infrastructure and assist with ecosystem restoration and preservation of endangered fish species.
Her fourth committee assignment is on the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which she chaired during the 110th Congress. In that capacity, Senator Feinstein was the first woman to chair the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies and presided over the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009.
In addition to her committee assignments, Senator Feinstein is co-chairman of the National Security Working Group, co-chairman of the Senate Cancer Coalition and co-chairman of the Senate Women’s Caucus on Burma. Senator Feinstein also served as co-Chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control until 2021. She is also a member of the Anti-Meth Caucus, the Congressional Dairy Caucus and the Congressional Former Mayors Caucus. She has served as a member of the Aspen Strategy Group since 1997.
Among Senator Feinstein’s many legislative accomplishments:
Environment and natural resources
- Climate change - Increased fleetwide fuel economy standards for cars, trucks and SUVs by at least 10 mpg over 10 years, the largest increase in more than two decades and the first congressional action on global warming. Her bipartisan legislation ultimately led the Obama administration to put in place a mandate for a fleetwide 54.5 mpg requirement.
- California desert protection - Protected more than 7 million acres of pristine California desert, the largest such designation in the history of the continental United States. She was also a vocal champion for the creation of three new national monuments, safeguarding millions of additional acres.
- Lake Tahoe restoration - Passed two bills to preserve and restore this treasured natural resource, a total of $715 million in federal funds to match investments by California, Nevada and local authorities.
- Healthy forests - Reduced the risk of catastrophic fire in our forests by expediting the thinning of hazardous fuels and providing the first legal protection for old-growth forests in our nation’s history.
- Headwaters Forest agreement - Obtained funding and brokering agreement to save the “Headwaters Forest,” a 7,500-acre national treasure and the largest privately held stand of uncut old-growth redwoods.
- San Francisco Bay wetlands restoration - Negotiated a public-private purchase of 16,500 acres of salt ponds along the San Francisco Bay - the largest such wetlands restoration project in California history.
- Reviewing CIA use of torture - Oversaw a six-year review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, culminating in the December 2014 release of the report’s executive summary and subsequent legislation with Senator John McCain outlawing the use of torture.
- Revitalizing the Senate Intelligence Committee - Oversaw the enactment of six consecutive intelligence authorization bills following a five-year drought.
- FISA reform - Required the federal government to follow the requirements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) when conducting electronic surveillance of American citizens for foreign intelligence purposes.
- Border security and visa entry reform - Helped prevent terrorists from entering the United States through loopholes in the immigration system.
- Criminalization of border tunnels - Closed a loophole in federal law by criminalizing the act of constructing or financing a tunnel or subterranean passage across an international border into the United States.
- Protecting America’s seaports - Secured 361 seaports from terrorism and organized crime through the creation of new criminal offenses.
Crime and justice
- Reauthorizing Violence Against Women Act - Introduced and helped secure passage of legislation to extend VAWA until 2027, including critical programs that help respond to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.
- Assault Weapons Ban - Prohibited the manufacture and sale of military-style assault weapons from 1994 to 2004.
- Crime victims’ rights - Gave victims of violent crime a core set of procedural rights under federal law and ensuring they have standing to assert their rights before a court.
- Combat Meth Act - Provided law enforcement the tools needed to combat the spread of methamphetamine by restricting the sale of products necessary to make meth and authorizing $585 million for enforcement, training and research into meth treatment.
- National AMBER Alert Network - Created nationwide AMBER Alert communications network to help law enforcement find abducted children.
- Phthalate ban - Protected children from harmful phthalates chemicals in toys using the precautionary principle.
- Regulating internet pharmacies - Banned rogue Internet pharmacies from selling drugs without prescriptions.
- Breast Cancer Research Stamp - The stamp has raised nearly $100 million for breast cancer research.
Senator Feinstein’s career has been one of firsts. She was the first woman president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the first woman mayor of San Francisco, the first woman elected Senator of California, the first woman member and first woman ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the first woman to chair the Senate Rules and Administration Committee and the first woman to chair the Senate Intelligence Committee.
A native of San Francisco, Senator Feinstein served for nine years as a San Francisco County Supervisor, starting in 1969. She became mayor of San Francisco in 1978 following the assassination of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.
The following year she was elected to the first of two four-year terms. As mayor, Dianne Feinstein managed the city’s finances with a firm hand, balancing nine budgets in a row. In 1987, City and State Magazine named her the nation’s “Most Effective Mayor.”
As a senator, Dianne Feinstein has received a number of awards for her service including the 2022 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Safety Hero Award, the 2021 Building Seismic Safety Council Leadership Award, the 2020 National Peace Corps Association Congressional Leadership Award, the 2019 Center for Justice and Accountability Champion of Justice Award, the 2019 National Parks Conservation Association National Park Heritage Award, the 2018 American Bar Association Justice Award, the 2017 Legislative Leadership Award from the Association of California Water Agencies, the 2016 Ansel Adams Award from The Wilderness Society, the 2014 Beacon Prize from Human Rights First, the 2012 Outstanding International Public Service Award from the World Affairs Council, the 2007 Legislator of the Year award from the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association, the 2007 Charles Dick Medal of Merit from the California National Guard, the 2006 Grammy on the Hill Award from the Recording Academy, the 2006 Congressional Leader of the Year Award from the League of California Cities, the 2006 William Penn Mott Jr. Park Leadership Award from National Parks Conservation Association, the 2005 Outstanding Member of the U.S. Senate Award from the National Narcotic Officers Associations Coalition, the 2004 Funding Hero Award from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the 2004 Women of Achievement Award from the Century City Chamber of Commerce and the 2001 Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service.