US senator Dianne Feinstein dies aged 90

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Dianne Feinstein, the veteran Democratic senator from California and a pioneer for women in American politics, has died aged 90.

Feinstein’s death follows a notable deterioration in her health that had raised concerns among Democrats on Capitol Hill, and heightened the debate in Washington over the older ages of many prominent US politicians.

Until a replacement takes her seat, Feinstein’s death will bring the number of senators who side with Democrats to 50 in the upper chamber of Congress, narrowing the party’s governing majority to just one senator.

A spokesperson for Feinstein did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Feinstein was seen as a trailblazer in Democratic and California politics, serving three terms as mayor of San Francisco before being elected to the US Senate in a special election in 1992. In more than three decades in the Senate, she held several senior roles, including chair of the powerful Senate intelligence committee.

But Feinstein’s later years were marred by uncomfortable questions about her mental and physical fitness for higher office. Feinstein was absent from the Senate for several months earlier this year following a bout of shingles.

The California senator had already said she did not intend to seek re-election to another six-year term, triggering a fierce competition for her seat in 2024. Several prominent Democrats, including House members Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee, have launched primary campaigns for the party’s nomination for the position.

Gavin Newsom, California’s Democratic governor, will now need to appoint a replacement for Feinstein to serve the remainder of her term.

Feinstein was a close friend of US president Joe Biden, who was a longtime senator before he became vice-president. The White House did not immediately comment on her passing on Friday.

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