Political positions of Dianne Feinstein

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Dianne Feinstein
Dianne Feinstein, official Senate photo.jpg
United States Senator
from California
Assumed office
November 10, 1992
Serving with Barbara Boxer
Preceded by John F. Seymour
38th Mayor of San Francisco
In office
December 4, 1978 – January 8, 1988
Preceded by George Moscone
Succeeded by Art Agnos
Personal details
Born (1933-06-22) June 22, 1933 (age 85)
San Francisco, California
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Judge Jack Berman (div.)
Bertram Feinstein (deceased)
Richard C. Blum
Alma mater Stanford University
Religion Jewish

Dianne Feinstein is the current senior senator in the US Senate representing California. Prior to her time in the Senate, she ran for Governor of California and was Mayor of San Francisco. Feinstein tends to be seen as a moderate in the Senate. She has worked to ban assault weapons and to gain passage of the California Desert Protection Act to preserve wilderness. She voted to authorize the use of military force in Iraq in 2002 and has stated that she is a supporter of the Patriot Act.


Feinstein supported the Iraq war resolution in the vote of October 11, 2002; she has claimed that she was misled by President Bush on the reasons for going to war. However, former UN Weapons Inspector in Iraq Scott Ritter has stated that Feinstein in summer 2002 acknowledged to him that she knew the Bush administration had not provided any convincing intelligence to back up its claims about the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.[1]

In February 2007, Feinstein warned Republicans not to block consideration of a measure opposing President Bush's troop increase in Iraq, saying it would be a "terrible mistake" to prevent debate on the top issue in America.[2]

In May 2007, Feinstein voted for an Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill, which continued to fund the Iraq occupation without a firm timetable for withdrawal. The Senator said "I am deeply disappointed that this bill fails to hold the President accountable for his Administration's flawed Iraq War policy. The American people have made their voices clear that there must be an exit strategy for Iraq. Yet this President continues to stubbornly adhere to more of the same."[3]

In November 2007, Feinstein was one of only six Democrats to vote to confirm Michael Mukasey as Attorney General.[4]


In August 2007, Feinstein joined Republicans in the Senate in voting to modify the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by narrowing the scope of its protections to sharply alter the legal limits on the government's ability to monitor phone calls and email messages of American citizens.[5] Feinstein voted to give the attorney general and the director of national intelligence the power to approve international surveillance of the communications of Americans entirely within the executive branch, rather than through the special intelligence court established by FISA. Many privacy advocates have decried this law and Senator Feinstein's vote in favor of it.[6] In February 2008, Feinstein joined Republicans in the Senate in voting against removing the provisions which provided immunity from civil liability to electronic communication service providers for certain assistance (most notably, access without warrants to fiber-optic cables carrying bulk transmissions for the purposes of interception and monitoring) provided to the Government.[7]


Feinstein was the original Democratic cosponsor of a bill to extend the USA PATRIOT Act. In a December 2005 statement, Senator Feinstein stated, "I believe the Patriot Act is vital to the protection of the American people."[8]

Feinstein proposed an amendment to the Patriot Act would have explicitly excluded U.S. citizens from the detention authority created by the Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed just after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. The amendment failed 45-55.[9]

Though her amendment was defeated, the compromised amendment, passed 99-1 affirmed that nothing in the NDAA is intended to alter the government's current legal authority to detain prisoners captured in the war on terror.


Feinstein is a supporter and cosponsor of the H-1B Visa program. After strongly opposing the AgJobs immigration provisions in 2005, warning that they would encourage illegal immigration from Mexico,[10] she reversed her position, when the measures were proposed again, in 2008.[11]

LGBT issues

The Human Rights Campaign gave Feinstein a 92% rating in the 111th Congress, indicating strong support of the HRC's slate for pro-gay rights legislative issues.[12]

Mayor Feinstein vetoed domestic partnership legislation in 1982.[13] This legislation would have provided insurance benefits to cohabitating lovers of city employees.

Senator Feinstein introduced a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, the Respect for Marriage Act, in the 112th Congress.[14] The bill was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on November 10, 2011.[15]

She does not support the Uniting American Families Act,[16] but introduced a private bill to keep together a binational same-sex couple.[17]


Feinstein and Senator Alan Cranston worked for over 10 years to pass the California Desert Protection Act. The bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994. The bill protected 7,661,089 acres (31,003 km2) of California's desert lands as wilderness and national parks.[18] The Act doubled the size of the National Wilderness Preservation System in California, and was the largest wilderness bill in California's history.

Senators Feinstein and Barbara Boxer were the champions of the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 17, 2006. The bill protected 275,830 acres (1,116 km2) of federal land as wilderness and 21 miles (34 km) of stream as a wild and scenic river, including such popular areas as the King Range and Cache Creek.[19] Senators Feinstein and Boxer worked with Representative Mike Thompson, the sponsor of the bill in the House, in the 5-year effort to pass the legislation.

Feinstein along with her colleague Boxer voted in favor of subsidy payments to conventional commodity farm producers at the cost of subsidies for conservation-oriented farming.[20] More recently, Feinstein has not taken a stand on the widely criticized subsidies in the 2007 U.S. Farm Bill.[21]

Crime and drug trafficking

Senator Feinstein has taken a tough stance on international trafficking in her role as chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control.[citation needed] The Caucus is aimed at stopping trafficking from Mexico and Central America as well as Taliban drug trafficking from Afghanistan. In 2011 Senator Feinstein signed into law the Border Tunneling Prevention Act of 2011, building off of a previous 2006 act meant to allow both federal and state law enforcement more ability to detect and stop cross border subterranean tunnel systems coming into the US.

In October 2007 the US and Mexico entered into an assistance program known as the Mérida Initiative with approximately $1.5 billion being given to Mexico by the US. The Caucus wrote an extensive report in May 2011 citing the successes and failures of the Mérida Initiative. According to the report the US needs to increase judicial sector assistance to each Mexican state, increase the aid to Mexican law enforcement, and strictly monitor the sale of firearms to ensure they are not able to be smuggled across the border.[citation needed]

According to another report written by Feinstein, as well as Charles Schumer and Sheldon Whitehouse, a large number of the nearly 35,000 deaths from the drug trade in Mexico have occurred with weapons that have been traced back to the US. The report recommends a number of solutions to help stop the import of military grade weapons to Mexico, including the introducing background checks on the unlicensed sale of firearms at gun shows.[citation needed]

Another major recommendation, which was addressed in the second Romney Obama debate, is the banning of assault weapons. The ban, originally signed in 1994 and expired in 2004, stopped the sale of assault weapons, armor-piercing rounds, and high-capacity magazines to civilians. Senator Feinstein believes the ban should be resigned, not only to stop violence in Mexico and California but to decrease the amount of gun violence in California and across America.

The issue of national security is tied to the narcotics trade in Afghanistan, another report written by the Caucus in 2010 lists some recommendations on how to decrease the flow of opium from Afghanistan and the money coming into the Taliban. With similar prescriptions as the Mérida Initiative, the United States is using DEA officers in conjunction with military personnel in Afghanistan to root out Taliban drug lords. The practice of eradication of the poppy crop only managed to drive farmers to side with the Taliban, as their livelihood was destroyed. The US is funding legitimate projects in Afghanistan in an attempt to get the work force out of the drug trade. The major issue in Afghanistan is corruption, the report estimates around $2.5 billion is doled out in bribes per year. How the US will continue to combat drug production as the scale back their military presence in the coming years remains to be seen.[citation needed]

Senator Feinstein has a firm position on the narcotics trade and she has a major player in the United States' war on drugs both domestically and internationally. California has a high stake in this conflict as it is on the front lines of much of the drug trade with Mexico, as well much of the movement of firearms into Mexico comes from California.[citation needed]

Death penalty

Feinstein is a supporter of capital punishment.

Free speech

She was the main Democratic sponsor of the failed 2006 constitutional Flag Desecration Amendment.[22]

She also voted for the McCain-Feingold legislation.

In 2007, Feinstein was asked in a Fox News interview whether she would revive the Fairness Doctrine and she replied that she was looking at it.[23]

In 2010 Feinstein voted in favor of unilateral US censorship of the Internet by voting in favor of COICA.[24] Also in 2010, Feinstein said in reference to Cablegate, "Whoever released this information should be punished severely."[25]

In 2013 Feinstein called for the immediate extradition and arrest of Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who leaked information about the PRISM surveillance program.[26]

Gun politics

Senator Feinstein had experienced 2 assassinations as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors where Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were killed while in office. In 1993, Feinstein, along with then-Representative Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Ted Kennedy (whose lost 2 of his brothers to assassination, neither to semi-automatic firearms), led the fight to ban many semi-automatic firearms deemed assault weapons and restrict the sale of high capacity magazines. The ban was passed as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. In 2004, when the ban was set to expire, Feinstein sponsored a 10-year extension of the ban as an amendment to the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act; while the amendment was successfully added, the act itself failed.[27] The act was then revived in 2005, and, despite Feinstein's best efforts, was passed without an extension of the assault weapons ban. In response to the Sandy Hook school massacre, Sen. Feinstein has reintroduced legislation to reinstate the ban on assault weapons as well as many more restrictions.[28]

Discussing why the 1994 act only prohibited the manufacture or import of assault weapons, instead of the possession and sale of them, Feinstein said on CBS-TV's 60 Minutes, February 5, 1995, "If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them . . . Mr. and Mrs. America, turn 'em all in, I would have done it. I could not do that. The votes weren't here."[29]

In July 2006, Feinstein voted against the Vitter Amendment to prohibit Federal funds being used for the confiscation of lawfully owned firearms during a disaster.[30] [31]

On April 27, 1995, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Terrorism in the United States", Feinstein stated that — in the early 1970s — she applied for, and received, a license to carry a concealed gun after she and her family were threatened and their house physically attacked by a local terrorist group named the New World Liberation Front. As Feinstein stated to the Senate panel:

"I want to just give you a personal anecdote about terrorism, because less than 20 years ago, I was the target of a terrorist group. It was the New World Liberation Front. They blew up power stations and put a bomb at my home when my husband was dying of cancer. And the bomb was set to detonate at two o'clock in the morning, but it was a construction explosive that doesn't detonate when it drops below freezing. It doesn't usually freeze in San Francisco, but on this night, it dropped below freezing, and the bomb didn't detonate. I was very lucky. But, I thought of what might have happened. Later the same group shot out all the windows of my home.
And, I know the sense of helplessness that people feel. I know the urge to arm yourself, because that's what I did. I was trained in firearms. I'd walk to the hospital when my husband was sick. I carried a concealed weapon. I made the determination that if somebody was going to try to take me out, I was going to take them with me.
Now having said all of that, that was a period of time ago, and I've watched through these 20 years as terrorism has increased, both on the far extremist left and the far extremist right in this country, and in particularly in my state - I never thought I would live in a country where we would have to put out a bomb summary every year, but we do, today."[32]

Feinstein claims to have surrendered the permit and revolver to the police in 1982, once the New World Liberation Front was no longer a threat to her.[33][34]

In January 2013, Feinstein along with Representative Carolyn McCarthy from New York proposed a bill which would "ban the sale, transfer, manufacturing of importation of 150 specific firearms including semiautomatic rifles or pistols that can be used with a detachable or fixed ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and have specific military-style features, including pistol grips, grenade launchers or rocket launchers." The bill has an exemption for 900 specific models of guns that are used in hunting and for sport.[35] Feinstein commented on the issue saying, "Massacres have taken place in businesses, law practices, malls, movie theaters, and especially schools. These massacres don't seem to stop, they continue on. Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Tuson, and Oak Creek. The common thread in each of these shootings is the gunman used a semi-automatic assault weapon or large capacity ammunition magazines. Military assault weapons only have one purpose and in my opinion, it's for the military."[36]


Feinstein has supported Hollywood and the content industry when it has come into conflict with technology and fair use on intellectual property issues. In 2006 she cosponsored the "PERFORM Act" or the "Platform Equality and Remedies for Rights Holders in Music Act of 2006" to the Senate, which would require satellite, cable and internet broadcasters to incorporate digital rights management technologies into their transmission. Over the air broadcasting would not be affected.[37] Feinstein's consistent backing of the content industry and attacks on fair use have earned her poor marks with the EFF and IPac.


On October 1, 2008, Feinstein voted in favor of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act [38]

Victims' rights

Senator Feinstein has been one of Congress's strongest advocates for victims' rights. In the 1990s, Senator Feinstein was one of the original sponsors, along with Republican Senator Jon Kyl, of an effort to amend the United States Constitution to protect victims' rights in trial. Though the constitutional amendment ultimately failed, Senators Kyl and Feinstein authored the 2004 Scott Campbell, Stephanie Roper, Wendy Preston, Louarna Gillis, and Nila Lynn Crime Victims' Rights Act which listed a victims' bill of rights and provided mandamus relief in appellate court for any victim denied those rights.[39] The act also offered sanctions against government officials who wantonly and willfully refused to comply with the Crime Victims' Rights Act. Both Senators Kyl and Feinstein described their collaboration as a high point of bipartisan collaboration in their careers. In front of the Senate, Senator Kyl said "This legislation would not be before us today without Senator Feinstein. That is simply a fact. For all of the hard work we have put in with her cooperation and her commitment to this, I thank Senator Feinstein deeply. She knows that bond of trust will continue to exist between us."[40]

Intelligence programs and NSA programs

The first week of June 2012, Senator Feinstein spoke with anger about the "avalanche of leaks" occurring in relation to U.S. intelligence affairs.

"What we're seeing...is an Anschluss, an avalanche of leaks. And it's very, very disturbing. You know, it's dismayed our allies. It puts American lives in jeopardy. It puts our nation's security in jeopardy,".

Together with other heads of Congressional oversight, Senator Feinstein vowed to stop leaks. One week later she co-sponsored, with Senator Saxby Chambliss, S. 3314: A bill to specifically authorize certain funds for an intelligence or intelligence-related activity and for other purposes. It is not known if this bill is related to the leak-stopping exercise.

After the 2013 mass surveillance disclosures involving operated by the National Security Agency (NSA), Feinstein took measures to continue the collection programs. Foreign Policy wrote that she had a "reputation as a staunch defender of NSA practices and the White House's refusal to stand by collection activities targeting foreign leaders."[41] In October 2013 she criticized the NSA for monitoring telephone calls of foreign leaders friendly to the US.[42] In November 2013 she promoted the Fisa Improvements Act bill which included a "backdoor search provision" that allows intelligence agencies to continue certain warrantless searches as long as they are logged and "available for review" to various agencies.[43]

In June 2013 Feinstein labeled Edward Snowden a traitor after his leaks went public. In October of that year Feinstein stated that she stood by her labeling.[44]

On November 12, 2013, Feinstein introduced the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 (S. 1681; 113th Congress). The bill would authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2014 for intelligence activities of the U.S. government.[45] The bill would authorize there to be funding for intelligence agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency or the National Security Agency, but a separate appropriations bill would also have to pass in order for those agencies to receive any money.[46] Feinstein said that "Congress has a responsibility to ensure the DNI and other intelligence leaders have the resources and flexibility they need to protect the nation."[47]

Congressional scorecards



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  14. "[3]." Accessed May 3, 2012.
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  24. http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20101118/10291211924/the-19-senators-who-voted-to-censor-the-internet.shtml
  25. http://feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=NewsRoom.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=9d50dfc6-5056-8059-7695-eb4db2d4900d
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  38. [5]
  39. 18 U.S.C. 3771 (West 2008)
  40. 150 Cong Rec S 4260, April 22, 2004.
  41. " Dianne Feinstein Is Still a Friend of the NSA After All." Foreign Policy. November 1, 2013. Retrieved on November 18, 2013.
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