KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — As a potential government shutdown looms, some lawmakers from Tennessee took time to reflect on the life of California Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Feinstein’s death was announced by her office Friday morning. She was 90 years old and was the longest-serving woman senator in American history.
Former Senator Lamar Alexander spoke very highly of Feinstein, who he served with as senior members of the Energy Appropriations Subcommittee.
“Many of her views were different than mine on nuclear power, for example, but she’d been a mayor, and I’d been a governor and we knew how to resolve differences. So in the end, we always came out with a bipartisan agreement. She was intelligent and kind and independent, and she was a terrific United States senator. ” Alexander said.
Alexander recounted that they both had similar interests, such as their strong interest in national laboratories, and that Feinstein was fun to be with. One memory he shared was that the two would go to a prime rib restaurant in Washington, DC, that had a grand piano. Before they left, he said he would play “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” for her, as she was the mayor of San Francisco before she became a U.S. Senator.
Alexander said although the two disagreed, they always met in the middle, which he described as the “whole idea” of the U.S. Senate.
“The whole idea is that we go there with our very strong, independent, principled views, and then we try to put that together into a conclusion that most of us can vote for and that the country will accept. And that’s what she was able to do. Too often today, people just go to the Senate and shoot their mouth off and don’t ever come to a collusion. That’s not what it’s for. It’s to help unify the country, and she was good at that. “
Representative Chuck Fleischmann also spoke highly of Feinstein, explaining that she had actually voted on the Senate floor the day before news broke of her death. Feinstein was the Senate counterpart of the Energy and Water Subcommittee of Appropriations that Fleischmann chairs in the house.
“We’re all saddened by her passing. We wish their family very well in these most difficult times, especially now as a government shutdown looms.” Fleischmann said.
Representative Tim Burchett also recounted meeting Feinstein, saying he ran into her one day and held the door open for her. According to Burchett, he felt like she was a sweet, grandmotherly woman.
“She asked me where I was from and I told her, you know, Knoxville, TN and she said, well, you know… I think she mentioned something about folks don’t usually hold the door open for ladies or something. I said, well, they do where I’m from.” Burchett recounted.
He went on to explain that she asked about his family and he told her about his wife and daughter, and even showed her a photo of his mother, who flew an airplane during the Second World War.
“I laughed and I said I’ve been surrounded my whole life by strong women. I said ‘I’m not afraid of you,’ and she laughed and we we had a nice little conversation. It probably went on 5 minutes or more. I think her staff finally came and got her and said, ‘Hey, y’all. Quit talking. We got to get to get going.” Burchett said. “That was the last time I saw her, when that she was walking, actually.”