The death of the California senator Dianne Feinstein may have helped inspire US lawmakers to avoid a federal government shutdown, the former House speaker Nancy Pelosi said.
Speaking on Sunday, to CNN’s State of the Union, the California Democrat mourned the loss of Feinstein and said: “Some of the senators said that maybe her departure and the sadness that went with us focused people more on, ‘Let’s get the job done to keep government open for the people.’”
The deal to avoid the shutdown was done late on Saturday, the Senate following the House in backing the deal before Joe Biden signed it.
Feinstein, who at 90 was the oldest serving senator, died in Washington on Thursday. Tributes came from both sides of the aisle. On Saturday, a plane from the presidential fleet carried her body to her home city, San Francisco.
Pelosi, who accompanied Feinstein’s body with the senator’s daughter, said: “She was my neighbor, my friend. My family loved her personally, politically, in every way.
“We used to always say, if Dianne and I ran against each other, my daughter Nancy would probably vote for Dianne. That was the love that existed. But love is a good word for her, because she loved people. She loved California. She loved America.”
Pelosi also thanked Joe Biden for arranging the transfer “in the grand way that we did … draped in the flag – she was such a patriot – [to] be welcomed by men and women in uniform as she came off the plane”.
Although she and Feinstein “were not always on the same place on the spectrum of politics”, Pelosi said, Feinstein “reached across the aisle all the time”.
The former speaker, 83, also recalled a memory from the early 1980s, when Pelosi was chair of the California Democratic party and Feinstein mayor of San Francisco.
“When we were moving for the Democratic convention in San Francisco … we went to see her … to say, what about this?” said Pelosi.
Feinstein said: “Well, will it cost money?”
“And we said: ‘Well, we have to raise money.’”
Feinstein said: “Well, my first concern are people at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco.”
“This is where many lower-income people … who need medical care,” Pelosi said, adding: “She was always about people and meeting their needs with her responsibility.”
Pelosi also hailed Feinstein’s efforts to pass the 1994 federal assault weapons ban, calling her a “great legislator”.
“Then it was reinstated and then it went away but while it was there, it saved lives,” Pelosi said of the ban. “How many people can make that claim?”
Pelosi spoke hours after Biden signed a bill to extend government funding for 45 days. On Sunday, in response to the House speaker Kevin McCarthy’s deal with Democrats, the Florida Republican Matt Gaetz announced that he would try to oust McCarthy. Asked what advice she would give to her colleagues about Gaetz’s plan, Pelosi urged Democrats to follow their leader.
“Hakeem Jeffries has done a great job,” she said, of the New Yorker who succeeded Pelosi atop the House Democratic caucus and is now minority leader. “Yesterday, we had a victory in the continuing resolution. It was a victory for Democrats, a defeat for the Magas,” a reference to far-right supporters of Donald Trump.
Of Gaetz, Pelosi said: “You’re wasting your time on that guy, because he has no sway in the House of Representatives except to get on TV and to raise money on the internet. But, anyway, forgetting that … my advice [is] follow the leader.”