Sad day for New Jersey and the country. Senator Frank Lautenberg, New Jersey's sitting Senator has died at the age of 89.
"He leaves behind an amazing legacy of pushing for the rights of the working poor and middle class,” said Senator Steve Sweeney, a Democrat who is the president of the New Jersey Senate. "While a man of means, he never, ever lost sight of helping working people. He will be missed.''Senator Lautenberg had previously confirmed he would not be seeking re-election. Christie will appoint a temporary replacement for the seat. A special election will be held later this year, the winner of which will still have to run again in 2014. Cory Booker leads the field of expected Dem candidates for the seat.
Never a flashy senator — his colleagues Bill Bradley and Mr. Torricelli got more attention — Mr. Lautenberg acquired influence on the Appropriations Committee and had a consistently liberal voting record. Americans for Democratic Action said he had voted liberal 94 percent of the time.* * *
Frank Raleigh Lautenberg was born in Paterson, N.J., on Jan 23, 1924, to Sam and Mollie Lautenberg, Jewish immigrants from Poland and Russia. The family was poor. His father repeatedly tried to start up small businesses, returning to work in Paterson’s silk mills when the ventures failed.One of my most vivid memories of Senator Lautenberg was his opposition to the Iraq war, expressed at a time when others in the Party were cowed into silence. He was a consistent voice for environmental protection, an opponent of NAFTA and a proponent of mass transit, among his many other accomplishments and convictions.
In 2000, Mr. Lautenberg accompanied a reporter for The Star-Ledger of Newark to a long-closed silk mill. “My father took me in there one time and told me to look around,” he told the reporter. “He said you must never work like this. He said you have to get an education. I was 12; it didn’t mean a lot to me at the time. But it must have sunk in, because I did get an education. I didn’t want to work and struggle like he did.”
Mr. Lautenberg served in the Army Signal Corps in World War II and, after his discharge in 1946, used the postwar G.I. Bill of Rights to attend Columbia University, graduating in 1949. That experience, he said later, made him a strong supporter of the G.I. Bill enacted over Bush administration objections in 2008, a measure that sharply increased educational benefits.
He was pro-choice, supported gun control, introduced many bills increasing penalties for carjacking and car theft, and criticized the Bush administration on national security issues. He was heavily involved in various anti-smoking and airline safety legislation. He also co-sponsored legislation to increase drunk driving penalties. He was probably best known as the author of the legislation that banned smoking from most commercial airline flights. He also is known for authoring the Ryan White Care Act, which provides services to AIDS patients. Upon his return to the Senate, Lautenberg was the first U.S. senator to introduce legislation calling for homeland security funds to be distributed solely on the basis of risk and vulnerability.Senator Lautenberg was the last surviving WWII veteran in the U.S. Senate.
In 2005, he became a leading voice within the Senate in calling for an investigation into the Bush administration payment of columnists.
He will be missed.