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NJ Sen. Lautenberg Dead at 89

Monday, June 03, 2013

Senator Frank Lautenberg, a multimillionaire New Jersey businessman and liberal who was called out of retirement for a second tour of duty in Congress, has died at age 89 from complications of viral pneumonia.

Lautenberg was known as a public health advocate, who fought for gun control and stronger regulations on smoking and drinking. 

"The fact that you can't smoke on an airplane, that was because of Frank Lautenberg," Brigid Harrison, professor of Political Science and Law at Monclair State University, told WNYC's Brian Lehrer. "And things that are rather commonplace today . . . actually were kind of Bloombergian  revolutionary" when Lautenberg first proposed them.

Lautenberg was first elected to the Senate in 1982, and was re-elected to a fifth term in Congress in 2008. He was the last World War II veteran serving in the U.S. Senate and held the record for most number of votes cast by a New Jersey Senator.

President Barack Obama described Lautenberg as a "proud New Jerseyan." Governor Chris Christie, speaking at the New Jersey Governor's Conference for Women, said Lautenberg was "an advocate for the causes he believed in."  Senator Charles Schumer called him a "relentless warrior." And Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said he was a "true champion for those who need a voice in Washington."

New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell, a fellow Democrat, knew and worked with Lautenberg for decades. "We didn't agree on everything, but that was immaterial, because you were talking to a real human being who waned to change things for the better," he said on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show.

Lautenberg grew up poor in Paterson, where his father worked in a silk factory and died at 43. He used the G.I. Bill to attend Columbia University and went on to found the multimillion-dollar payroll company Automatic Data Processing.

Lautenberg had health problems in recent years. A bout with the flu caused him to miss the Senate's Jan. 1, 2013 vote to avoid the fiscal cliff of rising taxes and falling government spending.

He had been diagnosed in February 2010 with lymphoma of the stomach and underwent chemotherapy for the next few months.

He was principal sponsor of a law banning smoking on domestic airline flights.

Lautenberg's seat will be filled by Republican Governor Chris Christie. 

To hear an obituary by WNYC's Ilya Marritz, click the audio link above.

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Comments [7]

Helen Hawkins from Brooklyn, NY

Senator LAutenberg was a mensch. I knew him because I am connected to the tragedy of the bombing of PAn Am 103 in December 1988. Many residents of New Jersey were on the plane, and Senator Lautenberg became one of our stalwart warriors in Congress not only supporting and creating legislation that would assist us in our seach for the truth and to hold people accountable, but in direct and practical ways. His office was always open to us when we came to Washington to lobby our Congress. He attended our meetings. HIs assistants were always available to help us. All of us who knew him miss him and our thoughts are with his family today.

Jun. 03 2013 03:15 PM
Dale Hardman from Jersey City

Senator Lautenberg is responsible for leading the effort to stop Spectra Energy gas pipeline through Hudson County. He came out with concerns about the pipeline in a press release, 02/08/2010: "Lautenberg Questions Proposed Natural Gas Pipeline in Hudson County Following Connecticut Explosion". Mayor-Elect Steve Fulop had me contact his office, ask that an aide come to our neighborhood mtg. that night to discuss. He sent Chris Summerhayes, Special Projects aide who asked we form a group to focus on problem. I formed NO Gas Pipeline the next day and subsequent we and Jersey City lead the suit in federal district court in D.C. to overturn the Federal Energy Regulatory Commision (FERC)ruling on behalf of Spectra which is still in process before judge. "Senator Lautenberg has worked to improve pipeline safety and security since 1994, when a gas pipeline exploded in Edison, New Jersey. The resulting explosion and fire burned eight apartment buildings to the ground, left 128 families homeless and sent 1,500 people running for safety. (Source: Tuesday, June 15, 2004 Press Release-In response to the Edison accident, Lautenberg introduced legislation, titled the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 1994, to strengthen Federal standards for pipeline safety. In 2002 Congress finally passed comprehensive pipeline safety improvement legislation called the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002, incorporating many ideas raised by the Lautenberg 1994 bill. However, the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act overlooks distribution pipelines and leaves them vulnerable.")

Jun. 03 2013 11:50 AM
Chris from Woodbridge, NJ

I don't think it matters whether Christie appoints a Democrat or Republican. But he MUST appoint someone who has the same views as Lautenberg or else its a betrayal of the voters. If Christie appoints someone who is pro-gun, pro-life, and so on, to replace someone who was anti-gun and pro-choice, that's not going to fly. That's where Christie would get himself into trouble, in my opinion.

Jun. 03 2013 11:24 AM
John Lauer from new jersey

Our Senator Lautenberg had a steadfast strength of character throughout the ups and downs of state and national politics. His own ethical standard was very high. I appreciate his perseverance on "real-people" matters that directly effected our state and nation. I feel much empathy for his family, but selfishly, and for NJ, I feel very anxious without him representing.

Jun. 03 2013 11:15 AM
Rivo from Jersey City

Governor Christie,

Please nominate Bill Bradley to fill out Lautenberg's term.

Jun. 03 2013 11:01 AM
Roslyn from Manhattan

Such a great loss. I only wish New York had its own Senator Lautenberg with strong character and ethics. May Mr. Lautenberg rest in peace.

Jun. 03 2013 10:28 AM
bob h from nutley, nj

I had the highest regard for my Senator Lautenberg, who was a staunch supporter of liberal causes, and a decent man. I never felt I had to contact him, because he was way ahead of me on issues.

My Jewish neighbors, who knew him personally, said anti-semitism was something that had to be battled in his early campaigns.

I am deeply saddened.

Jun. 03 2013 10:21 AM

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