Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat from New Jersey who was the last World War II veteran to serve in the Senate, died early Monday morning after complications stemming from a bout with viral pneumonia. He was 89.
Lautenberg, a solidly liberal voter who championed environmental regulations, pushed for anti-smoking laws and was a frequent critic of George W. Bush’s administration, served five terms in the Senate. He was the chamber’s oldest member and had already announced that he would not run for re-election in 2014, when his term was up.
The Washington Post:
First elected in 1982, he built a reputation during his first 18 years in office as a scrappy politician who thought government had enabled his own rise to wealth and thus favored expansive federal programs. As chair of the transportation appropriations subcommittee, the former two-pack-a-day smoker crusaded against the tobacco industry and in 1989 won a smoking ban on almost all domestic airline flights, a victory that was credited with opening the way for restrictions on smoking in public buildings.
He was instrumental in passing laws that raised the legal drinking age to 21, prohibited domestic-violence convicts from buying guns and required companies to disclose the chemicals they release into the environment, an early “right-to-know” provision that became a model for others.
Toiling in the shadow of New Jersey’s senior senator, Bill Bradley (D), the telegenic former basketball star and presidential candidate with a penchant for wonky national policy debates, Sen. Lautenberg was known for tending to the everyday concerns of New Jerseyites. He brought home billions of dollars for highways and transit projects, secured a ban on offshore dumping and in 1985 led the effort to continue the Superfund hazardous-waste cleanup program.