U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, a Democrat from New Jersey who served five terms in Congress, died from complications due to viral pneumoniaon Mondaymorning,according to a statementreleased by his office. He was 89.
First elected in 1982, Lautenberg worked throughout his career to advance public health and transportation-related causes. In addition to authoring nationwide drunk driving laws, such as setting the drinking age at 21 and the blood alcohol standard for intoxication to .08 BAC, Lautenberg passed a law banning smoking on commercial airline flights and advocated legislation against smoking in federal buildings.
As governor, Christie will appoint a temporary replacement for Lautenberg in the Senate until an election can be held. He is expected to nominate a Republican.
Christie, who was scheduled to speak at the New Jersey Governor’s Conference for Women today, said at the conference that it would be inappropriate to give a speech and insteadasked those in attendanceto pray for the Lautenberg family.
“It’s no mystery that Sen. Lautenberg and I didn’t always agree,” Christie said. “In fact,it probably is more honest to say we very often didn’t agree, and we had some pretty good fights between us over time—battles on philosophy and the role of government, but never was Sen. Lautenberg to be underestimated as an advocate for the causes that he believed in and as an adversary in the political world.”
Ina statementreleased by his office, U.S. Representative Rush Holt, who represents the Princeton area as part of New Jersey’s 12thdistrict, praised Lautenberg’s legislative achievements and personal qualities.
College Democrats president Will Mantell’14 said he thought that Lautenberg would be best remembered for his work to obtain funding for public transit and his involvement in gun control legislation.
“Well before the post-Newtown push, Lautenberg had been talking about pushing for more gun control legislation, even though it was something other senators were afraid to fight for,” Mantell said.
He said he was particularly impressed when Lautenberg, who had frequently been absent from the Senate due to illness, returned to Washington in April to cast his vote in favor oftougher gun control measures,which were ultimately defeated.