Frank Lautenberg

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Frank Raleigh Lautenberg
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Frank Raleigh Lautenberg (/ˈlɔːtənbɜrɡ/; January 23, 1924 – June 3, 2013) was a United States Senator from New Jersey and a member of the Democratic Party. He first served in the United States Senate from 1982 to 2001; after a brief retirement, he was re-elected to the Senate and served from 2003 until his death in June 2013. Lautenberg was the last serving veteran of World War II in the United States Senate. Before entering politics, he was the chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of Automatic Data Processing, Inc.

Early life and career

Lautenberg was born in Paterson, New Jersey, to Mollie (née Bergen) and Sam Lautenberg, impoverished Jewish immigrants from Poland and Russia, who had arrived in the United States as infants. When Lautenberg was 19, his father, Sam, who worked in silk mills, sold coal, farmed and once ran a tavern, died of cancer.

Lautenberg served overseas in the United States Army Signal Corps in World War II from 1942–1946 after graduating from Nutley High School in 1941. Then, financed by the GI Bill, he attended and graduated from Columbia Business School in 1949 with a degree in economics. He was the first salesman at Automatic Data Processing, Inc. (ADP) and was its chairman and CEO from 1952–82. He was the executive commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey from 1978 to 1982.

U.S. Senator

Early years

Lautenberg first served in the US Senate in 1982.

In 1982, he received the Democratic nomination over 8 other candidates for a US Senate seat from New Jersey for that year's election after spending a considerable sum of his own money. The seat had been occupied by Democrat Harrison Williams, who resigned on March 11, 1982, after being implicated in the Abscam scandal. After Williams's resignation, Republican Governor Thomas Kean appointed Republican Nicholas F. Brady to the seat. Brady served in the Senate through the primary and general elections but did not run for the seat himself. Lautenberg won the election, defeating popular Republican congresswoman Millicent Fenwick by 52% to 48%. Brady, who had just a few days left in his appointed term, resigned on December 27, 1982, allowing Lautenberg to take office several days before the traditional swearing-in of senators, which gave him an edge in seniority over the other freshman senators.

In 1988, Lautenberg was opposed by Republican Wall Street executive and former college football star Pete Dawkins, who won the 1958 Heisman Trophy for the Army Black Knights. After trailing in early polls, the Lautenberg campaign, headed by Democratic consultant James Carville, ran an aggressive advertising campaign enumerating Lautenberg's legislative accomplishments and raising the possibility that Dawkins's candidacy was intended solely as a stepping stone to the presidency, as well as pointing out his lack of roots in New Jersey. Lautenberg ultimately came from behind to win re-election, 54% to 46%.

Following re-election, Lautenberg became a member of the President's Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism (PCAST), which was set up in September 1989 to review and report on aviation security policy in light of the sabotage of Pan Am Flight 103 on December 21, 1988.

Lautenberg was again re-elected in the Republican landslide year of 1994, defeating New Jersey State Assembly Speaker Chuck Haytaian by 51% to 47%. Lautenberg announced his retirement in 2000, and his fellow Democrat and businessman, Jon Corzine, was elected to replace him.

2002 election

A little over a year after he left office, Lautenberg was called upon again to run for the Senate. This time it was to replace incumbent Senator Robert Torricelli, who had won nomination for a second term in the June primary elections but was facing federal corruption charges and an uphill climb for re-election against Republican nominee Doug Forrester.

Torricelli's relationship with Lautenberg had been very rocky especially when Lautenberg accused Torricelli of encouraging Republican Christine Todd Whitman to challenge him for his senate seat. (Torricelli responded by threatening to castrate him.) When Torricelli dropped out, he was willing for anyone to replace him except Lautenberg, who was ultimately chosen.

Almost immediately, the New Jersey Republican Party challenged the replacing of Torricelli with Lautenberg, citing that the timing was too close to the election and, per New Jersey law, the change could not be allowed. As law professor Akhil Reed Amar wrote,

The New Jersey statute at issue says two things: First, it states that "in the event of a vacancy, howsoever caused, among candidates nominated at primaries, which vacancy shall occur not later than the 51st day before the general election, ... a candidate shall be selected" by the state party leadership. Second, it says that "a selection made pursuant to this section shall be made no later than the 48th day preceding the date of the general election."

Torricelli announced that he was dropping out later than 51 days before the general election. His replacement, Lautenberg, was named later than 48 days before the general election.

Accordingly, Republicans argued before the New Jersey Supreme Court that both the front end and the back end timelines of the statute were violated by the Democrats' request to put Lautenberg on the ballot. The court rejected that reading, however, holding that the statute did not foreclose reprinting the ballots, as the Democrats wanted, with Lautenberg's name.

The ballot name change was unanimously upheld by the New Jersey Supreme Court,[10] who cited that the law did not provide for a situation like Torricelli's and said that leaving Torricelli on the ballot would be an unfair advantage for Forrester, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the case. Lautenberg defeated Forrester in the general election, 54% to 44%, and took office for his fourth term in January 2003.

Back in the Senate


Lautenberg meets with Associate Justice nominee Samuel Alito prior to his confirmation hearings. Lautenberg eventually voted against the nominee.


Lautenberg with Barbara Boxer (right) and Maria Cantwell (left) at a news conference discussing whether oil executives lied during a Congressional testimony regarding price gouging


Lautenberg (center) is joined by Sen.Harry Reid (right) and outgoing Senator Jon Corzine (second to left, with red tie) to welcome the new Senator Bob Menendez(between Corzine and Lautenberg) on Capitol Hill

Lautenberg was considered one of the Senate's most liberal members. 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.

In 2005, he became a leading voice within the Senate in calling for an investigation into the Bush administration payment of columnists.

When Jon Corzine resigned from the Senate to become Governor of New Jersey, Lautenberg became the senior senator again in 2006. This also made him the only person to have been both the junior and senior senator from New Jersey twice each.[citation needed] Lautenberg received an "A" on the Drum Major Institute's 2005 Congressional Scorecard on middle-class issues.

In 2007, Lautenberg proposed the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2007, designed to deny weapons purchases by persons that the government has placed on the terrorist watchlist. On June 21, 2007, Lautenberg passed Clifford Case for the most votes on the Senate floor of any United States Senator in New Jersey history.

2008 election[edit] Main article: United States Senate election in New Jersey, 2008

In February 2006, Lautenberg announced his intention to run for re-election in 2008, saying that deciding not to run for re-election in 2000 "was among the worst decisions of his life." Lautenberg formally announced his candidacy on March 31, 2008.

On Wednesday, April 2, 2008, First District Representative Rob Andrews announced he would challenge Lautenberg for renomination in theDemocratic primary. Lautenberg defeated Andrews 59% to 35% in the June 3 primary, and defeated former Congressman Dick Zimmer in the general election 56% to 42%.

Both opponents cited Lautenberg's age among reasons to vote against him. Andrews, for example, referenced Lautenberg's own 1982 defeat of Millicent Fenwick, in which Lautenberg was alleged to have referred to Fenwick's age (Fenwick was 72 at the time; Lautenberg was 84 in 2008). Lautenberg denied he made Fenwick's age an issue, saying he only ever questioned Fenwick's "ability to do the job".

Final years

On February 14, 2013, Lautenberg announced he would not seek re-election.

At the time of his death from viral pneumonia at age 89, Lautenberg was the oldest serving Senator.

Committee assignments

  • Committee on Appropriations
    • Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies
    • Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development
    • Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government
    • Subcommittee on Homeland Security (Vice chairman)
    • Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
    • Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies
  • Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
    • Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security
    • Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs, Insurance, and Automotive Safety
    • Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard
    • Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security (Chairman)
  • Committee on Environment and Public Works
    • Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health (Chairman)
    • Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure
    • Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife

Political positions and votes


Senator Lautenberg supported federal funding of public transportation, such as Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.

Homeland security

Lautenberg was a proponent of the Container Security Initiative which would screen cargo containers bound for the United States for radiological contents. This policy is intended to identify threats before they arrive at U.S. ports. The Bush administration argued that the policy would be too expensive to implement, as U.S. inspection teams, with equipment, would need to be installed in 700 foreign ports.


In 2007, Lautenberg voted for an amendment to the 2007 farm bill which would have limited the amount of subsidies that a married couple could receive to $250,000; the amendment failed.[19] However, he voted against eliminating farm price supports and eventually voted for the 2007 farm bill as well. He has supported increasing the minimum wage in the past.

Civil liberties

Lautenberg was not in the Senate at the time of the original Patriot Act in 2001; when the 2005 reauthorization came to the Senate floor, Lautenberg voted against cloture, but voted in favor of accepting the conference report. In March 2011, he stated to an assembled group of constituents that Republicans "don't deserve the freedoms that are in the Constitution ... but we'll give them to them anyway."

Foreign policy

In 1996, Lautenberg voted against a bill that eliminated the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, the United States Information Agency, the Agency for International Development, and the International Development Cooperation Agency and allowed the President to withhold 20% of funds appropriated to the United Nations if any agency of the organization does not implement consensus-based decision-making procedures on budgetary matters that assure that significant attention is given to the specific interests of the United States. He opposed capping foreign aid and voted to give billions of dollars to the International Monetary Fund. He voted against implementing both the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Central American Free Trade Agreement. He called for action to be taken at the World Trade Organization against members of the OPEC cartel which sets production quotas that raise prices for crude oil, and consequentially America's gasoline. Lautenberg was an opponent of the Iraq War.

Environment and energy

Senator Lautenberg, who had a pro-environment voting record, co-sponsored the Consumer First Energy Act of 2008, which would have repealed $17 billion in tax breaks for oil companies and reinvested the $17 billion in renewable energy development and energy efficiency technology. However, the Senate rejected a cloture motion on the bill in June 2008. Lautenberg favored alternative energy sources and voted in favor of giving tax incentives to those who use them.

Social issues

Lautenberg was pro-choice and had voted against banning partial-birth abortions in 1999. He had voted in favor of expanding embryonic stem cell research. The NAACP gave him a 100% rating, indicating his strong support for affirmative action. He was a consistent supporter of gun control.

Lautenberg was a strong supporter of same-sex marriage, and also voted to prohibit job discrimination based on sexual orientation and to expand the federal definition of hate crimes to include sexual orientation. He voted against a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and expressed his support for equal marriage rights for LGBT couples in later years. Lautenberg did, however, vote in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. The Human Rights Campaign gave him a 100% rating, indicating his strong support for LGBT rights.

Tax policy

Lautenberg voted against repealing and restricting the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and estate tax. Lautenberg voted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which contained $280 billion in tax breaks by expanding the earned income tax credit, child tax credit, home energy credit, and college credit, introducing a homebuyer credit and a credit for workers earning less than $75,000, along with an increased ceiling for the AMT and extended tax credits to companies for renewable energy production, along with a new policy making more companies eligible for a certain tax refund. In 2008 he voted to raise taxes on those earning more than $1 million per year. In 2006 he voted in favor of repealing the Bush-era tax cut on capital gains. He was a proponent of progressive taxation.


Since the advent of the late 2000s recession, Lautenberg supported a number of Democratic bills designed to deal with the resulting problems plaguing Americans. In 2009, he voted in favor of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, popularly dubbed the stimulus bill. He later voted for the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights and the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009.

The railroad terminal in Secaucus, New Jersey is named for him, because he helped allocate federal funds to build it.

Key legislation

In 1984, Lautenberg wrote the National Minimum Drinking Age Act that set the national drinking age at 21. In 2000, his legislation set 0.08 as the blood alcohol level threshold for drunk driving. He also wrote legislation that banned smoking on airplanes, in federal buildings, and federally funded buildings that serviced children.

Lautenberg was primary sponsor of the S.294 [110th] "Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2007" (Full Text), which would fund Amtrak for the next five years and provide opportunity for expansion. With the dramatic rise of gasoline prices from 2007 to 2008, Amtrak ridership has reached record levels. The bill passed the house, but Senate and House differences were never resolved.

The senator also sponsored the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, more commonly known as the "Lautenberg Amendment". This piece of legislation prohibits individuals (including law enforcement officers and military service members), accused of a crime of domestic violence, from possessing a firearm. Critics point out that this legislation effectively circumvents the Second Amendment of the constitution by linking an individual's right to own or possess firearms without the need for a trial and conviction in a court of law. The Tenth Amendment is also an area of concern in-that the Lautenberg Amendment assumes federal control over a state issue, in this case a domestic violence misdemeanor, turning it into a federal felony crime regarding firearm and ammunition possession.

Dubai ports deal and "devil" comment]

In comparing the devil with Dubai, Lautenberg drew stern criticism from some Arab American groups after making comments relating to the Dubai Ports World controversy.[33]Lautenberg was quoted as stating, "We wouldn't transfer the title to the devil, and we're not going to transfer it to Dubai." According to a Foreign Policy in Focus article, Lautenberg defended his remarks due to the UAE's refusal to support U.S. policy toward Israel and Iran. According to the Arab American Institute, Lautenberg apologized in a letter upon meeting with Arab American Institute representatives.

Personal life


From his first marriage to Lois Levenson, which ended in divorce after 31 years, Lautenberg had four children: Ellen Lautenberg, Nan Morgart, Lisa Birer, and Joshua Lautenberg. In 2004, he married his companion of nearly 16 years, Bonnie S. Englebardt. He also had two stepchildren, Danielle Englebardt and Lara Englebardt Metz; and 13 grandchildren. He had a summer home on Martha's Vineyard.


On February 19, 2010, his office announced that Lautenberg had been diagnosed with a diffuse large b-cell lymphoma (an aggressive but curable blood cancer that appears in organs like the stomach) at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. He had been hospitalized with profuse gastric bleeding following a fall in his Cliffside Park, New Jersey, home shortly after returning from a Haiti trip with a 12-member Congressional delegation. He was released from the hospital on February 25, 2010. Six to eight chemotherapy treatments of the intensive R-CHOP regimen followed every 21 days over the course of several months, and a doctor for Lautenberg at the time said a full recovery was expected. Lautenberg continued his Senate work between treatments. On June 26, 2010, the senator announced that he was cancer-free.


Lautenberg died in Manhattan on June 3, 2013, of viral pneumonia.[40] He was 89 and was the last World War II veteran to serve in the Senate.

When a U.S. Senator from New Jersey dies, the governor has the authority to appoint a "place holder" replacement until a special election is held, which in this case will likely be later in 2013.[42][43] The Cook Political Report noted, however, that because of possibly conflicting provisions of the state's law, a special election might not be held until 2014.

In the interim, the current governor, Chris Christie, is expected to appoint a Republican, thus changing the party balance in the Senate by one.

Electoral history

  • 1982 election for US Senate
    • Frank Lautenberg (D), 50%
    • Millicent Fenwick (R), 48%
  • 1988 election for US Senate
    • Frank Lautenberg (D) (inc.), 54%
    • Pete Dawkins (R), 46%
  • 1994 election for US Senate
    • Frank Lautenberg (D) (inc.), 50%
    • Chuck Haytaian (R), 47%
  • 2002 election for US Senate
    • Frank Lautenberg (D), 54%
    • Doug Forrester (R), 44%


  • 2008 election for US Senate
    • Frank Lautenberg (D) (inc.), 56%
    • Dick Zimmer (R), 42%


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