Monday, June 3, 2013
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The oldest member of the U.S. Senate has died.
New Jersey Democrat Frank Lautenberg was 89 -- and he was the last World War II veteran remaining in the Senate. His office says Lautenberg died early today at a New York hospital after suffering complications from viral pneumonia. He had announced in February that he wouldn't seek a sixth term.
New Jersey's Republican governor, Chris Christie, will appoint a successor.
Lautenberg was a driving force behind the laws that banned smoking on most U.S. flights and made 21 the drinking age in all 50 states. The law has been widely credited with reducing highway deaths.
He was also a longtime advocate of gun control. In April, despite his poor health, he returned to the Senate for several votes on gun legislation favored by President Barack Obama.
Lautenberg, a multimillionaire businessman, served nearly three decades in the Senate in two stints, starting with an upset victory in 1982 over Republican congresswoman Millicent Fenwick.
Over the years, he worked to secure hundreds of millions of dollars for mass transit projects in New Jersey, and became an ardent defender of Amtrak.
(Copyright 2013, The Associated Press)