Cantwell Delivers Floor Speech in Remembrance of Sen. Frank Lautenberg
Cantwell: ‘He will be remembered as part of a great generation of Americans. We’re going to miss you, Frank.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) delivered a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate in remembrance of U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) who passed away on Monday at age 89.
During her remarks, Cantwell recalled the leading role Lautenberg played on public health issues including his successful efforts to ban smoking on airplanes and to crack down on drunk driving. Cantwell also highlighted Lautenberg’s strong support of transportation services throughout his career, in particular Amtrak.
Excerpts from Senator Cantwell’s remarks:
- “He served here for almost 30 years and what always amazed me about Frank was that he brought that business attitude to the United States Senate when it came to legislating – that is results mattered. And because of that he had a long list of legislative accomplishments.”
- “So he did many, many things while he was here in the United States Senate. And he worked very hard because of that experience in World War II and being a veteran and going to school on the GI Bill. Somebody who lost his father at a very early age, he used that GI Bill to get the education he needed to do these incredible things.”
- “But he will be remembered as part of a great generation of Americans who were successful in so many ways - living the American dream, coming to the United States Senate and being a contributor. And just for his tenacity of standing up and fighting for people. We’re going to miss you Frank.”
The full text of Senator Cantwell’s remarks as delivered follows:
I came to share a few thoughts about the passing of our dear friend, Senator Frank Lautenberg. He was a dear friend and a colleague. I originally sat on this floor and he sat right behind me and we shared seats together on the Commerce Committee. I can tell you that Frank’s wit was as quick as his downhill slalom skiing – he always had something funny to say.
We knew him as someone who had been in one of the largest computer service companies, Automatic Data Processing (ADP), and helped get that company started. And as somebody who represented one of the last World War II veterans in this body.
He served here for almost 30 years and what always amazed me about Frank was that he brought that business attitude to the United States Senate when it came to legislating – that is results mattered. Because of that he had a long list of legislative accomplishments.
I don’t know if everybody because of the turnover in the Senate realized how many things that Frank accomplished. Many people have talked about some of them: banning smoking on airplanes, lowering the threshold for drunk driving, better protections against toxic chemicals, helping to improve the everyday safety of Americans, improving the quality of our environmental laws in the United States. He also had an amendment to allow for better refugee status for members of historically persecuted groups to easily get refugee status in the United States.
So he did many, many things while he was here in the United States Senate. And he worked very hard because of that experience in World War II and being a veteran and going to school on the GI Bill.
Somebody who lost his father at a very early age, he used that GI Bill to get the education he needed to do these incredible things.
And when Frank had a victory he didn’t stop at that victory. He kept going. After he and Dick Durbin (D-IL) helped ban smoking on commercial flights, he followed that up with a provision to the transportation appropriations bill that extended the ban to include all federal buildings.
And in that same kind of fervor once he helped to make our drunk driving laws stronger, he continued to try to implement stronger measures as a key player in establishing a national blood alcohol level at 0.08%. So at the time, many states decided to do other things, but Frank worked away to try to champion this at the federal level and helped save tens of thousands of lives.
He was also a huge champion for our environment and championed ocean acidification issues before they were probably really known by a lot of people in America. He understood that this was a looming disaster and we needed to do more research for marine life, our economy, and our way of life.
He also knew and understood that Americans needed protection from toxic pollutants. That’s something that most of us would say, well yes – we don’t like toxic pollutants. But back in 1986, he wrote a bill that created a public database about the toxins released in the United States. And that was certainly brave for somebody from New Jersey because it was a leading chemical producing state. And so the fact that Frank took that on showed a lot of tenacity and a lot of courage and just like on other things he followed that up.
Just recently, he introduced the Safe Chemicals Act to improve the understanding and reporting of chemicals found in products that make their way into Americans hands every single day.
He also championed improving our transportation system. I always told him, Frank how did you get a train station named after you already? On the Jersey line, if you ever take Amtrak up to New York and see one of these stops at Secaucus there it is – the Frank Lautenberg Station.
He had been a great champion for Amtrak but he had also been a great champion for freight and freight mobility. He knew that was something important to New Jersey as a major port in our country. And he wanted to make sure not only people -- but product -- got to where it needed to go and got there on time.
We’d all like to think that we are remembered by the American people by the accomplishments that we have. And I’m not sure they will remember all of these things that Frank Lautenberg did to contribute to their way of life. I can tell you though what I think about his advocacy for a modernized GI Bill or the no smoking on planes. I can tell you he touched the lives of millions of Americans.
He also had tenacity. He had the tenacity once to help a boy from New Jersey who had been involved in a domestic dispute where the father had lost custody. And the young boy at the time, Sean Goldman who was from New Jersey, was taken by a family member and was in Brazil. His father tried going through the Brazilian courts for years trying to get him back. But it really wasn’t until Frank Lautenberg joined the fight that he was able to be successful. Frank used the same tenacity by holding up a Generalized Systems of Preferences bill here in the United States Senate. The tariffs, which are removed, were worth about $2.7 billion of Brazilian goods. And Frank knew, he knew, that threatening to hold up that bill would get their attention and he was right. He literally got them to move and return this young boy, Sean Goldman, to his father. I know that that was something Frank really cared about – the results – that father and son being reunited and getting the results for his constituency in New Jersey.
We will miss Frank. We will miss all the times of his legislative actions – his standing here on the Senate floor giving a speech or as he would say, giving heck to somebody. And often times somebody on the other side or somebody he thought was a big giant doing too many things that needed to be challenged.
But he will be remembered as part of a great generation of Americans who were successful in so many ways - living the American dream, coming to the United States Senate and being a contributor. And just for his tenacity of standing up and fighting for people. We’re going to miss you Frank.
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