10 of Senator Frank Lautenberg’s Most Progressive Causes and Accomplishments

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), the last remaining World War II veteran in the Senate, died on Monday morning at the age of 89, after struggling for months with poor health.


Throughout his long career in the Senate — he held two different Senate seats — Lautenberg championed a long list of progressive causes from women’s health to gun safety, LGBT rights, and anti-tobacco laws, making him one of the loudest and most effective lawmakers of his time. Here is just a short list of some of Lautenberg’s most progressive causes and accomplishments:

1. Lautenberg helped write the law banning smoking on airplanes, which helped start the movement towards smoke-free public spaces.

2. In 1989, Lautenberg co-authored an amendment that designated Soviet Jews as a “persecuted minority” in the Soviet Union and therefore eligible for admission to the United States without regard to regular immigration quotas. The measure allowed thousands of persecuted Jews to immigrate into the United States.

3. Wrote the law banning smoking in all federally funded places that serve children. He was also the author of legislation to ban smoking in federal buildings.

4. Wrote the domestic violence gun ban to protect women and children by keeping spousal and child abusers from owning guns. Gun safety advocates are now seeking to strengthen the law.

5. Strongly supported eliminating $24 billion in “immoral” subsidies for big oil companies, noting on the floor of the Senate that “A single oil company CEO makes more in one year than all the people in that county all together. They’re already contributing to his salary when they fill up at the gas tank.”

6. Wrote the Responsible Education about Life (REAL) Act, which provides funding for comprehensive sex education, and the Access to Birth Control (ABC) Act that would prohibit pharmacies from denying access to birth control. As he said on the floor in March of 2012, “So I want [women] to have doctors making decisions, not some employer who has a self-righteous moral view that he wants to impose on my daughter, my granddaughter, my wife.”

7. An original cosponsor of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows people to take time off work to care for sick children or parents.

8. Coauthored and helped secure funding for the Ryan White CARE Act, provides servies to over half a million people living with HIV/AIDS and offers treatment for low-income, uninsured and under-insured patients.

9. Wrote the Toxic Right to Know law to make sure local communities are informed about harmful toxins that chemical facilities are releasing into the air.

10. Coauthored a 2007 law to increase the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks.

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