Sen. Frank Lautenberg has died of viral pneumonia this morning, the New Jersey Democrat’s office confirms.
According to information released by his office, Sen. Frank Lautenberg passed away this morning at 4:02 AM Eastern time at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell hospital.
Lautenberg had already planned to retire at the end of his term in January of 2015, and was not intending to seek re-election.
Lautenberg’s health problems, including stomach cancer and respiratory ailments, had hindered his political career in recent years and caused the ailing Senator to miss several votes.
As New Jersey’s longest serving Senator and the last remaining World War II veteran in the Senate, Lautenberg planned to work into his 90s despite his illnesses, and NorthJersey.com reports:
“Lautenberg returned to Washington in February and announced he would not seek re-election in 2014, but hoped to complete a series of accomplishments before his term ended. He had a breakthrough last month on one of them, a bill to overhaul the law that regulates chemicals used in household products, when a bipartisan compromise bill was unveiled.”
The death of Lautenberg leaves his Senate seat unfilled, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will be appointing a replacement for the remainder of the Senator’s term.
In his lengthy term of service, Sen. Lautenberg worked to raise the minimum drinking age, ban smoking on domestic flights, and staunchly supported gun control measures.
Despite his recent bouts with illness, he returned to the U.S. Capitol on April 17 to vote on gun control, including measures to expand background checks. The measures on which Sen. Lautenberg returned to vote did not pass the Senate.
In the past year, Lautenberg also faced challenges politically — most notably from up and coming New Jersey politician Cory Booker, who is the mayor of Newark. Lautenberg jokingly said that Booker needed “a spanking” for seeking to take on the Senator for his seat.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg is survived by his wife, Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg, and their six children.