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Public Statements

Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I have been listening to this debate with my colleagues, but I came to share a few thoughts about the passing of our dear friend Senator Frank Lautenberg. He was a dear friend, a colleague. When I originally sat in the Senate, he sat right behind me. We shared seats together on the Commerce Committee. I can tell you Frank's wit was as quick as his downhill slalom skiing. He always had something funny to say.

We knew him as somebody who had been in one of the largest computer services companies, ADP, and helped get that company started, and as somebody who represented veterans as one of the last World War II veterans in this body. He served here for almost 30 years.

What always amazed me about Frank is that he brought that business attitude to the Senate when it came to legislating; that is, results matter. 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 Frank accomplished: banning smoking on airplanes, lowering the threshold for drunk driving, better protection 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 that helped allow for better refugee status, for members of historically persecuted groups to easily get refugee status in the United States.

He did many different things while he was in the 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.

When Frank had a victory, he didn't stop at that victory, he kept going. After he and Dick Durbin helped ban smoking on commercial flights, he followed that with a provision to the Transportation appropriations bill that extended the ban to include all Federal buildings.

In the same kind of fervor, once he helped 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 percent. At the time, many States decided to do otherwise, but Frank worked to try to champion this at the Federal level, and as a result he helped to save tens of thousands of lives.

He was also a huge champion of our environment. He 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 that 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. Well, that is something most of us would say: Yes, we don't like toxic pollutants. Back in 1986 he wrote a bill that created a public database about toxins released in the United States. That was certainly brave for somebody from New Jersey because it was a leading chemical-producing State. The fact that Frank took that on showed a lot of tenacity and a lot of courage, and just as he did on the other things, he followed that up.

Recently, he introduced the Safe Chemicals Act to improve the understanding and reporting of chemicals found in products that make their way into the hands of Americans every single day.

He also championed improving our transportation system. I asked him: Frank, how did you already get a train station named for you on the Jersey line? Anyone who has taken the Amtrak up to New York has had a chance to see that one of the stops in Secaucus is named the Frank R. Lautenberg Station. He had been a great champion for Amtrak, but he was also a great champion for freight and freight mobility. He knew it was important to New Jersey as a major port in our country, and he wanted to make sure that not
only people but products got to where they needed to go and got there on time.
We all like to think we are remembered by the American people for the accomplishments we have, and I am not sure whether they will remember all of the things Frank Lautenberg did to contribute to their way of life. One thing I can say is that when I think about his advocacy for a modernized GI bill or banning smoking on planes, 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. The young boy at that time, Sean Goldman, who was from New Jersey, had been taken by a family member and was in Brazil. His father tried going through the Brazilian courts for years to get him back. He really wasn't successful until Frank Lautenberg joined the fight. Frank brought the same tenacity he had shown in the past and held up a generalized system of preferences bill--which remove tariffs on $2.7 billion worth of Brazilian goods--here in the Senate. He knew that threatening to hold up that bill would get their attention, and he was right. He literally got them to do something and return this young boy, Sean Goldman, to his father. Frank really cared about results. He knew it was important to get that father and son reunited, and he knew the importance of getting results for his constituency in New Jersey.

We will miss Frank. We will miss all of his legislative actions, his standing on the Senate floor and giving a speech or, as he would say, giving heck to somebody. Oftentimes it was somebody on the other side or somebody he thought was a big giant doing too many things that needed to be challenged. He will be remembered as part of a great generation of Americans who were successful in so many ways. He lived the American dream, came to the Senate and was a contributor. He will be remembered for his tenacity and standing and fighting for people.

We are going to miss you, Frank.

I yield the floor.


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