New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who worked on several bills that would have affected the municipal bond market, died on Monday of viral pneumonia.
The Democrat from New Jersey was 89, the oldest member of the Senate and its last World War II veteran.
Republican Gov. Chris Christie is expected to appoint a successor who can serve until a special election can be scheduled. If Christie appoints a Republican to replace the liberal Lautenberg, this would shift the Senate from a 55 Democrat-45 Republican split to a 54-46 split.
Lautenberg had announced earlier this year that he would not run for re-election next year.
Most recently, Lautenberg co-sponsored a bill bipartisan that would allow states ravaged by Hurricane Sandy to issue billions of dollars of private activity bonds outside federal and state volume caps to pay for the rebuilding of docks, commuting facilities, multi-family housing and infrastructure facilities.
He also joined Sen. Jay Rockefeller to introduce a bill earlier this year that would establish a $10 billion American Infrastructure Investment Fund, that would provide loans and loan guarantees for transportation projects.
Lautenberg was a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the Environment and Public Works Committees, both of which have jurisdiction over transportation issues. He also was a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and chaired its financial services and general government subcommittee, which oversaw appropriations for the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Treasury Department.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called Lautenberg, “one of the most productive Senators in the history of America.” New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez said Lautenberg “loved his job and the people who elected him five times, who trusted him to always be on their side, and he always was.”
Local governments also mourned him. “The loss of Senator Lautenberg is the loss of a giant in Congress who fought for many, many causes that affected the nation’s cities and their people,” said U.S. Conference of Mayors president Michael Nutter and CEO Tom Cochran. “Sen. Lautenberg was a tireless friend to U.S. Mayors who helped us on every legislative front – especially with community development block grants, gun safety legislation, funding for local energy efficiency and conservation block grants as well as brownfields cleanup and redevelopment.”
Even Republicans praised him. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said, “Never was Sen. Lautenberg to be underestimated as an advocate for the causes that he believed in and as an adversary in the political world. I think the best way to describe Frank Lautenberg in the way he would probably want to be described to all of you today is as a fighter.”