Lautenberg's Widow Called Key on Toxic Substances Deal

Bonnie Lautenberg, widow of former Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., speaks during a news conference to call on Congress to pass the Lautenberg Act to "protect families from dangerous chemicals." (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker was arm-in-arm with the widow of a one-time political rival, Frank R. Lautenberg, Tuesday morning outside the Capitol.  

Booker and Bonnie Lautenberg were on hand to tout the bipartisan agreement on a toxic substances and chemical safety overhaul spearheaded by Sens. David Vitter, R-La., and Tom Udall, D-N.M., a coalition including Environment and Public Works Chairman James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma.  

"I just want to stand here today and yet again say from the bottom of my heart that this is somebody that has to take a victory lap of getting this done in the Senate," Booker said of Bonnie Lautenberg. "I know that she's not done with trying to make sure that the House and the Senate come together on a final product that can be signed by the president of the United States."  

"Sen. [Daniel K.] Inouye once said that Frank Lautenberg saved more lives than anybody else in the United States Senate. This was [an issue] that disturbed him greatly, because there 's so much cancer, so much disease, heart disease, every disease is affected by ... the toxic environment we are living in," Bonnie Lautenberg told reporters after the news conference.  

The lawmaker died in June 2013. Booker, as the well-known mayor of Newark, won a Democratic primary to fill the unexpired term over, among others, Rep. Frank Pallone. Pallone, who had won the Lautenberg family's blessing, is the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce panel and will be key in getting a final deal.  

The Senate bill has achieved the 60-senator support needed to overcome procedural obstacles , and Republicans were working to find a path forward for quick passage through the Senate, perhaps as early as Thursday before the weeklong Columbus Day break.  

There have been unrelated objections from GOP senators such as Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Richard M. Burr of North Carolina pushing for a vote to revive the lapsed authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. There's also the question of what could happen in a conference with the House.  

But Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said getting the bill to the stage of being ready for the floor (having gotten to 60 supporters last week) was thanks in large part to Udall's efforts to make changes and gather support.  

"Prometheus was chained to a rock, and had his liver eaten every day by an eagle. And sometimes I think the suffering of Tom Udall as he brought this through those early stages was Promethean," Whitehouse said. "So we signal a very significant legislative accomplishment here, and a very I think remarkable exercise in legislative statesmanship by one of our colleagues — at least on our side — I'm sure there were similar efforts of statesmanship on the Republican side."  

"I don't know it's quite as painful as getting my liver eaten every day by an eagle, but there were bumps in the road," Udall said in response. "The wonderful thing is we were doing good old-fashioned legislating and we're at the point to have 60, and we know that's filibuster-proof, and we're going to move from there."  


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