Rep. Louise Slaughter dies at 88

Victoria Sarno Jordan

Rep. Louis Slaughter, an institution of New York politics and a groundbreaking Democrat on Capitol Hill, died early Friday morning after sustaining a head injury in a fall at her Washington residence last week.
The 88-year-old Slaughter made history in 2007, becoming the first woman to take the gavel of the powerful House Rules Committee, and was instrumental in securing some of the Democrats’ most significant legislative victories of the last decade, including ObamaCare and the law tackling lawmaker insider trading.
Slaughter’s office announced her passing in a statement Friday morning.
“To have met Louise Slaughter is to have known a force of nature. She was a relentless advocate for Western New York whose visionary leadership brought infrastructure upgrades, technology, and research investments, and two federal manufacturing institutes to Rochester that will transform the local economy for generations to come,” Liam Fitzsimmons, Slaughter’s chief of staff, said in a statement. 
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) hailed Slaughter as “a trailblazer” in the fight for universal health care and empowering women in politics. Congress, she said, “has lost a beloved leader and a cherished friend.”   
“In her lifetime of public service and unwavering commitment to working families, Congresswoman Slaughter embodied the very best of the American spirit and ideals,” Pelosi said in a statement. 
“Her strong example inspired countless young women to know their power, and seek their rightful place at the head of the decision-making table.” {mosads}
Born in Kentucky and educated in microbiology, Slaughter moved to New York after graduate school, cutting her teeth in local and state politics before first arriving on Capitol Hill in 1987. She made an early mark as a champion of homeless children, women’s reproductive rights, environmental protection of the Great Lakes region and the manufacturing sector surrounding her Rochester district. Following the Democratic wave of 2006, she seized the Rules gavel, becoming the first women in the nation’s history to chair the panel.  
Her New York colleague, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D), characterized her as “a giant.”
“She had deep convictions — on both issues important to the people of Rochester, and for the integrity and honesty of the political system,” Schumer said in a statement. 
“The ferocity of her advocacy was matched only by the depth of her compassion and humanity.”
Slaughter’s ferocity was on near-weekly display from her perch atop the Rules Committee — both as chairwoman and ranking member — where she was known for her feisty debates with the panel’s Republicans, notably Rep. David Dreier (Calif.), the now-retired former chairman, and Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who holds the gavel now. For Beltway insiders, those clashes — featuring Slaughter’s witty barbs delivered with a Southern drawl she never shed — became something like must-watch affairs. 

“Louise was a relentless and tireless fighter,” Dreier said in a statement to The Hill. “In a late night Rules Committee meeting she told me she that she was like a pack horse. Her voice will be missed in Congress. I will miss her.” 

As a legislator, Slaughter led a years-long charge against lawmaker insider trading, authoring bills designed to prevent lawmakers and staffers from profiting on non-public information. In 2012, the work paid off when President Obama signed the Stock Act into law. 
Slaughter also kept a steady gaze on infrastructure development, pushing for years for a high-speed rail project to serve upstate New York. Earlier this year, she bumped into House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster in a Capitol elevator. “Shuster, I need high-speed rail to Albany,” she said. 
Slaughter didn’t always win her requests, but both sides of the aisle respected her tenacity.
“There will never be anyone like Congresswoman Louise Slaughter,” said Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.).
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Friday ordered the flags at the Capitol lowered to half-mast, praising Slaughter as a towering figure who “did not need a gavel to make a dent in history.” 
“The thing that I keep coming back to is how she was tough but unfailingly gracious,” Ryan said. 
“She was simply great.” 
Updated at 1:34 p.m.
Tags Bill Shuster Chuck Schumer Denny Heck Louise Slaughter Louise Slaughter Nancy Pelosi Paul Ryan Pete Sessions Rochester, New York

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