House

Lawmakers remember Slaughter in Capitol ceremony

Greg Nash
Scores of lawmakers from both parties and chambers gathered in the Capitol Wednesday to remember Rep. Louise Slaughter, a liberal lion of New York politics who died last month at the age of 88.
 
In a series of emotional speeches, Democrats close to Slaughter hailed her pioneering role as the first woman to chair the House Rules Committee, as well as her 32 years in Congress fighting for liberal causes like affordable health care, workers’ rights, drug safety and the environment. 
 
“She was fervid about protecting little people,” said Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.).
 
But it was Slaughter’s larger-than-life persona — a unique combination of geniality and fierce tenacity, delivered in the unmistakable southern drawl of her Kentucky upbringing — that captivated even her political foes. It was that side of Slaughter that held center stage during Wednesday’s ceremony in the Capitol’s packed Statuary Hall.
 
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) lamented the loss of a “warm, smart, gracious [and] sharp-tongued” lawmaker who “treated everyone the same” regardless of social standing or political party. He also recounted the daunting task of facing off against Slaughter in policy debates.
 
“‘Formidable’ does not even begin to describe it,” Ryan said. “She was just so resolute, so certain in her point of view. You could try to convince her otherwise, but if you didn’t have every fact straight, if you had not done your homework, forget it. 
 
“You did not stand a chance.” {mosads}
 
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) was even more terse. “With that southern drawl she could rip your heart out,” she said.
 
First elected in 1986, Slaughter became an early champion of women’s reproductive health, medical research, public transportation and manufacturing protections in her upstate New York district surrounding Rochester. In 2007, when the Democrats took control of the House, she seized the gavel of the Rules Committee, becoming the first woman to do so since the panel’s founding in 1789.
 
She also co-authored the original Violence Against Women Act, a landmark 1994 law, and was the leading force behind the 2012 enactment of the Stock Act, which seeks to prevent congressional lawmakers and staffers from profiting on nonpublic information.
 
“Louise was a moral force in the Congress,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “When you had to make a decision and you went to speak to Louise about it, it was about looking into a mirror of your own conscience.  
 
“Her response was always so right … that you wondered why it was ever a question to begin with.”
 
Slaughter died on March 16 after suffering a head injury in a fall at her Washington residence a few days earlier.
 
“She never backed down from a fight” and was “never afraid to speak her mind,” recalled Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). 
 
“As Louise was fond of saying, ‘They don’t call me Slaughter for nothing.’”
Tags Charles Schumer Gwen Moore Louise Slaughter memorial service Nancy Pelosi Paul Ryan Rosa DeLauro

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