March 19, 2018

Rep. Slaughter, champion of ACA and microbiologist, dies at 88

Daily Briefing

    Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), a 16-term member of Congress who played an instrumental role in the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), died Friday at age 88, after an injury from a fall at her Washington, D.C., home.

    Slaughter's personal background

    Slaughter was born Aug. 14, 1929, in Lynch, Kentucky. After high school, she went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree and a master's degree in public health from the University of Kentucky in the early 1950s. She worked in market research for a chemical manufacturer before her she and her husband moved to the Rochester, New York, area.

    She is survived by three daughters, seven grandchildren, and one great grandson. Slaughter's husband, Robert, passed away in 2014. 

    Slaughter's achievements in Congress

    Slaughter had represented the Rochester, New York, area in Congress since 1987. She was the first woman to chair the House Committee on Rules, holding the position from 2007 to 2011, and she remained a ranking member until her death. According to the Washington Post's "PowerPost," Slaughter, who was the oldest sitting member of Congress at the time of her death, was the only microbiologist serving in Congress.

    As Rules Committee chair, Slaughter was integral to the passage of the ACA, according to the New York Times. The committee controls debate on the amendment process on the House floor, and Slaughter used that authority to help advance the ACA.

    Slaughter also advocated for legislation passed in 2008 that would bar employers and insurers from discrimination based on a person's genetic information.

    Slaughter was also devoted to reducing the use of antibiotics in healthy livestock. She and critics of the practice said it had supported the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

    In addition, Slaughter championed funding for women's health programs. She was co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus and led efforts against measures to curtail Roe v. Wade. She was also a leader in the push for the Violence Against Women Act.

    Slaughter was also influential in the passage of a bill that barred Congress, staffers, and other government employees from using non-public information to benefit themselves in stock trading.

    Slaughter's seat

    New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) will decide whether to set a special election to fill Slaughter's seat or leave it vacant until the November congressional election.

    Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) is in line to become the next ranking member of the Rules Committee, according to "PowerPost."

    Congressional leaders remember Slaughter

    House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) ordered flags above the Capitol to be lowered to half-staff to remember Slaughter. He tweeted, "@LouiseSlaughter was tough, unfailingly gracious, and unrelenting in fighting for her ideas. She was simply great."

    Separately, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), called Slaughter "a trailblazer." Pelosi said, "Her strong example inspired countless young women to know their power, and seek their rightful place at the head of the decision-making table."

    Rules Committee Chair Pete Sessions (R-Texas) described Slaughter as "a force to be reckoned with, who always brought her spunk, fire, and dynamic leadership to every meeting."

    House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said Slaughter loved "the debate and was an outspoken advocate," but always treated those on the other side with respect. He called her "an example for all Americans that we can disagree without being disagreeable" (O'Keefe, "PowerPost," Washington Post, 3/16; Fried, New York Times, 3/16; Lahman et al., Rochester Democrat and Chronicle/USA Today, 3/16; Bowman, CQ News, 3/16 [subscription required])

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