WASHINGTON — The dean of the New York House delegation passed away early this morning after suffering a head injury in a fall at her D.C. residence last week.
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) was 88 years old and serving her 16th term in Congress, where she was the first woman to lead the House Rules Committee. She represented the Rochester area and was the oldest lawmaker in the House.
Slaughter was preceded in death by her husband of 57 years, Bob, who passed away in 2014. The couple has three daughters, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
“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,” said Slaughter’s chief of staff, Liam Fitzsimmons. “As the first chairwoman of the House Rules Committee, Louise blazed a path that many women continue to follow. It is difficult to find a segment of society that Louise didn’t help shape over the course of more than thirty years in Congress, from health care to genetic nondiscrimination to historic ethics reforms.”
“The Slaughter family is incredibly grateful for all the support during this difficult time,” he added.
One of the congresswoman’s legislative projects was ensuring that American troops got better body armor. After learning in 2006 that 80 percent of Americans killed in the Iraq War due to upper body wounds could have survived with adequate body armor, Slaughter began a quest to improve body armor safety standards that culminated in ending the practice of outsourcing testing to private companies. In 2009, she secured the recall and replacement of 16,000 pieces of unsafe body armor from the front lines.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) called “just jarring” the passing of “a giant in the people’s House.”
“She was unrelenting in fighting for her ideas and the people back home in Western New York. But really, the thing that I keep coming back to is how she was tough, but unfailingly gracious. She was simply great,” Ryan said in a statement.
Ryan ordered that the flags above the Capitol be lowered to half-staff.
“The coming days of mourning will bring many tributes to this wonderful public servant,” he said. “For now, let us pray that God brings comfort to those closest to Louise.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) noted that Slaughter “could be fiercely debating on the floor in the morning, and singing in harmony with her colleagues across the aisle in the evening.”
“Her tireless leadership was invaluable to passing legislation to expand access to affordable, high-quality health care and to help young people climb the ladders of opportunity with a good education. She made it her mission to help every man and woman chase their American Dream,” Pelosi said. “It was my great privilege to serve with her and to benefit from her friendship and wise counsel for 30 years. Her loss will be deeply felt.”
The current chairman of the Rules Committee, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), said Slaughter “was a force to be reckoned with who always brought her spunk, fire, and dynamic leadership to every meeting.”
“Louise was a fearless leader, deeply committed to her constituents, and a dear friend. I have had the immense privilege of working side by side with her for the past 20 years,” Sessions said. “I will always cherish our friendship, camaraderie, and of course her rhubarb pie.”