Louise Slaughter, Democratic congresswoman from upstate New York, dies

March 16, 2018 GMT

Rep. Louise Slaughter, the first woman to chair the powerful House Rules Committee and one of the longest-serving members of Congress, died early Friday at the age of 88, according to her office.

Ms. Slaughter was surrounded by family at George Washington University Hospital where she was being treated after a fall last week, according to Liam Fitzsimmons, her chief of staff.

“To have met Louise Slaughter is to have known a force of nature,” Mr. Fitzsimmons said in a statement. “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.”

Her office had said Thursday that Ms. Slaughter fell at her D.C. home last week and was being treated at George Washington for a concussion.

Ms. Slaughter, the top Democrat on the House Rules Committee and the oldest member of Congress, served in the House since 1987.

“As the first chairwoman of the House Rules Committee, Louise blazed a path that many women continue to follow,” Mr. Fitzsimmons said. “It is difficult to find a segment of society that Louise didn’t help shape over the course of more than 30 years in Congress, from health care to genetic nondiscrimination to historic ethics reform.”

As chairwoman of the rules committee from 2007-2011, she was instrumental in shepherding Obamacare among other pieces of legislation through the House.

Ms. Slaughter wrote the STOCK Act, passed in 2012, that sought to ban insider trading among members of Congress and their staff.

She also spent more than a decade working on legislation to ban genetic discrimination in health care and employment, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act was signed into law in 2008.

Born in Kentucky, Ms. Slaughter and her husband Bob were married for 57 years until he died in 2014. They had three daughters, seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said that in memory of Ms. Slaughter, he’s ordered the flags above the Capitol to be lowered to half-staff.

Mr. Ryan said she was “a giant in the people’s House,” and unrelenting in fighting for her ideas and her constituents.

“But really, the thing that I keep coming back to is how she was tough, but unfailingly gracious. She was simply great,” Mr. Ryan said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Friday that the congressional community has lost “a beloved leader and a cherished friend,” calling Ms. Slaughter a “trailblazer.”

“Her strong example inspired countless young women to know their power, and seek their rightful place at the head of the decision-making table,” Mrs. Pelosi said.

Rep. Pete Sessions, Texas Republican and the current rules committee chairman, called Ms. Slaughter “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,” Mr. Sessions said.