New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg has died at the age of 89.

Senator Frank Lautenberg (D) (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Lautenberg's office confirms the oldest member of the United States Senate died early this morning at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell from complications from  viral pneumonia.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie would appoint a successor to Lautenberg and a special election will be held. Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D), Congressman Frank Pallone (D) and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D) have all expressed in running for Lautenberg's seat in 2016. Only Booker has actively campaigned and raised fund but has not formally announced.

Senator Robert Menendez in a statement said Lautenberg "was a man for New Jersey, a man for his time, one of the greatest generation, the last in the Senate to have served in World War II."

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie paid tribute to Lautenberg during remarks at the Conference For Women at the Trenton War Memorial. "It's no mystery that Senator Lautenberg and I didn't always agree... We had some pretty good fights over time," said Christie according to the Star Ledger. "But never was Senator Lautenberg to be underestimated as an advocate for the things he believed in and as an adversary in the political world." He received a standing ovation for his remarks.

The Governor has cleared his schedule for the day.

CBS News reports US Capital flags will be honored in Lautenberg's honor this morning. He was the last World War II veteran in the U.S. Senate

Recent Health Issues

Lautenberg had health problems in recent years. A bout with the flu caused him to miss the Senate's Jan. 1, 2013 vote to avoid the fiscal cliff of rising taxes and falling government spending.

He had been diagnosed in February 2010 with lymphoma of the stomach and underwent chemotherapy for the next few months.

A longtime advocate of gun control, Lautenberg returned to the Senate in April despite being in poor health for several votes on gun legislation favored by Obama, most Democrats and a handful of Republicans. He voted in favor of enhanced background checks for gun purchases and to reinstate a ban on assault-style weapons. Both measures failed.

Wheelchair-bound, he received warm greetings from several colleagues on the Senate floor. He also voted to move along the nomination of a new EPA commissioner, Gina McCarthy.

Lautenberg has announced his intention not to run for re-election in 2016.

A Leader In Washington

Senator Frank Lautenberg with Prime Minister Golda Meir (Facebook)

Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life honored Lautenberg for his commitment to the Jewish people and the state of Israel last Wednesday in New York. He also received Hillel’s annual Renaissance Award. The organization also has created a prize that it will award in Lautenberg’s name to philanthropic organizations.



Among his legislative accomplishments, according to office, are; 

  • Passing the law that banned smoking on airplanes;
  • Authoring the law that prevented domestic abusers from possessing guns;
  • Writing landmark drunk driving laws, including the nationwide .08 blood alcohol standard and the 21 year drinking age law;
  • Co-writing the new GI Bill for the 21st Century;
  • Authoring the Toxic Right to Know law to empower the public to know what pollutants

Serving Twice In The Senate

Charmaine Cannon, of Cinnaminson holds up a sign in support of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Frank Lautenberg at a New Jersey Democratic Party Rally (William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)

Lautenberg served twice in the United States Senate.  He initially retired in 2000 after 18 years in the Senate, saying he did not have the drive to raise money for a fourth campaign. He served on the boards of three companies, two graduate schools and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

But New Jersey Democrats recruited Lautenberg out of retirement in September 2002 as an 11th-hour replacement for Robert Torricelli, Lautenberg's longtime rival, who had abandoned his re-election bid just five weeks before Election Day.

Republicans went to court to prevent what they called the Democratic Party's ballot "switcheroo." When that failed, they attacked Lautenberg as a political relic ill-suited for dangerous times.

But Lautenberg surged to an easy win over Republican Douglas Forrester and returned to the Senate in 2003 at age 78.

The senator, a veteran of World War II, is survived by his wife, Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg; six children and their spouses, Ellen Lautenberg and Doug Hendel, Nan and Joe Morgart, Josh and Christina Lautenberg, Lisa and Doug Birer, Danielle Englebardt and Stuart Katzoff, Lara Englebardt Metz and Corey Metz; and 13 grandchildren.

This is a breaking story. Check back for more details.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.