Frank Lautenberg through the years
June 5th, 2013
04:12 PM ET
2 years ago

Biden, Hillary Clinton speak at Lautenberg funeral

(CNN) – Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were among those who spoke candidly and cracked a few jokes at the funeral of their former friend and colleague Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who passed away this week at the age of 89.

Speaking at the service in Manhattan, Biden reflected on his time serving with the New Jersey Democrat in the Senate and recounted their shared fondness for Amtrak. One time when the then-senator was hustling to catch Amtrak back to Delaware, he ran to the train only to hear a conductor tell him there was no need to rush.

"Don't hurry, we're holding the train for Lautenberg," Biden was told. The vice president talked about how well he treated Amtrak workers over the years.

"They never held the train for me," he joked.

The vice president said Lautenberg had been his best friend in the Senate. "He's the only guy that made me feel I was junior to him, but I was there longer than him."

"I knew Strom Thurmond so well literally I was asked to do his eulogy. I did his eulogy. This is a lot easier," Biden joked.

An influential businessman-turned-legislator, Lautenberg scored big victories in Congress, including a ban on smoking on airplanes, preventing domestic abusers from possessing guns, cracking down on drunken driving, and the "Toxic Right to Know" law about the release of pollutants into communities.

Lautenberg, the last World War II veteran in the Senate, announced in a statement in February that he would not seek re-election next year, but he continued to push for stronger gun control laws.

"As Frank would say, `You know it is not where you sit that counts it is where you stand.' And there was never any doubt where he stood," Clinton said. "He did stand with those families who keep their children safe from toxic chemicals, from smoking, from drunk driving. He stood with the victims of gun violence and HIV AIDS."

While Lautenberg's funeral was attended by big political names from New Jersey and Washington, it was his family members who stole the show. Lautenberg had six children and 13 grandchildren.

His daughter, Lisa, had laryngitis but asked her daughter, Molly, to read remarks for her. She finished the speech with some statistics.

"Two hundred pieces of `Lautenberg for Senate' memorabilia in my closet. Three thousand pieces of his opponents' memorabilia that I took down during campaigns and buried in my backyard, " she said, as the audience laughed. "Six trips to Israel to learn about our Jewish heritage with my dad. Three hundred new friends I lost during my freshman year at college when Dad raised the drinking age."

His son, Josh, also drew some laughs.

"If my father was here he would have really loved this party I tell you. He'd say, `Wow, look at all these people. You couldn't get the Israeli prime minister or the Pope? Oh, that's OK'," he said.

His daughter, Ellen, said her father had been expressing regret that he announced in February he wouldn't seek re-election in 2014.

"On days that were good he would say I never should have made that retirement speech," she said.

Lautenberg was first elected to the Senate in 1982 and won re-election twice. He did not seek re-election in 2000 when his third term expired, but was recruited to run again two years later after Democratic Sen. Robert Torricelli quit his re-election bid weeks before the polls opened amid reports of ethical issues. Lautenberg was then re-elected in 2008.

His wife, Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg, thanked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for help with her late husband's upcoming burial. He had wanted to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery but never did the paperwork.

"He couldn't face his own mortality, and figured it would get done," Englebardt Lautenberg said. "It did get done, and thank you Harry."

The only thing that would have made Lautenberg happier, she said, was "if this was a fundraiser for his next campaign."

Lautenberg's casket will be led with an honor guard through the train station named after him Secaucus, New Jersey and travel via Amtrak train to Washington, D.C.

His body will lie in repose in the Capitol on Thursday and buried in Arlington on Friday.

CNN's Ashley Killough contributed to this report.


Filed under: Frank Lautenberg • Hillary Clinton • Joe Biden • New Jersey
soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. t3chn0ph0b3

    Biden. The ultimate troll.

    June 5, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  2. The Real Tom Paine

    "An influential businessman-turned-legislator, Lautenberg scored big victories in Congress, including a ban on smoking on airplanes, preventing domestic abusers from possessing guns, cracking down on drunken driving, and the "Toxic Right to Know" law about the release of pollutants into communities."

    This is what a legislator does: he/she passes laws that help the largest possible number of people. RIP.

    June 5, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  3. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    "He did stand with those families who keep their children safe from toxic chemicals, from smoking, from drunk driving. He stood with the victims of gun violence and HIV AIDS."
    ------------------------------------------------
    Sen. Lautenberg actually accomplished things in Congress. Let's compare his legislative career with the likes of someone such as Michelle Bachmann who didn't accomplish anything!!!

    June 5, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  4. NotYoDaddy

    A true Womb to Tomb lefty.

    The Big G will Protect you.

    (but it seems he died anyway)

    June 5, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  5. Tricia McMillan

    RIP Senator Lautenberg, and thanks for you lifetime of service.

    June 5, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  6. just sayin

    he still should have retired when he turned 80. nobody should serve this long in office. life long politicians are killing the country. go there, do what you can and leave. being carried out boots first is not the way to leave office.

    June 5, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  7. Seth Hill

    Reply to "NotYoDaddy" From your comment, I assume you we should be able to smoke on airplanes, domestic abusers should be able to have guns, we should not crack down on drunken driving, and we should not be able to find out if there are toxic pollutants where we live. Am I correct, or did I misunderstand you?

    June 5, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  8. Sarah

    After reading the headline, I expected the story to include Gordon Gee.

    June 5, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  9. Dan

    Lautenberg was a true patriot. He fought for all Americans and passed bills that hep us all. He is the opposite of the current members of the House. RIP.

    June 5, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  10. Joe

    the senator nominated me many years ago to a service academy (which I attended + military service after). This guy was no die-hard lefty, although his politics was liberal, he was a very practical man. You could disagree with where he stood but not with his integrity.

    June 5, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  11. concernedcitizen

    A true representative of the people's interest, a shining example of the proper use of authority and responsibilty...You will be missed Good SIr...Your uncommon decency provides an example to us all.

    June 5, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  12. The Real Tom Paine

    -Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    The Real Tom Paine

    -Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    Sniffit

    "Ignore what I stated after all that's what you people do so well. "

    If you don't understand the math, ask for help.
    -–
    From a liberal? Best joke of the day there.
    ***********
    Almost as good as " tax cuts pay for themselves".
    -–
    Or have to pass the bill to find out what's in it?
    *****************
    Senator Lautenberg believed in actually passing bills, which is more than Mumbles McConnell and the GOP Idiot gang do. We pay them over $175 K a year, and what leadership has been shown by McConnell, other than attacking Ashley Judd?

    June 5, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  13. Roger

    Hillary Clinton is evil.

    June 5, 2013 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  14. DaveinFlorida

    One of the only real senators in DC. We are in shorter supply of actual legislators now.

    June 5, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  15. don in albuquerque

    @!NotYoDaddy-Real classy. I'm certain all of America is proud of you.

    June 5, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  16. JBullets

    Rest in Peace Senator Lautenberg. You were a good man.

    June 5, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  17. Ge

    The jokers trying to be funny...

    June 5, 2013 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  18. Reckless

    We lost a good one. So few left. RIP a true American

    June 5, 2013 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  19. William Curry

    Rest in peace, senator. May your words and wisdom forever touch and live through those who inspire other as well. Thank you.

    June 5, 2013 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  20. Jake

    Thank you, Senator, from a grateful Bergen County resident.

    June 5, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  21. Mark

    May not agree with his liberal view points, but I thank him for his service as a veteran. He served at a time when it wasn't easy and put his life on the line. That is real honest service.

    June 5, 2013 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  22. Operations

    RIP. He joins the likes of many of an old-fashioned group of elder statesmen from both parties that put country before party. Their likes are gone, and we have to do our riches-to-rags journey again to relearn the lessons of the 1930's that gave them their valuable insight to what does and doesn't make sense in politics and government.

    June 5, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  23. sdafa

    Three thousand pieces of his opponents' memorabilia that I took down during campaigns and buried in my backyard, " she said, as the audience laughed.

    June 5, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  24. Scott

    Thank you Senator for being an example of what a Senator should be.

    June 5, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  25. yep

    He was a true representative of the people who knew that compromise was an honorable word and not something to be avoided at all cost like it is today. RIP Honorable Sir!

    June 5, 2013 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
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