Frank R. Lautenberg, New Jersey’s longest-serving U.S. senator, died Monday at 89 of viral pneumonia, his office said.
The oldest member of the Senate and its last World War II veteran, Lautenberg had struggled with health problems since late last year, when he missed several weeks of votes because of what he said was flu and bronchitis.
Lautenberg was considered one of the Senate’s most liberal members, and was the author of the the Ryan White Care Act, which provides services to persons living with AIDS. The death of Lautenberg, a Democrat, creates a vacancy that Republican Gov. Christie will fill. The appointee would serve until a new senator is elected to a full six-year term in 2014.