In the months leading up to his death, a visibly ailing Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg made few visits to the Capitol. His final trip to the Senate floor for votes came April 17, on an assortment of gun control measures, a cause near and dear to the New Jersey Democrat.
Lautenberg spoke from his wheelchair with a small gaggle of reporters leaving the Capitol that day, primarily from regional outlets covering New Jersey, but we were there as well. That day, he said treatment had gone well and he was looking forward to his return.
“Things went extremely well, particularly that my health was recovered enough to — to do this,” Lautenberg told a small group of reporters. “That was a big thing.”
“I’m back,” Lautenberg said that day before jokingly switching to the third-person, “He’s back!”
“People were nice,” he said, noting that senators greeted him with warm wishes about and “said they were glad to see me.”
Lautenberg acknowledged being disappointed by the outcome of various gun amendment votes on the floor that day, including an amendment he offered along with Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal that would prohibit high capacity gun clips. “That was not as good as I liked,” he said.
His final public appearance at the Capitol complex came just two and a half weeks ago on May 16. Lautenberg showed up for the Environment and Public Works Committee markup of President Barack Obama’s nomination of Gina McCarthy to take the helm of the EPA. The rare appearance came about after GOP senators initially declined to participate in the markup.
“It’s a joyful experience to see your beautiful face here,” EPW Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said to Lautenberg at the time. Boxer also told reporters after the markup that Lautenberg seemed “perky” and “happy to be here.”
Cristina Marcos contributed to this report.