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The Life Of Louise Slaughter

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Bipartisan tributes are rare these days. But the flags above the Capitol are at half-staff as both Democrats and Republicans salute Louise Slaughter, who represented the Rochester, N.Y., area in Congress for 32 years. Representative Slaughter died yesterday at the age of 88. The oldest member of Congress, the only woman to chair the rules committee, the only microbiologist in Congress and a former jazz singer. Louise Slaughter grew up in Harlan County, Ky., the daughter of a blacksmith and moved to upper New York for graduate school. But she kept her Kentucky twang. She co-sponsored the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. She strongly supported the Affordable Care Act but opposed her own party to vote against the North American Free Trade Agreement. She thought it would cost jobs in her district. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Louise inspired countless young women to know their power and seek their rightful place at the head of the decision-making table. And the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, said the thing that I keep coming back to is how she was tough but unfailingly gracious. She was simply great.

(SOUNDBITE OF ZOE KEATING'S "SUN WILL SET") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.