The longest-serving member of the U.S. Senate and the man who was third in line for the presidency, Hawaii’s Daniel Inouye, has died. He was 88 years old.
Inouye, a decorated World War II veteran, had been hospitalized in Washington since Dec. 6, when he fainted in his office at the U.S. Capitol. His death on Monday was attributed to respiratory complications.
Senate Majority Leader and fellow Democrat Harry Reid announced Inouye’s death on the floor of the Senate.
In a written statement, President Barack Obama said the country had lost a true American hero. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called Inouye an iconic political figure who had every reason to call attention to himself but who never did.
Inouye also was an advocate for expats.
At the time of his death, Inouye was the Senate’s president pro tempore, the designation for the person who is third in line for the presidency after the vice president and the speaker of the House of Representatives. Inouye also chaired the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.
When Hawaii became a state in 1959, Inouye was elected the first representative from the state, and was reelected to a full term in 1960. He was first elected to the Senate in 1962 and was serving his ninth consecutive term.
He was one of the most influential Democratic senators on Capitol Hill.
In another development affecting the Senate’s membership, a conservative Republican congressman from South Carolina has been named to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat representing the southern state.
Representative Tim Scott was named Monday by the state’s governor, Nikki Haley, to take over the seat being vacated by the recent, unexpected resignation of Sen. Jim DeMint. He is leaving the Senate to assume control of a conservative think tank in Washington.
With his appointment, Scott will become the only African American currently serving in the 100-member Senate. He also will be the first black senator in 130 years from the South, the U.S. region that was the focus of the country’s sometimes violent conflict over the civil rights of blacks in the 1960s.
The 47-year-old Scott, who owns an insurance agency, will fill the Senate seat for two years before facing a 2014 election for the last two years of DeMint’s six-year term.