WASHINGTON — Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a long-respected Democratic senator from New Jersey who died Monday of viral pneumonia at the age of 89, championed several legislative causes with implications for the fashion industry throughout his political career.
The senator waded into many controversies, ranging from the storm last year over U.S. Olympic Committee uniforms that were made in China, to tougher regulations on chemicals found in items like beauty-care products and textiles, and a debate over whether 100 percent of all containers entering U.S. ports from overseas should be scanned.
The controversy over the USOC’s outfitting of American athletes in Chinese-made uniforms at the Summer Olympic Games in London last July led nine senators, including Lautenberg, to introduce legislation requiring the committee to outfit the U.S. team in clothing made in America for all future Olympic games. The fallout from the controversy prompted sponsor Ralph Lauren to pledge to make the uniforms for the 2014 Games in the U.S.
Although the “Team USA Made in America Act” never advanced in Congress, it generated headlines and upped the ante on the USOC.
Lautenberg also sponsored legislation in 2010 dubbed “The Safe Chemicals Act” that would overhaul chemical laws and require manufacturers to prove the safety of chemicals, which would have had major implications for cosmetics and textile companies. The bill, which wasn’t passed by Congress, aimed to give more power to the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the use of chemicals, and also put the burden on industry to prove that chemicals used in their products were safe in order to stay on the market.
He also championed the scanning of 100 percent of all cargo containers at foreign ports before they entered the U.S., a concept the major industry associations opposed, arguing it would severely disrupt global trade and could hurt businesses. While that initiative is pending, the Customs and Border Protection agency has taken a stricter approach to container inspection and security.