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Senate approves Lautenberg-led chemical safety bill

WASHINGTON – Calling it the final piece of the legacy of the late New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, the Senate late Thursday passed a bill to strengthen federal oversight of chemicals in everyday products.

The measure, long championed by the Democratic senator before his death in 2013, would overhaul a decades-old law that environmental groups say has left the Environmental Protection Agency virtually powerless to review chemicals found in many everyday products, including clothing, couches, receipts and more.

Now called the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, it was approved by a voice vote. It must now be reconciled with a House measure before it can go to President Obama.

"This is a tribute to Frank Lautenberg and his wife Bonnie," Sen. Jim Inhofe (R., Okla.) said on the Senate floor after the measure was approved. "I think, now, that Frank Lautenberg's legacy has been fulfilled."

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate committee overseeing environmental issues, had worried that the measure was not strong enough, but said she let the voice vote go forward because the bill had been improved and she was assured the House and Senate versions would be merged.

Lautenberg's wife, Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg, came to Washington to promote the plan in October.

"Of course this bill is important to me personally, to see Frank's legacy move forward, a final achievement to an almost 30-year Senate career," she said then. "But more importantly, it's necessary because our country desperately needed to improve" the law.

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