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Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii dies

7:50 AM, Dec 18, 2012   |    comments
Sen. Daniel Inouye was 88.
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WASHINGTON -- Sen. Daniel Inouye has died.

The influential Democrat from Hawaii broke racial barriers on Capitol Hill and played key roles in congressional investigations of the Watergate and Iran-Contra scandals. He had served in the senate for 50 years and was third in the line presidential succession as president pro tempore of the Senate.

Inouye was a World War II hero and Medal of Honor winner who lost an arm to a German hand grenade during a battle in Italy. He became the first Japanese-American to serve in Congress, when he was elected to the House in 1959, the year Hawaii became a state. He won election to the Senate three years later and served there longer than anyone in American history except Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who died in 2010 after 51 years in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Inouye's death on the Senate floor. His office says he died of respiratory complications at a Washington-area hospital. He was 88.

"I am deeply saddened by the passing of my friend and colleague, Daniel Inouye," Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) said in a statement. "The people of Hawaii and our nation have lost a war hero and public servant who served our country though many important events in our history. Few have contributed more to our country than Daniel Inouye. He was a great American who will be sorely missed. I send my condolences to his wife, Irene, his son, Daniel, and his entire family."

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont is now third in the line of presidential succession. The Senate late Monday passed a resolution approving Leahy as president pro tempore.

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