Louise McIntosh Slaughter is one of the most powerful women in Congress, a leading progressive voice in the House of Representatives, and a stalwart advocate for her neighbors in Rochester. The daughter of a blacksmith in a Kentucky coal mine, Congresswoman Slaughter illustrates the power of the American spirit and has dedicated her life to building a “more perfect union” where everyone has a chance to live the American dream.
Throughout her career, Congresswoman Slaughter’s mission has been inspired by her strong ties to Rochester and upstate New York. In one of her first forays into public service, she fought to preserve the beech-maple trees of Hart’s Woods in Perinton as she recognized that the benefits of preservation outweighed the rewards of commercial development. Her practical activism is a centerpiece of her work and she has never forgotten her roots in Rochester.
Congresswoman Slaughter’s unique voice in Congress has grown not only from the policies she has championed, but also from the path she has taken as a pioneering woman in public office. When she began her career, it was relatively rare for women to hold elected office, and she was the first woman to represent western New York. She continued to break new ground when she was named the first female chair of the powerful House Committee on Rules in 2007. From this influential position, Congresswoman Slaughter played a critical role in enacting historic legislation. She helped shepherd many important and transformative bills through the House of Representatives, including the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, and the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act. She continues to serve on this committee as the highest ranking Democrat.
As one of the longest-serving female leaders of the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Slaughter has long been a prominent voice for women and diversity. Early in her congressional career, she successfully fought for the passage of legislation that guarantees women and minorities are included in all federal health trials, established the Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and allocated the first $500 million in federal funding for breast cancer research at the NIH. Ten years after the creation of the ORWH, the NIH awarded her the “Visionary for Women’s Health Research” award. Congresswoman Slaughter has also taken on the scourge of domestic violence and sexual assault. She co-authored the landmark Violence Against Women Act, which has reduced cases of domestic violence by 67 percent since 1994.
Despite her long list of accomplishments in Washington, Congresswoman Slaughter is found just as often in the aisles of Wegmans as the halls of Congress. She understands the privilege of serving others and is renowned for helping her constituents – often reaching out personally to those who have contacted her office. Congresswoman Slaughter’s care for her neighbors ranges from constituent services such as these calls to advocating for them on the national stage even when it means going against her colleagues or her party.
Her concern for the people of Rochester, especially those in manufacturing jobs, has led her to battle against every free trade agreement, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). These agreements have caused Rochester businesses serious harm and led to widespread hardship in local communities. Just as Congresswoman Slaughter believes that government should not favor one sector of the economy at the expense of another, she believes that the political process should be equally accessible to everyone. To help hold government accountable, she passed the STOCK Act, which outlawed insider trading by members of Congress and their staff and introduced the Supreme Court Ethics Act, which applies a binding code of conduct to members of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Congresswoman Slaughter’s interest in addressing the major science and health-related issues of today can also be traced back to her roots. After the childhood death of her sister from pneumonia, Congresswoman Slaughter decided to study microbiology and public health – she is the only microbiologist in Congress. She used her scientific knowledge and passion to pass the Genetic Information and Non-Discrimination Act (GINA), which was described by the late Senator Edward Kennedy as the “first civil rights legislation of the 21st Century.” Her work on GINA was subsequently published in the Harvard Journal on Legislation.
In addition to being the only microbiologist in Congress, she is also a visionary who wrote her master’s thesis on the problem of bacterial drug resistance decades before other scientists began to take this issue seriously. She carries on this work by championing the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), which would end the routine use of antibiotics on factory farms and curb the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Before serving in Congress, Congresswoman Slaughter served in the New York State Assembly from 1982 to 1986 and the Monroe County Legislature between 1976 and 1979. While holding elected office, she was regional coordinator to Mario Cuomo from 1976 to 1978 while he served as secretary of state and from 1979 to 1982 while he served as lieutenant governor.
Congresswoman Slaughter was born in Harlan County, Kentucky and graduated from the University of Kentucky with a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology and a Master of Science degree in Public Health. After graduate school, she and her husband, Bob Slaughter, moved to the village of Fairport, where Louise still calls home. She and Bob were married for 57 years. Together the couple had three daughters and seven grandchildren.