This interactive timeline displays the key events in the life and political career of Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. Click on any item in the timeline to expand that item and reveal more information. You may also select a category or any combination of categories at the top of the page to expand only that type of item.
Lowell Palmer Weicker, Jr., is born to Mary Hastings Bickford and Lowell Palmer Weicker in Paris, France. Weicker’s family later moves to New York, where Weicker lives from 1936 to 1953.
Weicker graduates from the Lawrenceville School.
Weicker earns his Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University. During his years at Yale, Weicker first begins to become active in local politics.
Weicker marries his first wife, Marie Louise “Bunny” Godfrey.
Weicker starts active duty in the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
Weicker completes his service as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
Scot Weicker is born to Lowell Weicker and Marie Louise Godfrey.
Weicker earns a juris doctorate from the University of Virginia School of Law, a place to which he traces his “great love for the Constitution of the United States.” After graduating, the Weickers briefly move to Seattle, Washington, before returning to Connecticut to take a new job.
Weicker joins the U.S. Army Reserve and serves for the next four years, retiring from service in 1964.
Weicker begins to cut his political teeth in local Greenwich politics, stumping for Republican candidates at the grassroots level. Weicker cites third voting district boss Peter deStefano as an important influence, noting that, “It was from deStefano and a couple of others that I learned the importance of constituent access and services.” In his first political venture, Weicker seeks the Republican nomination for state representative to the Connecticut General Assembly in 1960, but loses 47-3.
Gray Weicker is born to Lowell Weicker and Marie Louise Godfrey.
Weicker is elected to his first term in the Connecticut Assembly. He will return for two more two-year terms thereafter. Local papers refer to Weicker as a Goldwater Republican, a reference to his fiscal conservatism as well as his personal support for Goldwater, whose Presidential candidacy he will support two years later. Weicker secures for Goldwater the four Connecticut delegates heading to the Republican national convention in the 1964 Presidential campaign.
Weicker is elected first selectman for the town of Greenwich, serving through two terms for a total of four years in office.
Lowell Weicker and Marie Louise Godfrey adopt Brian Bianchi.
Weicker runs and wins his congressional race for the Fourth District, defeating the conservative Democrat incumbent Donald Irvin. In the campaign, Weicker is critical of President Lyndon Johnson’s handling of the war in Vietnam. Weicker wins 52% of the vote, as he later writes, by “taking it to the streets.”
Representatives Thomas Meskill and Weicker introduce a school prayer amendment. Later in his Senate career Weicker changes his position and comes to strongly oppose school prayer amendments on constitutional grounds.
Weicker is appointed chairman of the House Public Ground Transportation Committee. During his time on the Committee, Weicker is responsible for funding and initiating studies on all forms of ground transportation and making recommendations to solve transit problems and improve service in the country.
Weicker introduces successful legislation requiring urban renewal programs to provide housing for those who are displaced.
Weicker introduces HR 14419, a bill to authorize Secretary of Transportation John Volpe to prescribe rules, regulations, and performance and other standards as he finds necessary for all areas of railroad safety and to conduct rail safety research.
The Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970, creating Amtrak, is laid out on the floor of the Senate.
Weicker introduces H.J. Res. 1288 in the House as a joint resolution to provide funds for a study of how feasible a government acquisition, operation, and maintenance of railroad tracks might be. Weicker aims for the study to provide the groundwork for a coordinated federal transportation program including right-of-way signal systems and other fixed facilities. The resolution appropriates $100,000 for the study, to be conducted by the Secretary of Transportation.
Weicker is elected to the Senate from the state of Connecticut. He had decided to run earlier in the year when Thomas Meskill, the senior Representative from Connecticut, told Weicker that he intended to run for Governor and encouraged Weicker to run for the open Senate seat. Weicker defeats Democratic candidate Joseph Duffey, as well as third party candidate Thomas Dodd. Dodd had been the Democratic incumbent before resigning amidst a Senate censure, but decides to enter the race later as an Independent candidate. Weicker wins with 41.7% of the vote.
Weicker and 37 other members of the Senate ask President Richard Nixon to allocate the $900 million Congress provided for urban mass transit in 1962.
Weicker co-sponsors the War Powers Act, delivering one of his first major speeches on the Senate floor. The legislation is defeated, but later passes in 1973.
Weicker’s son, Scot, is injured in a serious boating accident. Weicker later writes that this personal experience made him very sensitive to the plight of people with serious medical and other needs in his work in the Senate.
The Watergate break-in occurs, and five men are arrested. Nixon announces in August that White House Counsel John Dean has investigated the Watergate break-in and found that no one in the White House was involved.
Weicker joins with six other Senators to fight Nixon’s proposed anti-busing legislation, recruiting almost 500 law professors to protest Nixon’s blatant court-stripping measures. Nixon’s anti-busing proposals come in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 1971 Swann vs. Board of Education decision, which had approved busing as a way to remove de jure segregation, or segregation enforced by informal custom or housing patterns, rather than de facto segregation, which is enforced using explicitly racist laws.
President Richard Nixon is re-elected in a landslide victory.
Weicker joins Senators Sam Ervin, Daniel Inouye, Joseph Montoya, Herman Talmadge, Howard Baker, and Edward Gurney on the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, convened to investigate the Watergate burglaries. Weicker and Gurney are chosen because they are the only two Republicans to volunteer.
Weicker starts his personal investigation into the Watergate break-in. He begins to develop his reputation as an independent participant willing to cross party lines when he tells the press that he intends to subpoena White House aides.
James McCord agrees to testify before the Watergate Committee following his sentencing hearing before Judge John Sirica. McCord appears before the first official meeting of the full Watergate Committee the following week.
Weicker meets with Alfred Baldwin, a former FBI agent who had been recruited to listen to Nixon surveillance tapes. Baldwin tells Weicker of H.R. Haldeman’s involvement in Watergate-type activities.
John Dean begins working with Watergate prosecutors to tell his side of the story.
Weicker begins his interviews of CREEP (Committee to Re-elect the President) staff. Interviews will continue for two months.
Weicker calls on H.R. Haldeman to resign while attending the Christian Science Monitor Sperling breakfast. In what is seen as a rebuke of Weicker, Sam Ervin and Howard Baker respond by issuing a statement that the Committee had no evidence implicating Haldeman.
With Acting FBI Director Patrick Gray’s prior knowledge and consent, Weicker tells reporters that John Dean had given implicating documents to Gray to destroy with John Ehrlichman’s permission. Weicker makes clear to the press that Gray had been abused by the Nixon White House. Gray immediately resigns.
Weicker becomes the first member of the Watergate Committee to meet with Dean, who discloses all of the abuses committed by the White House. Of particular importance, Dean gives details of John Ehrlichman ordering the destruction of implicating documents and elucidates FBI involvement in CREEP activities and cover-up.
The Watergate Committee begins to hold its televised hearings, in which Weicker becomes a well-known national figure leading the investigation.
Dean testifies before the Watergate Committee in its nationally televised hearings. Weicker procures damaging testimony, propelling him further into the national spotlight. During Dean’s testimony before the Committee he implicates Nixon in the White House cover-up.
Senator Weicker appears on the Today Show to talk about public and private pressures on the Watergate Committee. Weicker also receives a call from Leonard Garment, Nixon’s special counsel, regarding Weicker’s accusation that there have been efforts to influence the Select Committee. Peter Irons writes a telegram to Weicker about William C. Sullivan leaking files on Alger Hiss to John F. Cronin in 1945, and Nixon receiving those files two years later.
The Watergate Committee and Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox issue subpoenas for the White House tapes. Nixon refuses to hand over the tapes, claiming executive privilege.
Judge John Sirica orders Nixon to release nine office tapes.
The Rehabilitation Act, which Weicker strongly supports, is enacted. New York Association for Retarded Children vs. Rockefeller helped clear the way by mandating for the first time that patients have “rights to protection from harm.” The bill, which establishes rights for the disabled, is an early precursor of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In what is later referred to as the “Saturday Night Massacre,” Archibald Cox is fired by Robert Bork, the Solicitor General, after both Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William D. Ruckelshaus refuse to do so. Richardson and Ruckelshaus are then fired.
Weicker turns over evidence of tax fraud conducted by Nixon to the IRS, which is confirmed by California state officials. White House challenges that Nixon’s accusers disclose their own tax returns backfire when it is revealed that Weicker and Sam Ervin had paid much higher taxes than Nixon despite earning much less income.
Weicker introduces the Mandatory Gas Rationing Act of 1974 requiring the President to impose rationing within 30 days. With this mandate, the President should search for other alternatives to rationing. Weicker also votes to recommit Energy Emergency Act 2589 after his dissatisfaction with the act’s broad and permissive authority. The motion carries 67 to 32.
In a UPI interview, Weicker says top advisors knew about Watergate. He also issues a press release announcing that Senator Robert Taft is making William E. Wickens, his director of legislation, available to Weicker for Watergate investigation. Weicker also receives a memo from Wickens, which supports issuing a subpoena for Nixon’s wiretaps. Weicker conducts a meeting with Ed deBolt and Bob Herrema where deBolt states that Nixon likely knows about the wiretapping.
Weicker introduces the Interstate Railroad Act of 1974 (S.3343), which establishes a national network of essential rail lines and requires minimum standards of maintenance. The bill is also designed to curb derailments on railways.
The impeachment hearings against President Richard Nixon begin in the House Judiciary Committee.
Nixon resigns as President after the Supreme Court rules in July that he must turn over the White House tapes, which provide “smoking gun” evidence of Nixon’s involvement in the scandal. President Gerald Ford pardons Nixon in September.
Senator Weicker discusses and commends Amtrak for releasing an impressive five-year plan, which includes the purchase of 16 new turbine-powered trains, 25 new cars, and 175 electric locomotives. The plan also includes a program for rebuilding and refurbishing stations, as well as plans to improve tracks and raise speeds.
Senator Lowell Weicker writes a letter to Judge John Sirica urging him to ease John Dean’s sentence.
Weicker votes for the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (S.6), which provides $6 billion over four years to ensure the right to education for all handicapped children. The legislation passes 83-10.
Weicker and Rep. Bill Alexander spend three days with two NOAA scientists in the Hydro-Lab cylinder to study animal life, pollution, and energy. At the time, Hydro-Lab was the largest underwater research facility. Weicker completes his first saturation dive, making him the only aquanaut in the Senate. He meets ocean scientist Bob Wicklund, who becomes his legislative aide on oceans in 1976. Weicker had first traveled to Hydro-Lab the previous April, where Wicklund reluctantly allowed Weicker to take an express scuba certification course to dive down to inspect Hydro-Lab from below. Weicker later writes this first dive was the genesis of his interest in oceans, which would become one of his main political interests.
The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 is signed into law by President Gerald Ford, guaranteeing the right of all handicapped children to “free, appropriate public education.” Weicker voted for and strongly supported this bill, later noting it “transformed educational opportunity for handicapped children from a distant hope to a basic right.”
Congress passes the Animal Welfare Act Amendments of 1976, which tightens legislation of illegal and inhumane animal transportation and adds an amendment outlawing animal fighting and specifically dog fighting. Weicker and Howard Baker worked together on the federal level as a result of broad interpretation of federal authority over interstate commerce.
Weicker wins his second senatorial race, defeating Democratic challenger Gloria Schaffer with 58-41 percent of the vote.
Weicker marries Camille Butler. Both Weicker and Butler bring three children from previous marriages.
Weicker sponsors the Whaling Preservation Act, which bans whaling within 200 miles of the U.S.
Weicker introduces S.2285, a bill to enhance undersea science and technology capabilities, which is recommended to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
Congress orders Amtrak to leave all of its Northeast corridor services intact through 1978. A supplemental subsidy is approved for 1978, provided that Amtrak keep the Northeast corridor open and set up a more marketable rail passenger network that will eliminate the most unprofitable lines. Weicker is cited as one of Amtrak’s “best friends on Capitol Hill,” in The New York Times article covering the new requirements.
Weicker introduces an aquaculture bill aimed at stimulating fish farming in the U.S., but the bill does not pass. Congress later passes an aquaculture bill in 1980, the National Aquaculture Act.
Leading Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs lobbies the Select Small Business Committee to eliminate capital gains taxation, as the Committee is deciding how to deal with what is perceived to be a precipitous drop-off in business creation. Weicker, who is a member of the Committee, opposes the policy change, noting that the shift would run counter to the Carter Administration’s policy of taxing unearned income more heavily than earned income, also noting that the change would favor wealthy individuals. An alternate, similar proposal confining the tax breaks to new business was opposed by Alan Greenspan, who rejected policies favoring small over big business.
Sonny Davidson Weicker is born to Lowell Weicker and Camille Butler.
Small Business Committee staff members Robert Dotchin, Stanley Twardy, Alan Chvotkin, Larry Yuspeh, and Allen Neece, as well as Sen. Weicker’s aide, Leigh Snell, are admitted to the Senate floor to convene with Weicker during consideration of the 8(a) program run by the Small Business Administration. The program comes under fire for inefficiency and poor management, but retains its funding through the Reagan Administration years.
Weicker cosponsors the successful Outer Continental Shelf Lands Amendments Act (PL 95-372), which sets reasonable standards for offshore drilling. Weicker introduced the amendment to set up a fishermen’s contingency fund to reimburse fishermen who damage their gear on underwater oil-drilling equipment.
President Jimmy Carter vetoes legislation that would have established a national aquaculture program, noting that several federal programs already existed and could adequately address ocean policies.
After joining the Appropriations Committee in 1979, Weicker is in a position to greatly expand and improve NOAA’s underwater research programs. Hydro-Lab is upgraded and a new, larger underwater research facility, Aquarius, is built off Florida.
Weicker enters the Republican race for the Presidency, describing himself as “the longest shot in the field,” while situating himself at the liberal end of a Republican Party in the process of moving steadily to the right. Weicker drops out of the race two months later, noting that he has no chance of challenging either of the frontrunners, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, even in his home state. Weicker declines to endorse any of the remaining candidates.
The Subcommittee on Energy Conservation and Supply, of which Weicker is a member, holds hearing about the Deep Seabed Hard Mineral Resources Act. The act would pass as PL 96-283 in June of 1980.
Congress moves closer to shutting down almost half of Amtrak’s service as part of the Carter Administration’s deregulation push. Weicker asserts that cutting trains because of the energy crisis is shortsighted and will prove counterproductive, despite Transportation Secretary Brock Adams’ defense of the budgetary cut in the face of high fuel cost. Adams also claims 91% of current riders will retain their rail transportation.
Weicker becomes the ranking minority member on the Select Small Business Committee.
An oil well blows in the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in a string of hearings before the Senate Energy Resources and Materials Subcommittee. Weicker, a ranking minority member of the Committee, sends Bob Wicklund to Mexico and advocates for more action from the U.S. Congress.
Lowell Palmer Weicker, III (also known as “Tre”) is born to Lowell Weicker and Camille Butler.
Weicker travels to Cuba to discuss fisheries, conservation, and marine science with Fidel Castro. Weicker, who supports an opening of U.S.-Cuban relations, invites Castro to send a small group of Cuban marine biologists to Hydro-Lab, now located in St. Croix. The visit stirs some controversy in the U.S.
Weicker offers a successful unwritten amendment (709) providing an extra $1.48 million to Amtrak in addition to funding provided in the Amtrak Reorganization Act of 1979 (PL 96-73). The funds allow Amtrak to purchase new equipment to accommodate new riders.
Passage of Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA; PL 96-247) to allow the Department of Justice to investigate and initiate lawsuits on behalf of people denied rights in institutions for the mentally retarded.
Senator Weicker and his aide, Stanley Twardy, study, revise, and lobby for the Small Business Participating Debenture (SBPD), defined by the Chicago Tribune as “a hybrid security that would offer an investor a fixed return and share in earnings while protecting the entrepreneur’s equity.” Chicago-based Big Eight company Arthur Anderson & Co. lobbies alongside Weicker as the origin of the SBPD. Stan Twardy notes that, “What we’re trying to do here is increase the reward ... in one of those risky enterprises.” Weicker campaigns for the bill as a measure bolstering the free market.
Weicker adds an amendment to an anti-busing bill, which would effectively nullify the anti-busing component of the bill. Senators Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond threaten to filibuster the appropriations bill, which is then set aside until after the upcoming elections.
With President Carter threatening to veto an appropriations bill containing anti-busing language, Weicker introduces a new amendment nullifying the anti-busing provisions, which passes the Senate.
With the GOP taking control of the Senate, Weicker joins the Labor and Human Resources Committee and becomes chairman of the Subcommittee on the Handicapped. Weicker also becomes chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Departments of State, Justice, and Commerce, and begins to chair the Small Business Committee as it transitions from a select to a standing committee.
As chair of the Small Business Committee, Weicker vows to “clean up” the Small Business Administration (SBA). There are concerns that the nearly 30-year-old agency is plagued by fraud and faulty lending practices. Weicker holds five comprehensive hearings in 1981 on the workings of the SBA.
Weicker is appointed chairman of the Subcommittee on the Handicapped, and works successfully to restore $177.6 million in aid to the handicapped.
Weicker chairs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Appropriations hearing, giving opening statements about how “struck” he is “by a budget that is shortsighted and insensitive to marine conservation and management needs,” and advocates against proposed cuts by the Reagan Administration. Weicker would take further action against the Reagan Administration for their budget cuts to NOAA by using his position on the Appropriations Committee to cut funds from Secretary of Commerce Mac Baldridge.
Weicker leads a filibuster against a Helms amendment attaching an anti-busing provision to a Department of Justice authorization bill. The provision would prevent the DOJ from filing suits in defense of federal busing. The filibuster lasts eight months, but is ultimately defeated.
Weicker reaches a deal with the White House to scale back Reagan’s proposed budget cuts to many programs.
Weicker writes an article entitled, “A Connecticut Yankee in a Southerner’s Court” that details his eight-month struggle to filibuster Senator Jesse Helms’ anti-busing amendment to a DOJ appropriations bill. It appears in Westport News.
The ongoing investigation of SBA’s surety lending practices reveals a multi-million-dollar fraud against the SBA. Weicker's Small Business Committee holds hearings on the mismanagement and fraudulent awarding of government contracts to firms, some associated with the mafia, which did not pay back loans.
Weicker cosponsors a bill that would open up a new underwater waste disposal site in Long Island Sound, arguing that the harbors will be clogged without the new site.
The Prompt Payment Act passes both the House and Senate, and is signed into law by President Reagan. The law requires federal agencies to pay their bills to the federal government within 45 days or face interest charges. Sen. Weicker endorses the new legislation.
The Supreme Court decides Youngberg vs. Romeo, establishing institutionalized patients’ constitutional rights to safety and protection from harm and freedom from undue restraint. The case is the first to establish a constitutional right to protection, removing discretionary power from physicians. The year also marks an 18% decline in the number of institutionalized individuals from 1967, illustrating the shift towards rehabilitation. Weicker writes an amicus curiae brief in support of respondent Romeo.
Weicker offers five ideas for help with small business and economic rehabilitation. His ideas include (1) ensuring that small businesses receive a “fair share” of government contract dollars, (2) passage of the Delinquent Payment Act, which would force the government to pay its bills to contractors in four to six weeks, (3) reinstitution of the small-issue industrial bond program, (4) passage of the Regulatory Reform Act, “which would require federal agencies to evaluate the costs and benefits of major rules before imposing them,” and more generally, (5) a loosening of regulations and financial restrictions placed on small business.
Weicker introduces the Marine Resource Management and Research Act to earmark $300 million per year for programs like coastal zone management, fishery research, Sea Grant awards to universities, and fish stock development.
Weicker speaks against adoption of the Balanced Budget Amendment, noting that the Constitution should not espouse a particular economic philosophy or ideology. He voted against the first budget amendment and will do so a second time, calling the bill a congressional version of “voodoo economics.”
The Senate passes the Balanced Budget Amendment by two votes. Almost every Senator is on the floor for the vote, and Weicker votes against the bill with six other Republicans. Eleven of the nineteen Democrats running for re-election vote for the amendment.
Weicker leads successful filibuster against the attachment of Helms’ anti-abortion provisions to a debt ceiling bill. After surviving three votes to break the filibuster, the Senate votes 47-46 to table and thus kill the legislation.
The House rejects the Balanced Budget Amendment by a vote of 236-187 in favor of the proposal, falling 46 votes short of the two-thirds necessary to approve the amendment for consideration by the states.
Weicker defeats Democrat challenger Toby Moffett by a 50% to 46% margin to win a third term in the U.S. Senate. Weicker had been challenged from within his own party by Prescott Bush, brother of Vice President George H. W. Bush, at the Republican state convention. Though Weicker had won the party’s endorsement at the convention, Bush’s 35% showing would have enabled him to force a primary. However, in a surprise move, Bush decides to drop out of the race.
Weicker is appointed Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, a position he continues to hold until 1987. In 1983 Weicker secures the first Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations bill that did not get folded into a continuing resolution in five years, enabling new initiatives and spending priorities to be updated. He also chairs a hearing to review the Justice Department’s record on enforcing the civil rights of mentally retarded and institutionalized individuals, and authorizes legislation that appropriates $75,000 per year for a joint research venture between the University of Connecticut and the U.S. Department of Education Research and Training Center.
Senator Jesse Helms introduces S.784, which attempts to “restore” the right of voluntary school prayer in public schools and to limit the Court’s jurisdiction in reviewing cases relating to school prayer.
Weicker gives a speech in Washington, D.C. for the Symposium on Religion in America, asserting his views on school prayer and further explaining the necessity for the separation of church and state.
Weicker meets with President Fidel Castro to discuss the release of Americans who are being held on drug trafficking charges. Fidel agrees to release the three female prisoners.
Kim Elliott flies to Cuba to bring the three American hostages home. The women overdose and complications arise. Elliott manages to return with all three women to Miami.
Weicker introduces a bill to establish NOAA as an independent agency. The measure fails, and NOAA remains within the Department of Commerce.
Sen. Weicker offers an alternate budget as a member of the “Gang of Five” opposing the Reagan Administration, alongside Sens. John Chafee, Mark Hatfield, Charles Mathias, and Robert Stafford. The bill would increase funding to social service programs while limiting defense budget increases to 5%, rather than the 13% requested by the Reagan Administration. Additionally, the alternate budget would repeal the third year of the 1981 tax cut while eliminating tax indexing. A modified version of this plan is adopted by Congress. Weicker also promotes this agenda as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee.
Weicker accepts Bart Church’s position to serve on the National AIDS Vigil Commission, noting that, “There is no question that AIDS is a most serious health condition which must be addressed.”
Weicker’s Senate Subcommittee on the Handicapped holds a hearing to review the Justice Department’s record on the enforcement of civil rights for mentally retarded residents in federal institutions. Weicker directs his staff members to tour seven facilities in December 1983 and January of 1984.
Weicker leads a Senate fight to block Reagan’s proposed constitutional amendment calling for organized prayer in public schools. The amendment comes up 13 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to submit the amendment to the states.
The Senate approves the Reagan Administration’s request for South American covert military action funds after rejecting Democratic attempts to cut or limit funding. The vote is 76-19, with Weicker as the only Republican opposing the measure. The House then holds up the bill, and Weicker votes against approving the additional aid resolutions in a House-Senate conference.
Weicker announces on the Congressional floor the findings of his staff investigations of mental institutions, which detailed persistent problems of abuse and neglect.
Weicker successfully pursued a measure to establish a Small Business Administration pilot program in conjunction with the Department of Transportation. The program would offer high-volume DOT contracts to minority-owned small businesses qualifying for the SBA’s 8(a) program.
Weicker marries his third wife, Claudia Testa. He brings five children from previous marriages, and she brings two.
Amtrak cuts its service in response to budget reductions, though no routes are discontinued, and there are no cuts in the Northeast corridor. More cuts may be necessary after March 1, due to the impact of the Gramm-Rudman Amendment, which mandated eliminating the deficit within five years. Some commentators believe that new budgetary cuts will make Amtrak unaffordable outside the Northeast corridor.
Weicker is arrested while participating in an anti-apartheid protest at the South African Embassy, making him the first Republican and the first U.S. Senator arrested since protests began nine weeks prior. He again likens South African racial policies to Hitler’s. Weicker is charged with failing to stay 500 feet away from the embassy while picketing and was held for two hours. A vocal opponent of apartheid, Weicker endorses legislation to cut U.S. trade and other ties with South Africa.
When Reagan’s proposed budget calls for the elimination of the SBA, Weicker negotiates with the White House to save the SBA as an independent agency in exchange for his vote to pass the budget.
As chairman of the Labor, Health, and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, Weicker holds Senate hearings on the AIDS epidemic.
Weicker and Senator Ted Kennedy introduce legislation to impose economic sanctions on South Africa. Their bill is voted down along party lines in committee, but another bill is approved that includes two of their sanctions.
As chairman of the Subcommittee on the Handicapped, Weicker sends five staff members to conduct a nationwide study of the condition of state-run mental institutions. The ensuing staff report reveals deplorable conditions in many institutions across the country.
Alarmed by the findings of his nationwide review of the conditions in state-run mental institutions, Weicker holds televised hearings on the matter. The hearings draw substantial attention to the issue, leading the evening news later that night.
Weicker introduces the Protection and Advocacy for Mentally Ill Persons Act (S.974) in response to his staff investigation of mental institutions across the country. This legislation sets up a system through which abused or neglected individuals may file claims against institutions and be protected from harm.
Weicker continues to campaign for greater appropriations for health, education, and human services through his chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee. He succeeds in achieving approximately $2 billion in restored funds to health programs.
Weicker sends recommendations to the Presidential Commission on the HIV Virus Epidemic encouraging the commission to include those living with the HIV infection “to be considered members of the group of persons with disabilities.” Weicker proposes these persons “deserve the same protections as all other persons with disabilities” (e.g., those with cancer, cerebral palsy, and epilepsy).
The Senate unanimously approves a Weicker amendment establishing the National Estuary Program to monitor water quality and to manage pollution. The amendment is written with Senator John Chafee, as both legislators represent states close to estuaries in New England.
The AIDS Education and Prevention Act (S.1430) is introduced in the Senate. Weicker will later propose an amendment to this bill, furthering his philosophy to address the AIDS crisis with education and prevention.
The Senate conducts a hearing on ocean incineration featuring NOAA, EPA, and numerous other specialists. Weicker’s aide Tim Osborn keeps transcripts in file for future legislative work.
Weicker stands up to federal government and demands funding for NIH budget, with a large chunk dedicated to AIDS research. He also demands that directors at NIH be allowed to decide how to spend the money, marking one of many instances of Weicker fighting Reagan’s efforts to cut or limit NIH and AIDS funding.
Weicker sponsors an amendment to “restore the rape and incest exception for Medicaid-funded abortions” and the Committee approves his proposal.
Reagan issues Executive Order 12532 imposing watered-down measures against South Africa. His veto of the Anti-Apartheid Act is expected to be overturned by Congress. Weicker argues that Reagan’s proposed sanctions are not tough enough.
Weicker leads Senate fight against a Helms bill which would have prevented federal courts from challenging organized prayers in public schools. The Helms bill loses 62-36.
Reagan issues Executive Order 12535, which prohibits the importation of South African gold Krugerrands.
Senator Jesse Helms enters two articles in the Congressional Record: “Worry about Survival of Society First, then AIDS Victims’ Rights” from The Washington Post, and “Government has No Business Keeping Bathhouses in Business” from The New York Post. Helms asks Weicker whether the Surgeon General has the authority to close a business/establishment that facilitates the spread of disease, his example being bathhouses and AIDS. The entrance of these articles into the record highlights the rivalry between Weicker and Helms during AIDS debates. Helms vehemently opposes what he refers to as the “homosexual agenda.” Weicker, to counter, often criticizes many in the government for trying to make AIDS into a moral issue as opposed to a scientific/public health issue.
Weicker introduces the Quality Services for Disabled Individuals Act of 1985 (S.1948). Congress would later pass S.1948 in both the House and Senate.
Weicker and his staff participate in developing the report of the National Council on the Handicapped. As chairman of the Subcommittee on the Handicapped, Weicker fights the Reagan Administration proposed spending cuts in funding for education for the handicapped, declining to attend the second anniversary celebration of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act at the White House. The spending cuts are connected to the administration’s push for its Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Deficit Reduction Act.
The U.S. wages a number of air strikes against Libya without going first to Congress for approval of military actions. The actions are generally supported by those in Congress, and Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole moves to roll back restrictions on executive powers to wage war against foreign enemies by overturning the 1973 War Powers Resolution. Weicker opposes the air strikes as part of a small minority of dissenters.
Weicker introduces The Education of Handicapped Act Amendments of 1986 (S.2294). The bill would later become law on October 8, 1986 (PL 99-457).
Weicker and Senator Ted Kennedy introduce the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 in the Senate. The bill would ban all new investment and bank loans to South Africa, ban raw material imports from South Africa, and keep South African companies off U.S. stock exchanges. However, the White House says it is opposed to further sanctions.
Weicker's bill, Protection and Advocacy for Mentally Ill Individuals Act, is signed by President Reagan, becoming PL 99-319.
The new Anti-Apartheid Act (S.2570) is introduced in the Senate. The bill makes it illegal for U.S. citizens to hold South African investments, bars outstanding loans to South Africa, bans imports and exports, and revokes landing rights. Weicker helps introduce the legislation, which passes the House as H.R. 4868.
Congress approves aid to the Nicaraguan Contras currently battling the country's leftist government, attaching the funds to a 1987 military construction appropriations bill. The Senate is expected to battle over the contours of Reagan’s request for $100 million for military and non-military aid to the Contras. Weicker meets with 14 Democratic Senators the next month to discuss plans to filibuster against the Contra aid when the military bill reaches the floor.
Weicker’s introduced bill, The Handicapped Children’s Protection Act, is signed by President Ronald Reagan, becoming PL 99-372. The bill assigns over $10 million for the fiscal year of 1986.
Senate committee approves additional $46 million to the National Cancer Institute to provide AZT to 10,000 people dying of AIDS. Weicker wins approval to provide $113 billion to the Department of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education for 1987.
Congress overrides Reagan’s 09-30-1986 veto of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986. It is the first foreign policy override since the 1973 War Powers Act. In addition to imposing tough economic sanctions on South Africa, the act calls for Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and a timetable to eliminate apartheid.
After the 1986 senatorial elections, the Republicans become the minority party in the Senate once again, shifting the Small Business Committee Chairmanship from Weicker to Dale Bumpers. Throughout his tenure as chairman, Weicker worked closely with Bumpers in opposition to the Reagan Administration’s attempts to cut programs for small business.
Senator Weicker joins in introducing a resolution condemning the detention of children in South Africa. Two-hundred and eighty-two children under the age of 16 are reported as in detention under the state of emergency regulations. It is suspected that the children are mistreated by South African authorities.
Weicker calls on lawmakers and President Ronald Reagan to address the acid rain issue with Canada. Weicker is a cosponsor of the “toughest acid rain legislation before Congress” and blocks efforts to relax clean air standards in major cities.
Senator Ted Kennedy introduces S.1220 in the Senate, cosponsored by Weicker and several others. In addition to calling for broad funding for AIDS research, the bill also establishes an AIDS coordinator who is responsible for a national program on AIDS. S.1220 is easily the most comprehensive AIDS legislation to be put before Congress.
Weicker chairs the Republican platform committee hearing with a focus on domestic issues. In addition, the hearing speaks to the death of Rep. Stewart McKinney. Weicker urges the Republican Party not to be the “Falwell and Helms” party but a “party of compassion.”
Jesse Helms, a major opponent to AIDS legislation, introduces the AIDS Control Act (S.1352), which categorizes the donation of blood, semen, or organs by an individual at high risk or with AIDS as a federal crime.
AIDS Act (S.1374) is introduced in Senate. The bill declares AIDS as a national public health emergency and calls for an increase in training, services, and public information.
Weicker proposes amendments to S.1220, Senator Ted Kennedy’s monumental AIDS bill. The amendments are mainly concerned with AIDS education.
The AIDS Federal Policy Act of 1987 (S.1575) is introduced in the Senate, cosponsored by Weicker. The bill expands the availability of voluntary AIDS testing and counseling, protects the confidentiality of testing/counseling records, and prohibits discrimination against those who test positive for AIDS. Weicker argues that the bill is based upon the recommendations of public health officials and the medical community. Helms immediately attaches his recurring amendment.
In September, Weicker leads efforts to refocus Medicaid funding on community- and home-based services rather than on state institutions.
Federal AIDS Commission becomes active, headed up by Admiral James Watkins after the first chair steps down.
Weicker criticizes President Reagan’s South Africa Report for failing to be critical enough of South African intransigence.
Cubans capture coastal freighter carrying New Zealand’s America’s Cup challenger. Cuban authorities contact Steven Snider.
The House passes legislation to “revamp” the SBA’s Section 8(a) program, which critics charge with corruption, mismanagement, and favoritism. Senate Small Business Committee Chairman Dale Bumpers and Weicker intend to put forth their own bill during the month and expect hearings to begin early in the next year. The House bill requires that minority businesses must pursue “appropriate” efforts to achieve non-8(a) sales in tandem with the 8(a) program contract and increases competition for 8(a) contracts. The bill also designates the program director as a career position rather than an appointed office.
The Labor Health and Human Services Committee sends a “controversial bill” (S.1265) that would require all employers to provide health insurance for their workers to the Senate floor. After heated debate within the committee, Weicker cosponsors the bill with Edward Kennedy and joins the panel’s nine Democrats in sending the bill to the floor. The bill is a twist of an earlier Kennedy measure for universal health care, currently scaled back to the goal of affordable health care due to economic conditions. CQ Weekly reports that the bill’s passage is unlikely this year, but may gain traction after Reagan leaves office. The primary opponent to the bill on the Senate floor is Orrin Hatch.
After South African President Peter Botha signs an emergency order banning 18 anti-apartheid groups, S.Res 384 is submitted in the Senate and cosponsored by Weicker. The resolution condemns the South African president’s ban on political activity and is reported to the Committee on Foreign Relations. The Committee commends S.Res 384 and reports the resolution out on March 4.
Weicker introduces S.2167, The National Appliance Energy Conservation Amendments of 1988. In this bill, Weicker proposes industry change over to fluorescent lamp ballasts in clothes dryers and refrigerators as a part of new conservation standards.
The Senate overturns Reagan’s veto of the Civil Rights Restoration Act, Senator Ted Kennedy’s bill prohibiting discrimination by organizations receiving federal aid. This law, strongly supported by Weicker, reverses the effects of the Supreme Court’s 1984 Grove City ruling that limited civil rights enforcement.
Weicker introduces the Americans with Disabilities Act, modeled after the Civil Rights Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, to defend the civil rights of the disabled. The bill does not pass, though, until 1990 after Weicker has left office.
Declaring that “[t]he Republican Party should not be cast in the philosophical mode of Ronald Reagan, Jesse Helms, Pat Robertson, et al.,” Weicker attempts to influence his party’s Presidential campaign platform. Weicker wants to stress education, health care, civil rights, and the handicapped in the platform.
The President’s AIDS Commission sends its final report to the President. The report states that “HIV-related discrimination is impairing the ability to limit spread of the epidemic,” and calls for federal legislation providing comprehensive anti-discrimination protection, partner notification, and comprehensive health education for children in kindergarten through grade 12.
Reagan signs $140.3 billion budget for domestic and social programs into law ($76.5 million increase over Reagan’s initial proposal). The budget includes $7.15 billion to NIH (7.4% increase from original proposal), $1.2 billion for AIDS research and care, $21.7 billion for education, and $2 billion for early intervention for handicapped children ($4.6 million increase).
Weicker receives the Lasker Award for Public Service, which recognizes his work in championing biomedical programs. Weicker received the award, noting it was “the way I’d like to have my career recognized.”
Weicker receives the Wayne Morse Political Integrity Award from the Wayne Morse Historical Park Corporation, affiliated with the University of Oregon. The award recognizes politicians who display “an extraordinary level of integrity and independence, a commitment to justice, and a willingness to take a principled stand even at great political cost.”
Weicker loses his fourth run for the Senate to Democratic challenger Joe Lieberman. As a Democrat, Lieberman tacks hard to the right and engages in a negative ad campaign to defeat Weicker by just 10,000 of the 1.37 million votes cast. There are also questions concerning the level of support Weicker received from his own party in Connecticut.
Weicker cosponsors the Ocean Dumping Ban Act of 1988 (PL 100-688) introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg to prevent dumping of sewage and industrial waste after 1991.
Weicker becomes president of Research! America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising public awareness of the benefits of medical research.
Weicker teaches a constitutional law course at George Washington University.
Weicker announces that he will run as an independent candidate for Governor. The incumbent Governor, William O’Neill, is not expected to run. Former Connecticut Republican Party chairman and campaign advisor Tom D’Amore is central to his campaign once again.
Weicker files over 105,000 petition signatures, ten times the number needed to place his name on the November ballot.
Weicker wins the race for Governor of Connecticut with 40% of the vote. The Republican candidate, John Rowland, captures 38%, while the Democrat candidate, Bruce Morrison, garners 20%. Weicker was the clear frontrunner throughout much of the campaign, but Morrison closed the gap by exploiting the issue of the state income tax. Weicker was against creating a state income tax, but felt it prudent, given the state’s finances, to keep “everything on the table.” Rowland strongly opposed the tax and suggested Weicker was for it. His strategy was effective until Weicker ran a new ad: “Stop distorting facts and scaring people with misquotes and half-truths. Long before your negative ads, I was opposed to a state income tax. The people of Connecticut and I know it would be like pouring gasoline on the fires of recession. And nobody’s for that.”
Lowell Weicker, Jr., takes the Governor seat in Connecticut.
In a highly controversial and difficult move, Weicker calls for the creation of a state personal income tax in his budget message to the Connecticut General Assembly delivered in a statewide address. The state’s annual deficit had risen to $963 million since the end of the gubernatorial campaign, out of a total budget of $7 billion, and threatened to rise to $2.4 billion in one year given the broader economic recession facing the nation. Weicker also calls for cuts to the state sales tax and the elimination of a corporate tax surcharge. Weicker further calls for cuts in spending, including in government services, which he later notes for him personally was the toughest part of introducing his new fiscal plan. His budget proposal kicks off six months of intense political fighting.
After a 36-hour marathon session, the Connecticut legislature passes Weicker’s budget, creating a new personal state income tax that was negotiated down to 4.5%. Support from editorial boards in the state and lack of opposition from the business community help the budget to pass. However, state legislators who voted for the new tax, as well as Weicker, are subject to continued verbal attacks and threats of physical violence.
Weicker faces angry protesters threatening physical violence during public appearances in the wake of the enactment of the new state income tax.
Weicker receives the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award. The award is based upon the same-titled Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage, written by former President John F. Kennedy and published in 1957. Weicker was specifically praised for his fight to pass Connecticut’s first personal income tax, during which he “demonstrated tremendous political courage and risked his career by challenging the status quo and the popular bipartisan anti-income tax tradition.”
Weicker’s third party, A Connecticut Party, helps elect many cross-endorsed candidates to the General Assembly and U.S. Congress, despite the previous unpopularity of the creation of a state income tax. Only four income tax supporters in the state were defeated.
Weicker travels to South Africa to attend the presidential inauguration of Nelson Mandela.
Weicker decides not to run for re-election as Governor of Connecticut. The open seat is won by Republican John Rowland, Weicker’s chief competition in 1990, who wins with 36% of the vote in a four-way race.
At Weicker’s urging, Connecticut passes a tough “permit-to-purchase” handgun control bill requiring gun owners to obtain a gun permit before they are allowed to buy a handgun. Obtaining a permit requires passing a background check and gun safety training. The gun control law goes on to greatly reduce gun homicides in the state.
As outgoing Governor, Weicker backs $60 million proposal to establish a marine science center at University of Connecticut’s Avery Point Campus in Groton to research sea farming, though the Governor-elect John Rowland remains hesitant about supporting the proposal. The Avery Point Marine Sciences and Technology Center is established later that year, and the University of Connecticut’s Dept. of Marine Sciences Vessel Operations names a research vehicle after Weicker.
Weicker becomes board member for the World Wrestling Federation, a position he will retain for over a decade.
Weicker begins serving as Founding President of the Board of Directors for Trust for America’s Health, a Washington-based non-profit.
Weicker begins serving on the board of Medallion Financial Corp.
Weicker announces his plans to work with the University of Virginia to archive his papers and create an oral history.
Weicker steps down from his position with the World Wrestling Federation. He also ends his time as President of the Board of Directors for Trust for America’s Health.