Representative Robert Matsui (D-CA), a strong ally for women’s rights, including abortion rights, died yesterday at the age of 63. First elected to Congress in 1978, Matsui was a third generation Japanese American. As an infant, Matsui and his family were taken from their home in Sacramento and placed in an interment camp, as were tens of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II. Doris Matsui, Matsui’s wife of 38 years, was born in an internment camp. She served as deputy director of public liaison in the Clinton White House until 1998.
The loss of Matsui was a major blow to progressives and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Matsui was chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) for the 2004 cycle. In Congress, Matsui was a leader in the fight for an official apology and reparations for the 120,000 people who were sent to the camps. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) called Matsui “a master of balanced, practical public policy” as she praised him for his successful effort on behalf of Japanese-Americans interned during World War II, according to the Associated Press. In her statement, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said that Matsui “has been a part of my political life for more than 20 years, and he represented the best in politics,” AP reports.
The ranking Democrat on the House Social Security Committee, Matsui was an advocate for more equitable Social Security benefits for women and a strong opponent of privatizing the system, which is a major priority of the Bush Administration. “With the passing of Bob Matsui, our country has lost a great leader and America’s seniors have lost their best friend in Congress,” Pelosi said, according to the Associated Press.