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Former Brooklyn Congressman Stephen Solarz dies at 70

Former U.S. Rep. Stephen J. Solarz, a Brooklyn Democrat who became a muscular voice on foreign policy during nine terms in Congress and who challenged dictators and colleagues alike with a hard-driving style, died Nov. 29 at George Washington University Hospital. He was 70 and had esophageal cancer.

Until his election defeat in 1992 - a combination of redistricting and implication in the House bank overdraft scandal - Solarz amassed a formidable policy record through his membership on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Solarz was a tenacious, deeply informed and sharp-tongued politician who evoked strong passions with his unapologetically robust role in international affairs. He rebuked presidents, criticized House members and interrogated bureaucrats with little regard for the social fallout. He earned a reputation as a micromanager of foreign policy.

As chairman of subcommittees on African affairs and later Asian and Pacific affairs, Solarz helped shape the American response to crises all over the world.

He saw a more assertive role for the House on international affairs, a role traditionally taken by the Senate.

Through public hearings and advocacy in the press, Solarz was a relentless critic of the corrupt and autocratic Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos; expressed support for democracy movements in South Korea and Taiwan; and highlighted human rights abuses against Vietnamese refugees by Thai pirates.

On apartheid South Africa, he called for the "constructive enragement" of economics sanctions as a moral imperative over "constructive engagement" of continued negotiations.

- The Washington Post

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