Obituaries

Ellen Tauscher, former House Democrat and arms negotiator under Obama, dies at 67

WASHINGTON — Ellen Tauscher, a moderate California Democrat who helped blaze a trail for women in finance and was elected to seven terms in the US House, then resigned in 2009 to join the State Department as a senior arms-control adviser to President Obama, died April 29 at a hospital in Palo Alto, Calif. She was 67.

Her family announced her death in a statement, saying she had battled pneumonia since January. In a recent Facebook post, Ms. Tauscher said she was also being treated for a complication from her 2010 surgery for esophageal cancer.

A former investment banker and stockbroker, Ms. Tauscher was one of the first women to hold a seat on the New York Stock Exchange — and the youngest at 25. Elected to the House in 1996, she represented an eastern swath of San Francisco suburbs previously controlled by the Republican Party and espoused a probusiness, socially liberal political philosophy that Time magazine dubbed ‘‘Tauscherism.’’

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Known for a witty and sometimes blunt speaking style, Ms. Tauscher said she drew on her Wall Street experience to cut deals, often across the aisle, and served as chairwoman of the centrist New Democrat Coalition.

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She spent much of her time in Congress focused on missile defense and nuclear weapons issues, a specialty she developed in part because her district included Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a center of nuclear weapons research, as well as Travis Air Force Base and the California campus of Sandia National Laboratories.

Ms. Tauscher chaired the Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces and, after the Democrats took control of the House in 2006, often served as speaker pro tempore, presiding over contentious debates on climate change, covert wiretapping, and the 2008 financial bailout.

As undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, she was credited with playing a key role in arms-reduction talks with Russia, which culminated with the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in 2010.

The pact marked the first major nuclear-arms control treaty between both sides in nearly two decades, capping the number of deployed, long-range nuclear warheads, and setting new limits on nuclear missiles, bombers, launchers, and submarines.

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Ms. Tauscher was ‘‘the most important person in getting us to the negotiation of the New START Treaty,’’ former secretary of state Hillary Clinton told Politico on Tuesday. ‘‘In my opinion, it would not have happened without her.’’

Her work on the treaty coincided with her cancer diagnosis and, by the time the pact was ratified in December 2010, Ms. Tauscher was lying in a hospital bed.

In February 2012, she took a newly created part-time position, serving for several months as the State Department’s special envoy for strategic stability and missile defense. Her esophagus had been ‘‘ripped out’’ of her chest, she said, rebuilt with tissue taken from her stomach, and although she was still unable to lie flat, she was strong enough to keep working.

The oldest of four children, Ellen O’Kane was born in Newark on Nov. 15, 1951, and raised in neighboring Harrison, N.J. Her mother was a secretary, and her father was the shop steward for the meatpackers union, and later manager of a supermarket.

Ms. Tauscher was the first member of her family to attend college, receiving a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Seton Hall University in 1974. There were no jobs in teaching, she later said, so she joined Bache & Co. in New York and began trading municipal bonds.

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She later served as an officer of the American Stock Exchange, and in 1989 married businessman William Tauscher. They moved to the Bay Area, where after the birth of their daughter, Katherine, Ms. Tauscher formed the ChildCare Registry to help parents research the backgrounds of care providers.

Ms. Tauscher also became a Democratic fundraiser, and cochaired Dianne Feinstein’s first two Senate campaigns before entering the 1996 House race, attacking Republican incumbent Bill Baker for opposing gun control and abortion. She won with 49 percent of the vote.