Sen. Inouye of Hawaii dies of respiratory failure

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“We’re preparing to say goodbye,” Mr. Abercrombie said. “Everything else will take place in good time.”

Once a regular smoker, Mr. Inouye had a portion of a lung removed in the 1960s after a misdiagnosis for cancer. Last week, he issued a statement while hospitalized, saying “for the most part, I am OK.”

Mr. Inouye had wanted to become a surgeon but changed his plans after the loss of his arm and enrolled in law school after the war.

A quiet but powerful lawmaker, Mr. Inouye ran for Senate majority leader several times without success. He gained power as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee before Republicans took control of the Senate in 1994.

When the Democrats regained control in the 2006 elections, Mr. Inouye became chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. He left that post two years later to become chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

Mr. Inouye also chaired the Senate Indian Affairs Committee for many years. He was made an honorary member of the Navajo nation and given the name “The Leader Who Has Returned With a Plan.”

• This story was based in part on wire service reports.

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