Former New Hampshire Sen. Warren B. Rudman, who strived to balance the federal budget and co-chaired a federal panel that predicted domestic terrorist attacks seven months before 9/11, passed away Monday. He was 82.
He died of complications from lymphoma just before midnight Monday at a Washington, D.C., hospital.
Rudman, a Republican known for his bipartisan spirit and blunt honesty on tough issues, served two terms in the Senate before retiring in 1993.
His greatest achievements in office were both attempts to force spending restraint on government: the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act of 1985 and the Gramm-Rudman Act of 1997. Those bills, authored with Sens. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, and Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., triggered automatic spending cuts if the federal budget ballooned beyond a certain point, a model for the sequestration of the Budget Control Act of 2011.
“As an early advocate for fiscal responsibility, he worked with Republicans and Democrats alike to call attention to our nation’s growing deficit,” President Barack Obama said in a statement released today. “And as we work together to address the fiscal challenges of our time, leaders on both sides of the aisle would be well served to follow Warren’s example of common-sense bipartisanship.”
Rudman’s efforts were amended and repealed before they could force major spending cuts and Rudman, frustrated by Congress’ failure to control spending, decided not to seek re-election in 1992.
“I wasn’t sure the glory of being a Senator meant much if we were bankrupting America,” he wrote in his 1996 memoir, “Combat: Twelve Years in the U.S. Senate.”
Another seminal moment of Rudman’s Senate career came in 1987, when he served as vice chairman of the Senate Iran-Contra Committee. The majority report, on which he worked closely with Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, concluded that aides to President Ronald Reagan had knowingly disregarded the law by selling weapons to Nicaraguan rebels.
Rudman was also instrumental in President George H.W. Bush’s nomination of David H. Souter to the Supreme Court, which he regarded as his greatest achievement.
After leaving the Senate, he continued his fiscal fight, founding the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan advocacy group, with former Sen. Paul E. Tsongas, D-Mass., and former Commerce Secretary Peter G. Peterson.
If Gramm-Rudman had persisted, he told CQ last year, “I think we’d have a balanced budget, and we’d have spending somewhat lower than it is today, and we wouldn’t have this insane debate about how we’re going to get this debt down.”
As a private citizen, he and former Democratic Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado chaired a federal commission on national security. On Feb. 15, 2001, the panel released a report that warned of “attacks against American citizens on American soil, possibly causing heavy casualties, are likely over the next quarter century.”
Born in Boston in 1930, Rudman moved to Nashua, N.H., during his childhood and later graduated from Syracuse University with his bachelor’s. He also served as a platoon leader and company commander during the Korean War, winning a Bronze Star.
After earning his law degree from Boston College, he worked as a private practice attorney and served a six-year term New Hampshire’s attorney general.
In his first election for Senate, Warren beat Gov. Wesley Powell and John Sununu in the primary in 1980, then defeated incumbent John A. Durkin, winning 52 percent of the vote. Rudman handily won re-election in 1986.
“Warren Rudman was a national leader who made New Hampshire proud,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said. “He was tenacious about reducing our debt, and he worked tirelessly to support our men and women in uniform. Warren was a fighter who had the courage of his convictions, and he always stood up for what he believed was right regardless of the consequences”
Rudman’s name was sometimes tossed around regarding presidential races. He turned down Reform Party nominee Ross Perot’s offer to serve as vice president in 1996. His name was also mentioned as Democratic Sen. John Kerry’s possible running mate. He accepted an offer to serve as GOP Sen. John McCain’s campaign chairman during the 2000 presidential elections.
“As a Senator, Warren worked with everyone, and was respected by everyone, both Republicans and Democrats,” McCain said in a statement. “He repeatedly reached across the aisle to address America’s greatest challenges.”