Former Sen. Warren Rudman, R-N.H., dies at 82

Former Sen. Warren Rudman, R-N.H. AP

Former Sen. Warren Rudman, R-N.H.
AP
Former Sen. Warren B. Rudman, who co-authored a groundbreaking budget balancing law, championed ethics and led a commission that predicted the danger of homeland terrorist attacks before 9/11, has died. He was 82.

Rudman died just before midnight Monday at a Washington, D.C., hospital of complications of lymphoma, said his spokesman, Bob Stevenson.

The feisty New Hampshire Republican went to the Senate in 1981 with a reputation as a tough prosecutor, and was called on by Senate leaders, and later by presidents of both parties, to tackle tough assignments.

He is perhaps most well-known from his Senate years as co-sponsor of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings budget-cutting law. He left the Senate in 1993, frustrated that the law never reached its potential because Congress, President Ronald Reagan and the President George H.W. Bush played politics instead of insisting on spending cuts.

"People are willing to risk their lives for their country in times of war," he said at the time. "They ought to be able to risk an election in a time of economic trouble."

Former U.S. Senators Gary Hart and Warren Rudman chat before testifyng for the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill June 20, 2002 in Washington, D.C.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

In 2001, before the 9/11 attacks, he co-authored a report on national security with former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart that said a major terrorist attack on American soil was likely within 25 years.

"No one seemed to take it seriously, and no one in the media seemed to care," Rudman said in 2007. "The report went into a dustbin in the White House."

It was revived after the Sept. 11 attacks, and one suggestion, forming a Homeland Security Department, was adopted. Six years later, Rudman said the sprawling department wasn't functioning well and the country would be hit again.

"It is not a question, I'm sorry to tell you, of `if.' It's a question of `when,"' Rudman said in the 2007 New Hampshire appearance.

A former New Hampshire attorney general, Rudman was named chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee in 1985, a sensitive job that many colleagues avoided.

Throughout his Senate career, Rudman was cited for his work on the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, where he supported a strong national defense but opposed expensive, high-tech weaponry.

The Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act was approved in 1985. It was designed to end federal deficits by 1991 and required automatic spending cuts if annual deficit targets were missed.

Congress rolled back the timetable each year, and the 1991 budget that was supposed to be balanced carried the second-highest deficit in history. In 1995, 10 years after the law went on the books, Rudman lamented what could have been.

"Had we stuck to that plan, had the Congress not failed to follow it through - in fact, had presidents not failed to follow through - we would not be where we are today," Rudman said.

He said balancing the budget would require making wealthy retirees pay more of their medical costs, slowing the growth of discretionary spending, cutting waste in some agencies and eliminating unnecessary agencies.

He continued the fight after leaving the Senate. He and former Democratic Sen. Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts founded the Concord Coalition, which campaigns for a balanced budget.

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