Follow Rudman's Strong Example

Published Nov 21, 2012.

Congress — including Wisconsin’s delegation — should remember and learn from the fine example of public service set by former U.S. Sen. Warren Rudman.

The two-term Republican from New Hampshire died Sunday at age 82, having stood for fiscal responsibility, ethics and bipartisan cooperation.

Two decades ago, with the federal government facing one of its largest budget deficits in history, Rudman grew increasingly frustrated with his colleagues — including Republican presidents — for failing to stick with bipartisan goals to control spending.

“People are willing to risk their lives for their country in times of war,” Rudman said. “They ought to be able to risk an election in a time of economic trouble.”

That’s great advice for today’s leaders, who now face an even bigger financial mess in Washington.

Rudman pushed in the mid-1980s for automatic spending cuts if annual deficit targets weren’t met.

Sound familiar? It was the precursor to today’s “sequestration,” which is supposed to — and hopefully still will — force Congress to act on a long-range plan to stabilize debt.

On leaving the Senate in 1993, Rudman predicted the wealthy would have to pay more for their medical costs to balance the budget in the future, according to the Associated Press, and the growth of discretionary spending would have to slow.

That should sound familiar, too. It’s similar to proposals by bipartisan groups today.

Rudman didn’t give up on fiscal sanity. He and the late Sen. Paul Tsongas, D-Mass., another sensible centrist, founded the Concord Coalition, an influential advocate for thoughtful compromise toward a balanced budget.

Rudman chaired the Senate Ethics Committee and investigated scandals implicating members of both parties.

Rudman teamed in 2001 — before Sept. 11 — with former Sen. Gary Hart, D-Colo., to warn that a major terrorist attack was likely on American soil.

Rudman wasn’t perfect, and his solutions didn’t always work.

But he tried hard to get big things done through consensus. He rose above politics to criticize Washington’s worst habits while encouraging and expecting its best.


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