Senate Floor Statement Remembering Warren B. Rudman

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mr. President, I want to join my colleagues in extending condolences to the family of Senator Warren Rudman, and add my voice to those saluting a distinguished, effective and principled member of this body.

It has been hard in the last few months, for those of us who knew and served with him, not to think of Warren Rudman. More than 2 decades ago, our circumstances were strikingly similar to the situation in which we find ourselves today. Rising Federal budget deficits were the cause of alarm. Almost everyone agreed that we needed to bring them down. The difficulty was how. Meeting the widely differing priorities among members of Congress--and the American people we represented--seemed impossible.

Senator Rudman, along with Senator Ernest Hollings and Senator Phil Gramm, crafted a solution. It is fair to say no one liked it very much. None of us here at the time, including me, voted for it with great enthusiasm. That was its genius. By establishing a mechanism for automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that would take place in the absence of a more tailored program of deficit reduction, they sought to force all of us to make the difficult choices required to reduce the deficit.

The arrangement Senators Rudman, Gramm and Hollings concocted was disagreeable to everybody, and so we looked for ways to avoid it. I voted for the 1985 agreement in part because I believed it would help force elected officials to get serious about the fact that revenue was an important part of the deficit-reduction formula. It was true then, it was true now, and Warren Rudman helped clarify that important fact. We borrowed from Warren Rudman's playbook with the sequestration provisions which are now the subject of so much debate and concern here. I dislike the blind, Draconian cuts of sequestration today as much as I disliked them in the 1980s. Now, as then, I am hopeful that members of good will can reach across the aisle to reach compromise solutions--solutions that we may dislike in part, in order to avoid even worse outcomes. If we do so, it will be because of the Sword of Damocles called sequestration that hangs over our heads. I know that is what Senator Rudman would hope for, and be working hard for, if he were still serving here.

We should reflect on Senator Rudman's career today for another reason. When he decided not to stand for re-election in 1992, he did so, in the words of The New York Times, because "the Federal Government was 'not functioning' and that it was impossible to get anything done in a Senate rife with posturing and partisanship."

Maybe the lesson is that the present always looks more partisan and polarized than the past. I hope all of us can reflect on Senator Rudman's efforts to achieve practical solutions to difficult problems, his willingness to compromise, and his integrity, and keep those qualities in mind as we struggle with the many and complex problems we face today.

Barbara and I were terribly saddened to learn of Warren Rudman's passing. Our thoughts are with his family and the many close friends who mourn him.