Never has the nation been more in need of leaders like Warren Rudman, the former New Hampshire senator who died on Monday night at age 82. A principled conservative who nonetheless understood that his own goals were often best served by compromise, Rudman’s legacy ought to weigh heavily on congressional leaders as they seek to hammer out a deal to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff.”
In his two terms in the Senate, Rudman symbolized a familiar New England-style fiscal conservatism. But he understood that an uncompromising attitude would do nothing to bring down the deficits he abhorred. Instead, Rudman worked out legislation in the mid-’80s with fellow Republican Phil Gramm and Democrat Ernest Hollings to tame the deficit. Those efforts did not end deficit spending, but they forced Congress to grapple with budgetary restraint amid the profligacy of the Reagan years. Later, they helped to bring about the breakthrough budget act of 1990, a package of tax hikes and spending restraints that helped unleash the prosperity and balanced budgets of the ’90s.