- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 6, 2001

Regrettably, Texas Republican Sen. Phil Gramm announced Tuesday that he would not seek re-election. When Mr. Gramm leaves the U.S. Senate at the end of his third term next year, it is fair to say that the intellectual candle power in "The World's Most Deliberative Body" will take a major hit. And taxpayers will lose one of their best friends in Washington. As the Senate's only trained economist, Mr. Gramm, who taught the subject for more than a dozen years at Texas A&M;, tenaciously fought the good fight for more than two decades on behalf of taxpayers. And he won far more battles than he lost.

It is simply impossible to overestimate the influence of Mr. Gramm since he arrived in town in 1979 to take his seat as a Democratic representative in the House. As a young Boll Weevil Democrat on the House Budget Committee in 1981, Mr. Gramm played an indispensable role in the bipartisan passage of Ronald Reagan's revolutionary budget policies. The details of the historic legislation were outlined in the Gramm-Latta budget resolution. That, of course, was the budget that slashed taxes, setting in motion nearly two decades of economic growth interrupted only by the relatively mild nine-month recession at the beginning of the 1990s. The same budget initiated the Reagan military buildup, setting the stage for the Soviet Union's ultimate collapse. Twenty years later, as a Republican senator, Mr. Gramm co-sponsored President George W. Bush's tax-relief proposal with Democratic Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia. In between, he played pivotal roles in the passage of welfare reform and financial services deregulation. He was also instrumental in the defeat of Hillary Clinton's vastly overreaching health care plan. In terms of federal budget policy, which has dominated the political debate in Washington for two decades, probably no other legislator has played as big a role for as long a time as Mr. Gramm.

Beyond his influential policy role, Mr. Gramm will also leave a significant political legacy, notwithstanding his hugely unsuccessful bid for the 1996 Republican presidential nomination. After Tip O'Neill removed him from the budget committee in 1983 as punishment for his efforts on behalf of Mr. Reagan's policies, Mr. Gramm resigned from the House, changed his party status and won the seat back as a Republican in a special election. The next year he easily won the first of three Senate terms. Moreover, as two-time chairman of the Senate Republicans' campaign committee, Mr. Gramm helped to engineer the Republican takeover of the Senate in the 1994 election.

Alluding to his long-term goals a balanced budget, tax relief, welfare reform and victory in the Cold War Mr. Gramm explained, without hyperbole, at his Tuesday news conference why he would not seek re-election: "I am proud to be able to say today that not only did I play a leadership role in each and every one" of these issues, "but in a very real sense, 25 years later these goals have been achieved." Indeed, it is precisely because of the roles Mr. Gramm has played in the policy arena that his presence will be so greatly missed.


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