Sen. Rudman recalled as independent, fearless, fair
Hosted by Ayotte and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Thursday's observance included current and former members of the Senate and other Washington insiders who shared remembrances of Rudman, who died Nov. 19 at the age of 82.
"Senator Rudman had New Hampshire in his blood and like the people he represented was straightforward and determined and used his considerable talents in the U.S. Senate to pass very important legislation," Ayotte, a Republican, said.
Retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter served as master of ceremonies. Souter, who credits Rudman's advocacy for putting him on the high court, said he and his friend had many long discussions over the years.
"He was a man of extraordinarily strong conviction, and if someone had a good enough argument and a good enough factual evidentiary basis for it, Warren was not afraid to change his mind," Souter said. "He wasn't afraid of losing an election either, which goes a long way to explaining his independence."
Those who knew him in the heat of battle remembered Rudman's independent streak and a fearless nature forged by an amateur boxing career and battlefield heroism in the Army infantry.
"My friend Warren Rudman was gruff, irascible, dissatisfied, impatient, blunt, occasionally profane, independent-minded,stubborn," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. "In other words, he was my ideal senator."
Rudman was an early backer of McCain's 2000 run for President, which began with a big win in the 2000 New Hampshire primary.
"His character attributes were common among the people he served, the people of New Hampshire," McCain said. "They're sturdy, no-nonsense problem-solvers."
In a hearing room in the Senate, where current political debate centers on dangers of the federal budget deficit, the echo of Rudman's work on the issue a quarter-century ago was not ignored.
In 1987, Congress enacted the Gramm-Rudman budget deficit reduction bill, an effort to force Congress to confront deficit spending by requiring mandatory spending cuts.
Former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm joked that his name has been permanently linked to Rudman by the landmark legislation.
"You've all heard of the two guys who were so close that they were joined at the hip," Gramm said. "Warren Rudman and I were joined at the hip by a hyphen."
Gramm said the legislation that bears their names was enacted in major part because of Rudman's willingness to "compromise based on his principles."
Rudman was hailed by several speakers for the blunt and direct manner in which he stood on those principles.
"He had guts and courage and he would take on the haters and the bigots," said former Sen. Alan Simpson. R-Wyo. "He had no time for pontificators, he was as direct and honest as his steady stare, and boy he had one."
Shaheen also spoke of the impact Rudman's place in national affairs had in New Hampshire.
"He has been widely and deservedly hailed as a public servant who reached across party lines to get the job done for his party and his state," Shaheen, a Democrat, said.
Vice President Joe Biden, who served Delaware in the Senate during Rudman's two terms, noted that while the New Hampshire Republican was honest with his opinions, he treated all people with dignity.
"He didn't look at people and yield to pedigree, he didn't yield to the people with the most advanced degree," Biden said. "He believed that just ordinary, plain Americans knew what their own interest was."
Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, said he found Rudman "irrepressible" and a man who had "an opinion on every subject," opinions he was only too pleased to share with others, forcefully, directly and respectfully.
"When he was on your side, you had a powerful advocate, and when he was on the other side, you had a strong and feared adversary," Inouye said.
Former Senate majority leader George Mitchell of Maine recalled Rudman's legislative work and his public service after retiring from the Senate.
"Warren Rudman served the people of New Hampshire and the people of the United States with courage, integrity, independence and distinction," Mitchell said. "As individuals we are all diminished by the loss of a friend; as Americans we are diminished by the loss of a great leader."