Skip to main content

Hill titan Dan Rostenkowski dead at 82

By the CNN Wire Staff
Dan Rostenkowski, who headed the powerful House Ways and Means Committee in the 1980s, has died at age 82.
Dan Rostenkowski, who headed the powerful House Ways and Means Committee in the 1980s, has died at age 82.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rostenkowski first entered Congress in 1959
  • He became chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee in 1981
  • Rostenkowsi was defeated in the Republican landslide of 1994
RELATED TOPICS

(CNN) -- Former Illinois congressman Dan Rostenkowski, who rose through the ranks of Chicago's rough-and-tumble political scene to become one of the most powerful men on Capitol Hill, has died, according to the office of Chicago Alderman Richard Mell.

He was 82. He died in Wisconsin after an extended illness, Mell's office said.

Rostenkowski first entered Congress in 1959, during the second half of the Eisenhower administration. Known for his booming voice and reputation as a power broker, he became chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee in 1981.

During his tenure as chairman, the powerful Democrat played a key role in passing major reforms of both Social Security and the tax code, among other things.

Read more about Rostenkowski's life and career

In 1988, Rostenkowski helped pass a controversial expansion of Medicare designed to protect seniors against catastrophic medical expenses. Senior citizens became livid over the higher monthly premiums and surtax tied to the bill. The measure was repealed a year later.

Rostenkowski was defeated in the Republican landslide of 1994, however, after becoming mired in scandal. Among other things, prosecutors alleged he used public funds for personal matters and to pay employees who did little actual work.

Rostenkowski pleaded guilty to corruption charges in April 1996, and ultimately served over a year in federal prison. He was pardoned by President Bill Clinton in 2000.

"Dan Rostenkowski devoted his life to his community, Chicago and the state," Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan said Wednesday.

"His efforts on behalf of the regular people who needed a friend to wade through the tangle of government are unparalleled."

CNN's Charles Riley contributed to this report

 
Quick Job Search