Jack Kemp, Nine-Term GOP Congressman From New York, Dies

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 3, 2009

Jack Kemp, 73, a star quarterback with the Buffalo Bills who became a spokesman for supply-side economics, a secretary of Housing and Urban Development and a candidate for high national office, died yesterday at his home in Bethesda.

A former aide said he died of cancer. He had announced in January that he had been diagnosed with the illness.

Mr. Kemp was a Republican congressman from Upstate New York for nine terms in the 1970s and 1980s. On the powerful Appropriations and Budget committees, he tirelessly pitched the idea that tax cuts and economic growth were more important to U.S. prosperity than controlling deficits.

Mr. Kemp had sought the GOP presidential nomination. He ran for vice president in 1996 on the Republican ticket headed by Sen. Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.). He was picked in large part because of his advocacy of low taxes.

In Congress, he and Sen. William V. Roth (R-Del.) pushed through a 33 percent tax cut over a three-year period that was regarded as a linchpin of Reagan administration tax policy.

It represented supply-side theory, according to which lower taxes meant more growth.

In Mr. Kemp's 1979 book, "An American Renaissance: A Strategy for the 1980s," he adopted John F. Kennedy's idea that "a rising tide lifts all boats."

But he said he was made aware that it was not universally applicable, and recognized a need for government help for those whose boats had sunk.

Mr. Kemp was regarded as an unusual sort of Republican, combining fiscal and social conservatism with support for civil rights, affirmative action and rights for illegal immigrants. He called himself "a bleeding-heart conservative."

After becoming HUD secretary in 1988, he worked to root out discrimination by lenders and insurers. He ended some programs, tightened others and energized the staff.

He was an early advocate of plans to attract business to distressed neighborhoods with tax-free zones.

Jack French Kemp Jr. was born in Los Angeles on July 13, 1935. He graduated from Occidental College, where he quarterbacked and captained the team, and led the nation's small colleges in passing.

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