REP. H. R. GROSS was wrong about many things and sometimes wrongheaded. He opposed just about all federal spending, foreign and domestic, with a grouchy, nonpartisan consistency that made him irksome to many of his colleagues. "Hell, I was a nuisance, a nuisance to be stopped," he said at the time of his retirement from Congress in 1974. "The older hands used to come around and say, 'Damn you, you don't want to stay around here, do you?' "
But the surprising thing was that he did stay around, as long as he wanted to. He was regularly reelected to the House from his district in northeastern Iowa (he was a Republican) until he decided to leave at age 75, saying characteristically, "I'm fed up with the futility of this place." There may be a lesson in his career for congressmen who sway with the polls and seek not to give offense to anyone.
Mr. Gross gave plenty of offense. He said that he didn't mind being a minority of one as long as he thought he was right. He stood, for about a quarter of a century, as the human stoplight of the House -- smack in the middle of the floor in everyone's way and glowing an indignant red at the very idea of any bill that might require the federal government to spend money.
Fortunately, he failed to stop much of the 20th century from proceeding through Congress. But at the same time he did a lot toward cutting down on the mischief there -- especially the little things done under cover of unanimous consent, what congressional correspondent Daniel Rapoport called in an appreciation of Mr. Gross "the emoluments and other in-House boondoggles that members like to quietly amass for themselves." With H. R. Gross on the floor, it was difficult to get unanimous consent for anything.
By the time he left the House he seemed to be considered a necessary nuisance, respected for his honesty, integrity and work habits. "If we didn't have an H. R. Gross we'd have to invent him," said Rep. Morris K. Udall. But that was 13 years ago, and when Mr. Gross died this week at the age of 88, they still hadn't come close to inventing anothe