Mr. Hanna began working construction jobs at 20 to support his widowed mother and his sisters. He later spent three decades building his own construction and property management business into a statewide powerhouse before seeking elective office.
During his three terms on Capitol Hill, from 2011 to 2017, he represented a swath of central New York from the Pennsylvania border to Lake Ontario and was among the 25 richest members of Congress.
A pragmatist with liberal views on social issues, he often went his own way in a right-leaning party. He supported same-sex marriage and women’s reproductive health rights and voted against GOP efforts to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood.
“I don’t believe public money should be spent on abortion,” Mr. Hanna told the Post-Standard in Syracuse, N.Y., in 2012. “But the idea that Planned Parenthood should not be funded? I mean, they provide about 20 percent of the female population with all of their health care. And they do it at a fraction of what the cost would be if someone showed up at a hospital emergency room.”
Although fiscally conservative, he was among the few Republicans who resisted pressure to sign a pledge, circulated by conservative activist Grover Norquist, to oppose any tax increase. “I don’t give out my vote to some guy named Grover,” he said.
Neither did he endear himself to members of the anti-Washington tea party insurgency, whom he characterized as soapbox grandstanders. He cited a move in 2011 to cut off federal financing for NPR for its perceived liberal bias.
“It didn’t save a dime,” Mr. Hanna told the Syracuse paper of the tea party maneuver. “It was sold as something that would save money, but it absolutely did not. The conversation revolved more around people not liking what they thought NPR represented. And I looked at that as a type of censorship through the power of the purse.”
House Republicans passed the bill, but the Democratic-controlled Senate blocked the measure.
Mr. Hanna voted with the GOP majority in 2011 to repeal the Affordable Care Act signed by President Barack Obama the previous year, and he said the universal health care mandate was “a mess” and “unmanageable.” But he openly criticized party leadership for its role in shutting down the federal government in 2013 amid debate over the ACA.
Calling it “the dumbest thing I ever heard” and “an embarrassment,” he voted against delays in implementing the health-care law because of a GOP provision allowing insurers or others to claim religious or moral objections to providing birth control coverage.
“I continue to support repealing and replacing Obamacare with reforms that actually reduce health-care costs and increase coverage for Upstate New Yorkers,” he said at the time. “But as a lifelong and consistent supporter of women’s rights and health care, I do not support addressing divisive social issues such as access to birth control on a last-minute continuing resolution.”
Of all his work in Congress, he said, he was proudest of having helped marshal bipartisan support in 2012 to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. Some Republicans sought to amend the anti-domestic-violence bill by excluding protections for gay and transgender people, Native Americans, and battered women who were in the United States illegally.
“If a daughter, sister or perfect stranger was raped, battered or needed help no one would ask or care what her ethnicity, national origin or orientation was before we came to her aid — nor should the Violence Against Women Act,” Mr. Hanna said in a statement.
In introducing legislation, Mr. Hanna at times sought consensus even when it seemed unlikely.
One of the first bills he sponsored would have allowed the official presentation of the U.S. flag to families of federal civilian employees killed in the line of duty. To his surprise, the American Legion opposed the measure because of its appearance of equating civilian and military service.
Working behind the scenes with the veterans’ group, he drafted new legislation limiting the honor to federal employees killed in a crime, an act of terrorism, a natural disaster or other extraordinary circumstance.
After the Civilian Service Recognition Act passed the House, 425 to 0, and subsequently passed the Senate, Mr. Hanna was the only Republican member of Congress invited to the White House for a private Oval Office signing ceremony.
Richard Louis Hanna was born in Utica, N.Y., on Jan. 25, 1951, and grew up in Marcy, N.Y. He followed his father into the construction trade, which paid for his education at Reed College in Portland, Ore. He graduated in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science.
In 2001, he married Kimberly Greenleaf. In addition to his wife, survivors include two children, Emerson Hanna and Grace Hanna, all of Barneveld, N.Y.; and three sisters.
Mr. Hanna, a licensed pilot who flew seaplanes, engaged in civic and philanthropic work before making an unsuccessful congressional run in 2008. Two years later, he defeated the two-term incumbent, Michael Arcuri, in a rematch.
Mr. Hanna did not seek reelection in 2016, but he made news by backing Clinton — the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state under Obama — over Trump, a real estate businessman and reality television star.
In a commentary for the Syracuse paper, he wrote that Trump’s lack of tolerance and character made him “unfit” for high office, while Clinton “stands and has stood for causes bigger than herself for a lifetime.”
“His success isn’t going to be measured just by how well the economy comes back, if it comes back,” he told the Syracuse newspaper that year. “But this country has survived because of its differences, not in spite of them. It’s important to listen and to show respect.”
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