Dan Rostenkowski, the former chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, has died at the age of 82.
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He served in Congress from 1959 to 1995, and joined the committee in 1961, representing his constituents in Chicago. Earlier in his career, Rostenkowski helped write the 1966 law that created Medicare. Rostenkowski, a Democrat, chaired the Ways and Means Committee from 1981 to 1994.
In 1981, he helped enact the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, which reduced the top individual tax rate to 50 percent, and in 1983, he helped broker a compromise that kept the Social Security system solvent. In 1986 he led the passage of the Tax Reform Act, which simplified the Tax Code and consolidated tax brackets, lowering the top individual marginal tax rate to 28 percent.
Rostenkowski was charged in 1994 with trading stamp vouchers for cash, paying "ghost" employees who did little or no work, misusing expense accounts and personal vehicles, and obstruction of justice. After being defeated for re-election, he pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud and served 15 months in prison.
Rostenkowski was treated for prostate cancer in the 1990s and ended his days in the Chicago home where he grew up.
The current chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Sander Levin, D-Mich., issued a statement praising Rostenkowski's ability to work across party lines. Dan Rostenkowski was a powerful force whose importance was illustrated in the passage of landmark legislation throughout his tenure in the Congress, most notably the Tax Reform Act of 1986," said Levin in a statement. "He worked in an era where he could use his demonstrated ability to work across party lines to achieve meaningful results. The thoughts and prayers of his former colleagues are with his family."