Tags: Former Ohio Republican Rep. Ralph Regula | moderate Republican | NEA

Former Ohio Rep. Ralph Regula — The Last Great Moderate

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House Speaker Paul Ryan and former Rep. Ralph Regula (AP)

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Sunday, 23 Jul 2017 04:08 PM Current | Bio | Archive

There was irony July 19th in the timing of the death of former Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio. The moderate Regula (who was 92) died just when moderate Republicans in the Senate and House were balking at support of an outright repeal of the Affordable Care Act (the official name for Obamacare) and the House Appropriations Committee was meeting to approval the FY (Fiscal Year) 2018 Labor, Health, and Human Services, and Education bill.

Always a contentious bill, Regula managed it masterfully during his six-year chairmanship of the subcommittee that oversaw it. Last week, however, it took the full committee 11 hours, addressing 45 amendments from the Democrats and finally approving it on a party line vote.

More often than not, centrist Republicans carried this key appropriations measure over the finish line. Today, it is questionable just how influential this centrist faction is or what influence it will have on the health care issue in a party in which the words "Republican" and "conservative" are increasingly mutually inclusive.

This was not the way it was for Ralph Regula during his 36 years (1972-2008) representing northeast Ohio in the House. He was a moderate who believed in government spending on programs in his state as well as in numerous federal programs.

The onetime school principal supported the U.S. Department of Education and was the pivotal player in rescuing the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) from the budget knife in 1995. He was also a fierce champion of the federal government's stewardship over public lands.

"Mr. Regula certainly didn't believe in ‘big government' and simply feeding money into programs," Lori Rowley, his last chief of staff, told Newsmax. "But he did believe in government that worked efficiently and had a purpose."

"Mr. Regula" or "Congressman" was the way Rowley and staffers almost always referred to their boss out of the high regard in which they held him. But to presidents, colleagues in both parties, and constituents, the avuncular, easy-going man with the big smile was "just plain Ralph"— someone with whom they could discuss an issue on which they disagreed, continue to disagree, and then join him and wife Mary for dinner on the same evening.

Regula had a particularly convivial relationship with Ronald Reagan, who gave the Buckeye State man several drawings of the fence he built on his ranch in California.

Perhaps his most celebrated disagreement with the fellow Republican lawmakers was over the NEA. In 1994, when Republicans captured the House for the first time in four decades, conservatives led by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich vowed to defund the 30-year-old federal arts agency. Widespread reports of NEA grants to make possible obscene art made the defunding in the appropriations process appear to be a "slam dunk."

But Regula, who became chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversaw the NEA, had other ideas. He sent a letter to fellow members of the Appropriations Committee warning that any no appropriations package would emerge from his subcommittee without NEA funding. (He also made a copy of the letter available to this reporter, knowing I would make a major story out of it.) As upset as anyone about NEA dollars backing salacious art, Regula nonetheless believed the agency was responsible for local symphonies and art shows in parts of the U.S. where they would otherwise not exist.

The NEA that dodged the proverbial bullet in 1995 soon evolved into a different agency. As Lori Rowley recounted to us, "Mr. Regula made sure there was congressional input into its content and that there were panels who kept obscene art out. He took the objections to the NEA and, by dealing with them, kept the NEA alive."

A U.S. Navy veteran of World War II and graduate of what is now the University of Mount Union, the young Regula worked as a teacher and principal while attending night school at the William McKinley School of Law. In the 1960's, he served in both houses of the state legislature and was a close ally of Republican Gov. James Rhodes and his "Jobs and Progress" agenda.

When veteran Rep. Frank Bow, R-Ohio, announced his retirement in 1972, State Sen. Regula was considered his heir apparent and won the GOP primary with 85 percent of the vote.

He arrived in Washington with a large class of House Republicans that included future Sens. Bill Armstrong of Colorado and Trent Lott of Mississippi and future Louisiana Gov. Dave Treen, and future Secretary of Defense William Cohen of Maine.

In both 1995 and 2007, Regula would be passed over in favor of more junior colleagues to chair the powerful Appropriations Committee. His non-conservative stands on issues such as the NEA were usually blamed for his loss. But there was also what many consider Regula's late start in raising funds for the National Republican Congressional Committee that may have kept him from the chairman's gavel.

The phrase "Disagreeing without being disagreeable" is heard increasingly less on Capitol Hill. But for a brief time last week, it was heard widely in Washington — to describe Ralph Regula.

"Ralph was a gentleman of the House," said former Rep. Bob Livingston, R-La., who chaired the Appropriations Committee from 1995-2001. "He was someone with whom I would sometimes disagree, but could never dislike."

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now

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There was irony July 19th in the timing of the death of former Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio. The moderate Regula (who was 92) died just when moderate Republicans in the Senate and House were balking at support of an outright repeal of the Affordable Care Act (the official name...
Former Ohio Republican Rep. Ralph Regula, moderate Republican, NEA
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