It Happens in Threes: Young, Foley, and Katrichis
Posted on October 21, 2013They say it happens in threes.
Three men who made a significant, if a disparate, impact on Washington died over the last week.
You could find Bill Young on the far end of the last row of the House floor, holding court in the Florida corner, when he wasn’t managing bills as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee or in the Committee offices, trying to get the leadership to be more reasonable in their allocations.
C.W. Bill Young never graduated from high school, mostly because he didn’t have the luxury of school when he had to work to put food on the table. He was raised in a shotgun shack in the coal fields in Hamarville, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh. He was born in the depths of the Depression and his father left the family when he was 6.
His uncle ran a hunting camp in Florida, and in 1946, Young moved there to work. He would end up representing the State in Congress longer than any other Republican.
When he was 18, he joined the Army National Guard, and that provided him with a life-long appreciation for the military.
Bill Young would eventually become an insurance salesman and then run an insurance agency before becoming a state legislator and then a Congressman.
Young was a forceful advocate for defense spending and for taking care of those who served in the military. In later years, he would spend almost every non-working moment visiting wounded warriors in hospitals around Washington D.C. He did this without much fanfare, but for him it was an avocation. He felt very protective of those who served and were wounded in service to their country.
Young was a loyal soldier when it came to his job as Congressman, but like many foot soldiers in war time, he didn’t have to like the orders coming from leadership. As Appropriations Chairman, he would fight hard to get better discretionary budget numbers from the Budget Committee and he would especially make the case for more defense and veterans’ spending. He wouldn’t always win, but he always make a strong case.
Young was old-school.
So was Tom Foley.
Where Young was salt of the earth, Tom Foley, the Congressman from Washington, was courtly.
Where Young learned from the school of hard knocks, Foley was a law school graduate whose father was also a law school graduate. Where Young migrated from the Midwest to the Sunshine State, Foley’s family had deep roots in Washington State.
Tom Foley rose up the Democratic leadership the old school way. He went from Committee Chairman, to Whip, to Leader to Speaker. He learned how to be Speaker from Tip O’Neil, who apparently didn’t care much for his wife. Heather Foley once told the cigar smoking Speaker to please put out the stogie he was puffing on, a comment that infuriated the second most powerful man in America at the time, as he snuffed out the cigar.
I worked for Bob Michel when Foley first became Speaker and he developed an excellent rapport with the Minority Leader. They tried their best to save the institution from itself, mostly by trying to salve the wounds from the bitterness of the Jim Wright years.
But Newt Gingrich was having none of that kind of non-sense. A Gingrich staffer once reportedly tried to get the press to report that Mr. Foley was gay, which kind of showed you where Newt’s staff was coming from. Politics wasn’t bean bag to Gingrich, that’s for sure.
After losing his election in 1994, Foley stuck around Washington and became an institution on Capitol Hill where he had built a house. Bill Clinton appointed him to be Ambassador to Japan, where, by all accounts, he did a fine job. He hosted my former boss, Denny Hastert, when Hastert visited Japan after he became Speaker. Foley and Hastert shared an appreciation of the strategic importance of our closest ally in Asia, as well as an appreciation for the Japanese people.
Foley was a class act, and at times, and along with Mr. Michel, a lonely voice of political gentility.
In his own way, Harry Katrichis made an outsized impact on Capitol Hill.
I first met Harry when he was the Chief Counsel of the House Small Business Committee. With his long hair and his ubiquitous cigar, Harry didn’t look like a typical Republican.
But he was a forceful advocate for the small business community, especially regulatory reform. Easing the regulatory burden on the private sector might not seem like it is very sexy, and it is a never ending project, because the government’s efforts to regulate the private sector never cease. But to Harry, it was a cause and he pursued it with vigor.
I played golf with Harry over the summer on a trip in what could only be described as his last hurrah. He had been slowed down by a nasty form of cancer, but his fighting spirit lived strong. The mind was willing if the body was not. His swing slowed, but he still could hit the ball solid.
After his tenure at the Small Business Committee, Harry became a lobbyist and he was a good one. Members trusted his judgment and he was called by many who wanted his expertise on legislative matters. He testified at least once before the Small Business Committee, giving the committee members his insights into the regulatory reform process.
If you would have met Harry, you would have liked him. He had a Midwest sensibility (he was born in Milwaukee), and he was honest as the day was long. He wasn’t slick or smooth. He was solid and funny.
Three different Washington figures, with little to connect them other than an appreciation for public service and a desire to play a role in the Washington sausage making process.