Obituary: Andrew Jacobs Jr. / Indiana congressman, 'parsimonious progressive'

Feb. 24, 1932 - Dec. 28, 2013

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Andrew Jacobs Jr., an Indiana Democrat who served under seven presidents during his 30 years in the House of Representatives, who was known as both a social liberal and a fiscal hawk and who was once described by consumer advocate Ralph Nader as "the conscience of the House," died Saturday at his home in Indianapolis. He was 81.

Gary Taylor, a family friend and former campaign manager, told The Associated Press that Mr. Jacobs had been in declining health in recent years but did not cite a specific cause of death. He was treated for cancer several years ago.

Mr. Jacobs was a longtime member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which he sometimes called the Mean Ways Committee because he thought it often passed bills hurtful to those on society's margins. His legislative battles included advocating for public financing for elections, a balanced federal budget, voting rights and civil rights, closing tax breaks and loopholes, and opposing wars that he believed couldn't be won, explained or afforded.

Mr. Jacobs, whose election to Congress in 1964 was aided by the tailwind of Lyndon B. Johnson's overwhelming defeat of Barry Goldwater in the presidential contest, was an early opponent of the Vietnam War. He consistently opposed every U.S. war thereafter, which he described as "unconstitutional pseudo-macho presidential wars" in his 1999 book, "The 1600 Killers: A Wake-Up Call for Congress."

He also wrote in the book that he coined the phrases "war wimps" and "chicken hawks" in the 1960s to describe those who were "all too willing to send others [to war] but never [got] around to going themselves."

With strong pacifist leanings, Mr. Jacobs was one of about 40 House members and a half-dozen senators who supported legislation to allow citizens to opt out of federal taxes earmarked for the military. The Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act never made it out of committee.

In domestic legislation, Mr. Jacobs, who served in a district representing parts of Indianapolis, called himself a "parsimonious progressive" who sometimes skewered both sides of the political spectrum.

"If you want to know about waste in the Department of Health and Human Services, best not to ask a Liberal," he wrote in "The 1600 Killers." "If you want to know about waste at the Pentagon, don't waste time with a Conservative."

In favoring what he saw as fiscal accountability, Mr. Jacobs was sometimes derided by critics as a penny-pincher. He believed he was the opposite: a billions-pincher. Backing him, the National Taxpayers Union said the congressman's persistent voting record against governmental waste, fraud and corruption "has saved the country billions of dollars."

Andrew Jacobs Jr., whose father was a judge and one-term member of the House of Representatives, was born Feb. 24, 1932, in Indianapolis. After high school, he joined the Marines and was dispatched to the Korean War, where he suffered combat wounds. He graduated from Indiana University in 1955 and its law school in 1958.

He was a sheriff's deputy and a lawyer before entering the Indiana state legislature in 1959. He failed in his first campaign for Congress in 1962 but was successful in 1964. He lost his seat in 1972 but came back to win two years later and served until retiring in 1997.

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