Rep. Joseph P. Addabbo (D-N.Y.), a fierce critic of military spending who found a powerful voice for his views as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, has died after a long bout with bladder cancer. He was 61.
Addabbo, who had been in a coma since March 12, died Thursday night, officials at Walter Reed Army Medical Center said Friday.
His wife and daughter were at his bedside. Two sons also survive.
Funeral services will be Tuesday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Burial will be at St. John’s Cemetery in Rego Park, N.Y., near Addabbo’s home.
Reelected 12 Times
Addabbo, who was born March 17, 1925, in New York’s Queens Borough, was first elected to Congress from there in 1960 and won reelection 12 consecutive times.
Over those years he won only a few of his battles against the Pentagon despite his influential position.
As chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, starting in 1979, the chunky, balding Addabbo opposed the MX missile and the B-1 bomber, among other weapons systems. Six years earlier, he gained prominence by steering the first anti-Vietnam War resolution through the House.
Addabbo often began hearings by telling Pentagon leaders to brace themselves for significant cuts in their budget. Most of the time, however, he found himself outvoted by the more hawkish majority on his subcommittee, which controls the flow of funds to the military.
Biggest Victory on MX
Addabbo’s biggest victory came in December, 1982, when he pushed an amendment through the House blocking production of the MX missile. The House later reversed its position and work began on the missile, although echoes of the fight were heard as late as 1985.
Addabbo explained his philosophy by saying he was not against a strong defense, but was opposed to the Pentagon’s preference for weapons that were unnecessarily expensive, or too complicated to be reliable.
“If I feel it’s not cost-effective and not worthy of funding, I’ll fight it, even if it’s in my own district,” Addabbo once said.
Nevertheless, he sometimes took a different attitude on defense spending closer to home and aggressively sought military contracts for New York. He was instrumental in the Navy’s decision to establish a home port on Staten Island, and he was a leading supporter of aerospace contracts at Long Island’s Grumman Corp.
Lobbied From Hospital
Even after his illness forced his initial hospitalization last year, Addabbo continued to lobby avidly for New York. He telephoned Air Force officials from his hospital bed to try to persuade them to reconsider their decision to cancel the T-46A trainer plane produced at Fairchild Republic Co. on Long Island.
Rep. Jamie L. Whitten (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, called Addabbo “a great member of Congress, very accommodating to his colleagues but firm in his convictions, holding one of the key assignments in Congress.”
“The country will miss him, but will profit by reason of his services,” Whitten said.
It will be up to New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo to set any special election for Addabbo’s seat.