Nancy Kassebaum

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Nancy Kassebaum
Chair of the Senate Labor Committee
In office
January 3, 1995 – January 3, 1997
Preceded byTed Kennedy
Succeeded byJim Jeffords
United States Senator
from Kansas
In office
December 23, 1978 – January 3, 1997
Preceded byJames B. Pearson
Succeeded byPat Roberts
Personal details
Nancy Josephine Landon

(1932-07-29) July 29, 1932 (age 91)
Topeka, Kansas, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
  • (m. 1955; div. 1979)
  • (m. 1996; died 2014)
Children4, including William and Richard

Nancy Josephine Kassebaum Baker (née Landon; born July 29, 1932[1]) is an American politician who represented the State of Kansas in the United States Senate from 1978 to 1997. She is the daughter of Alf Landon, who was Governor of Kansas from 1933 to 1937 and the 1936 Republican nominee for president, and the widow of former Senator and diplomat Howard Baker.

With her victory in the 1978 U.S. Senate election in Kansas, Kassebaum entered the national spotlight as the only woman in the U.S. Senate, and as the first woman to represent Kansas. She was also the first woman ever elected to a full term in the Senate without her husband having previously served in Congress.[a]

In her three terms in the Senate, Kassebaum demonstrated a political independence that made her a key figure in building bipartisan coalitions in foreign affairs and domestic policy.[1] As chair of the Senate Subcommittee on African Affairs, she played a leading role in legislation to sanction the racist apartheid regime in South Africa, which required the successful override of a presidential veto. As chair of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, she led the fight for major health care reforms that, for the first time, assured health insurance coverage for people changing jobs with pre-existing medical conditions.

Early life and education[edit]

Nancy Josephine Baker was born in Topeka, Kansas, the daughter of Kansas First Lady Theo (née Cobb) and Governor Alf Landon.[2] She attended Topeka High School and graduated in 1950. She graduated from the University of Kansas in Lawrence in 1954, where she was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta, and where she met her first husband, Philip Kassebaum. They were married in 1955. In 1956, she received a master's degree in diplomatic history from the University of Michigan. They settled in Maize, Kansas, where they raised four children.[3]

She worked as vice president of Kassebaum Communications, a family-owned company that operated several radio stations. Kassebaum also served on the Maize School Board. In 1975, Kassebaum and her husband were legally separated; their divorce became final in 1979. Kassebaum worked in Washington, D.C., as a caseworker for Senator James B. Pearson of Kansas in 1975, but returned to Kansas the following year.[4]



In late 1977, Senator Pearson announced he would not seek re-election to a third full term. The unexpected announcement of a rare open seat immediately drew a flood of candidates into the 1978 Republican primary, including two highly respected state senators, three successful businessmen, three others and Nancy Kassebaum.[5]

At the time that she entered the race, Kassebaum was legally separated from her husband Philip but not yet divorced. She chose to use the name Nancy Landon Kassebaum to capitalize on her father's political reputation in the state.[6] She defeated eight other Republicans in the 1978 primary elections to replace retiring Republican Pearson and then defeated former Democratic Congressman Bill Roy (who narrowly lost a previous election bid to Kansas's junior senator, Bob Dole, in 1974) in the general election. For the rest of her political career, she was primarily known as Nancy Kassebaum.[7] She was re-elected to her Senate seat in 1984 and 1990 but did not seek re-election in 1996.


Key issues[edit]

From the start of her Senate tenure, Kassebaum defied stereotypes,[8] voting moderate to liberal on most social issues, but conservative on federal spending and government mandates.[9] She helped lead an unsuccessful bipartisan effort to curb soaring federal deficits in the early years of the Reagan administration.[10] But she developed a reputation as a centrist broker with significant impact on key issues in both foreign policy and domestic affairs.[11] Kassebaum is known for her health care legislation, known as the Kennedy-Kassebaum Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which was co-sponsored by Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy, a Democrat. She was also active in foreign policy. She expressed strong support of anti-apartheid measures against South Africa in the 1980s.[12]

Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen and Nancy Kassebaum answer a reporter's question during a joint press briefing in 1997.

Foreign relations[edit]

In 1981, Kassebaum became chair of the Senate Subcommittee on African Affairs and entered the growing controversy surrounding the policy of apartheid — racial segregation and discrimination — in South Africa. She issued a public call for President Reagan and other Republicans to toughen U.S. policy toward the white minority government in Pretoria.

Although President Reagan condemned apartheid, he strongly opposed economic sanctions despite growing pressure from Congress, including Kassebaum[13] and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. To break the impasse, the two senators joined key Democrats in supporting targeted sanctions against the South African government, setting specific anti-apartheid goals and conditions, including a demand that South Africa release ANC leader Nelson Mandela from prison.[14]

The bipartisan legislation, the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986,[15] passed the House and Senate by overwhelming margins but was then vetoed by President Reagan, forcing Kassebaum and Lugar into a major battle against the president and leadership of their own party.[16] On September 29, 1986, the House voted 315-to-84 to override Reagan’s veto. The Senate followed suit three days later and on a 78-to-21 vote passed the bipartisan sanctions bill into law.[17]

In March 1982, Kassebaum headed a U.S. delegation[18] to observe national elections in El Salvador, where the U.S.-backed military junta was battling leftist guerrillas while being unable to control human rights abuses by government forces and far-right paramilitary groups.[19] The heavy turnout on Election Day convinced Kassebaum that the leftists lacked popular support.[20]

Kassebaum became a key member of bipartisan efforts to support the Salvadoran government with economic and military aid, while pressuring the government on human rights, land reforms[21] and more effective steps to prevent a guerrilla victory.[22] She repeatedly urged the Reagan administration to set a clear policy for a political solution[23][24][25] to the civil war while avoiding deeper U.S. military involvement in the region.[26]

Domestic policy[edit]

When Republicans won control of Congress in the 1994 elections, Kassebaum became chair of the Senate Labor Committee with broad jurisdiction over federal domestic policy. One of her first actions was to introduce health insurance reform legislation,[27] cosponsored by the committee’s senior Democrat, Sen. Ted Kennedy. The bill focused narrowly on helping some 25 million workers get and keep health insurance coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions even when changing or losing a job.[28][29]

In a year of heated debate, Kassebaum found herself at times opposing amendments from fellow Republicans, including her Kansas colleague, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole[30] and pressuring Kennedy and Democrats to reach compromises.[31] As a result, House and Senate conferees ultimately settled on a final version of the legislation, known as the Kassebaum-Kennedy Act or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The legislation passed overwhelmingly in both houses and was signed into law by President Clinton, on August 21, 1996.[32]

In her last months in the Senate, Kassebaum also won passage of a new law preserving a beautiful tract of Kansas tallgrass prairie in the national park system. After more than 50 years of controversy,[33] the idea of a Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve became a reality just two months before Kassebaum left office. The new preserve covers 10,876 acres in the heart of the Flint Hills with its native limestone house, barn and school. Under Kassebaum’s bill, signed into law by President Clinton, the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is the only NPS unit dedicated to preserving and providing public access to untamed tallgrass prairie that once covered more than 400,000 square miles of the American heartland.[34][35][36]

Other issues[edit]

Early in her career, she was tapped to serve as Temporary Chairman of the 1980 Republican National Convention. Presiding over the first two days of the convention, her appointment to that role was seen by many as a nod from the Reagan campaign to the moderate and liberal wings of the party. In 1991, Kassebaum was mentioned by Time magazine as a possible running mate for President George H. W. Bush if Vice President Dan Quayle was not the Republican vice-presidential candidate in the 1992 U.S. presidential election.[37]

Kassebaum voted for the successful Supreme Court nominations of Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. She voted for the nomination of Robert Bork, which was rejected by the Senate. Kassebaum later expressed regret for voting to confirm Thomas to the Supreme Court in 1991, expressing disappointment in his performance.[38] The year after the hearings, she noted, "I was never once asked by anyone at the White House or by any of my colleagues about how I reacted to Anita Hill's public allegations of sexual harassment or how I thought the allegations should be handled."[39]

Kassebaum voted against a proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed Congress and the states to ban or restrict abortions.[40]

Kassebaum voted in favor of the bill establishing Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday and the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 (as well as to override President Reagan's veto).[41][42][43]

Prior to completing her third term, on December 7, 1996, Kassebaum married former Tennessee Senator Howard H. Baker Jr., who retired from the Senate after serving three terms in 1985, and included terms as both majority and minority leader.[44]

Post-political career[edit]

Kassebaum was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1996.[45]

After leaving the Senate, Kassebaum served on the Board of Trustees for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Kaiser Family Foundation. She was Chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the George C. Marshall Foundation and the American-Turkish Council. Senator Kassebaum also served on the Board of Directors of the National Committee on US-China Relations, the African Law Institute Council-ABA, and the International Medical Corps.

Kassebaum remained active on issues such as campaign finance reform. She served on the Americans for Campaign Reform Advisory Committee, and in 1997 President Clinton asked Kassebaum and former Vice President Walter Mondale “to assist in the cause of bipartisan campaign finance reform.” Their work resulted in recommendations to revamp campaign finance laws that was delivered to Congress in October.[46]

In 2000, Kassebaum was appointed as Co-Chair of The Presidential Appointee Initiative Advisory Board, a Brookings Institution commission that delivered reform recommendations to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.[47]

From 2001 to 2005, Senator Baker served as the United States Ambassador to Japan and Kassebaum accompanied him to Japan, living in Tokyo during this time. Kassebaum was recognized for her work with Baker in Japan, including organizing a regional conference in Tokyo to combat human trafficking in Asia in 2004.[48]

Kassebaum is an Advisory Board member for the Partnership for a Secure America, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to recreating the bipartisan center in American national security and foreign policy. She is also a member of the ReFormers Caucus of Issue One.

She is a noted critic of former President Donald Trump.[49] In 2018, she, alongside other incumbent and former Republican politicians, endorsed Laura Kelly, the Democratic candidate and eventual victor, in the 2018 Kansas gubernatorial election.[50] Kassebaum also endorsed Republican-turned-Democrat Barbara Bollier for the 2020 Senate election in Kansas over her Republican opponent Roger Marshall. In 2014, Kassebaum expressed support for same-sex marriage.[51]


Kassebaum was awarded an honorary doctorate from Kansas State University in 2015.[new citation] Kansas State University also offers the Kassebaum Scholarship[52] to recognize students who aspire to careers in public service, and up to five students receive this award annually. Her ties to Kansas State University date from 1966 when the Landon Lecture Series on Public Issues was inaugurated as a tribute to her father, former Kansas Gov. Alfred Landon. Her four children are also Kansas State University alumni.

Kassebaum was honored by the Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas as Distinguished Kansas in 1978, and she received it Citation for Distinguished Statesmanship in 2000.[53]

In 1985, Kassebaum received the Distinguished Service Citation from her alma mater, University of Kansas.[54]

In 1996 she was awarded American Library Association Honorary Membership.

Personal life[edit]

In 1955, she first married John Philip Kassebaum Sr., and they had four children, Phillip John Kassebaum Jr., William, Richard, and Linda. They separated in 1975 and later divorced in 1979. She then married former U.S. Senator and Diplomat Howard Baker of Tennessee on December 7, 1996.[55] After leaving Tokyo in 2005 at the end of his appointment as U.S. Ambassador to Japan, they split time between his home in Huntsville, Tenn., and her home in Burdick, Kansas. He died on June 26, 2014.

Her eldest son, Philip John Kassebaum Jr., is an attorney. Her son, William Kassebaum, is a former member of the Kansas House of Representatives.[56] Her other son, filmmaker Richard Kassebaum, died of a brain tumor August 27, 2008, at the age of 47.[57] Her daughter, Linda Josephine Kassebaum Johnson, a veterinarian, died December 6, 2020, at age 62.[58]

See also[edit]

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ Of the women Senators who preceded Kassebaum: Rebecca Latimer Felton (D-GA), Rose McConnell Long (D-LA), Dixie Bibb Graves (D-AL), Vera C. Bushfield (R-SD), Eva Bowring (R-NE), Elaine S. Edwards (D-LA), Muriel Humphrey (D-MN), Maryon Pittman Allen (D-AL) were all appointed and were never elected; Gladys Pyle (R-SD) and Hazel Abel (R-NE), were elected, but not to full terms (i.e., to complete terms where the previous senator had died or resigned, not to new six-year terms); Hattie Caraway (D-AR) and Maurine Brown Neuberger (D-OR) were both elected to full six-year terms, but their husbands had held the seat previously. Margaret Chase Smith's (R-ME) husband never served in the Senate, but he did serve in the House. When he died, Margaret won the ensuing election. Of the appointed senators, Long, Bushfield, Humphrey, and Allen were all appointed to fill out part of the terms of their deceased husbands, while Graves and Edwards were appointed by their husbands, the governor of their states at the time. However, Kassebaum's father means that the first woman to be elected without any family connections was Paula Hawkins (R-FL), elected in 1980.


  1. ^ a b "Nancy Landon Kassebaum". U.S. House of Representatives, Office of History, Art and Archives. June 5, 2023. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  2. ^ "Nancy Kassebaum and Howard Baker". The New York Times. December 8, 1996.
  3. ^ women in congress: Nancy Landon Kassebaum Archived July 23, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "KASSEBAUM, Nancy Landon - US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives".
  5. ^ Peterson, Bill (July 31, 1978). "Familiar Name Emerges in Kansas Senate Race". The Washington Post. pp. 1–2. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  6. ^ "Nancy Landon Kassebaum Intends To Use Dad's Name", The Fort Scott Tribune (March 22, 1978), p. 4.
  7. ^ "Salute To Senator: Her Retirement Came As No Surprise, But Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Still Will Be Missed By Kansans", Lawrence Journal-World (November 21, 1995).
  8. ^ Kneeland, Douglas E. (November 29, 1978). "Senate's Only Woman Defies Sterotypes". The New York Times. pp. A18. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  9. ^ Barone1 Ujifusa2, Michael1 Grant2 (1995). "The Almanac of American Politics 1996". National Journal, Inc. (1996): 526–530.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ White1 Wildavsky2, Joseph1 Aaron2 (1989). The Deficit and the Public Interest: The Search for Responsible Budgeting in the 1980s. Berkeley, California: University of California Press Russell Sage Foundation. p. 399. ISBN 9780520304666.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ Duncan1 Lawrence2, Philip1 Christine2 (1995). "Politics in America 1996". Congressional Quarterly, Inc. Politics in America 1996 (1996): 509–511.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ "The Free Lance-Star - Google News Archive Search".
  13. ^ Moffett III, George D. (August 19, 1985). "Botha speech pushes US toward sanctions". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  14. ^ Ottawa1 Cannon2, David B.1 Lou2 (June 28, 1986). "Reagan Pressured on Apartheid". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 5, 2023.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  15. ^ "H.R.4868 - Comprehensive Anti Apartheid Act of 1986". congress.gove. May 21, 1986. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  16. ^ Kassebaum1 Lugar2, Nancy Landon1 Richard2 (September 30, 1986). "Override the President's Veto". Retrieved June 5, 2023.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  17. ^ Roberts, Steven V. (October 2, 1986). "Senate, 78 to 21, Overrides Reagan's Veto and Imposes Sanctions on South Africa". The New York Times. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  18. ^ UPI (March 1, 1982). "The State Department announced Monday that Sen. Nancy Kassebaum will head U.S. Delegation to El Salvador". United Press Inc. p. 1. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  19. ^ Haggerty, Richard E. (November 1988). "El Salvador: A Country Study" (PDF). Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. 1 (1): 33–35.
  20. ^ Kassebaum, Nancy L. (1982). Report of the U.S. Official Observer Mission to the El Salvador Constituent. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. pp. 5–6.
  21. ^ Miller, Judith (May 12, 1981). "Senate Panel Votes Curbs on Salvadoran Arms Aid". The New York Times. p. 10. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  22. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (February 3, 1983). "Salvador Setback Arouses Concern of Reagan's Aides". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  23. ^ "When to stop in El Salvador". The Christian Science Monitor. February 17, 1983. p. 1. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  24. ^ "The Kassebaum Formula". The Washington Post. March 23, 1983. p. 1. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  25. ^ Kassebaum, Nancy (1983). El Salvador Reprogramming (1st ed.). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. pp. 81–89.
  26. ^ UPI (May 27, 1983). "Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, R-Kan., said Friday that the Administration's Decision". United Press International. p. 1. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  27. ^ Kassebaum, Nancy (1995). "S. 1028 - Health Insurance Reform Act of 1995". Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  28. ^ Clymer, Adam (July 14, 1995). "Bill Takes On Health Issue In Small Steps". The New York Times. p. 18. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  29. ^ Kassebaum, Nancy (July 13, 1995). "Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions, S. 1028". Congressional Record. 141 (113): S9905–S9913 – via
  30. ^ Kassebaum, Nancy (April 18, 1996). "S.Amdt.3677". Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  31. ^ Kassebaum, Nancy (June 28, 1996). "Health Insurance Reform". Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  32. ^ Havemann, Judith (August 22, 1996). "President Signs Insurance Portability Bill Into Law". The Washington Post. p. 1. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  33. ^ Conard, Rebecca (1998). Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve Legislative History, 1920-1996 (1st ed.). Omaha, Nebraska: National Park Service.
  34. ^ Fineman, Susan (June 14, 1997). "Tallgrass Prairie Joins List of National Treasures". The Washington Post. p. 1. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  35. ^ Woodward, Richard (June 10, 2005). "A Sliver of Prairie Still Untamed". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  36. ^ Christian, Shirley (July 26, 1998). "A Prairie Home". The New York Times. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  37. ^ "Time Covers - The 90'S - Hosted by Google". April 19, 2016. Archived from the original on April 19, 2016.
  38. ^ "Kassebaum regrets vote for Thomas". Knight-Rider News Service. May 27, 1995. Retrieved May 10, 2015.
  39. ^ Reported in Wendy Kaminer, "Crashing the Locker Room", The Atlantic (July 1992), Vol, 270, p. 59-60.
  40. ^ "Senate's Roll Call Vote on Abortion Plan". The New York Times. Associated Press. June 29, 1983. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  41. ^ "TO PASS H.R. 3706. (MOTION PASSED) SEE NOTE(S) 19".
  44. ^ "Weddings: Nancy Kassebaum and Howard Baker". The New York Times. December 8, 1996. p. 68. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  45. ^ "APS Member History". Retrieved December 13, 2021.
  46. ^ Kassebaum Baker1 Mondale2, Nancy1 Walter F.2 (July 18, 1997). "Campaign Finance: Fix It". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 5, 2023.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  47. ^ Kassebaum, Nancy (April 5, 2001). "To Form a Government: A Bipartisan Plan to Improve the Presidential Appointments Process". Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  48. ^ Kennedy, Edward (September 14, 2004). "Tribute to Nancy Kassebaum Baker and Ambassador Howard Baker". Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  49. ^ "Donald Trump draws the ire of Nancy Kassebaum at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics". The Kansas City Star. September 14, 2018. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  50. ^ Hunter Woodall, "GOP stalwart Nancy Kassebaum picks Democrat Laura Kelly over Kris Kobach," Kansas City Star, September 2018.
  51. ^ Republicans From the West Give Support for Gay Marriage; Erik Eckholm, The New York Times, March 3, 2014
  52. ^ "Nancy Landon Kassebaum Scholarship". June 5, 2023. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  53. ^ "Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas". June 5, 2023. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  54. ^ "Past recipients of the Distinguished Service Citation". June 5, 2023. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  55. ^ "Nancy Kassebaum and Howard Baker". The New York Times. December 8, 1996. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  56. ^ "Our Campaigns - Candidate - William A. Kassebaum". Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  57. ^ "Richard Kassebaum Obituary". September 2, 2008. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  58. ^ "Linda Josephine Kassebaum Johnson". December 12, 2020.

Further reading[edit]

  • Tanner, Beccy (November 11, 2015). "Coming home: Nancy Kassebaum reflects on her political legacy, life". The Wichita Eagle.</ref>

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Kansas
(Class 2)

1978, 1984, 1990
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Kansas
Served alongside: Bob Dole, Sheila Frahm, Sam Brownback
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chairman of the Senate Labor Committee
Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former US Senator Order of precedence of the United States
as Former US Senator
Succeeded byas Former US Senator