Doin' What Comes Natcherly

WE may not always agree with the gentleman from Kentucky. Yet it is fitting that the House of Representatives postponed votes on Tuesday in a nod to Rep. William Natcher and his string of 18,397 consecutive votes on the House floor. A hospitalized Natcher reportedly was ready to arrive via wheelchair, but one House aid noted that if votes can be delayed for golf tournaments, certainly they can be delayed for a key member's health considerations. (Last week he did wheel in for a 1 p.m. vote.)

Mr. Natcher, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, tells new legislators to miss a few votes now and then to avoid becoming hostages to their stats. Yet his example suggests that his tally has more behind it than a quest for the recordbooks. First elected in 1953, he has a reputation as hard-working, a stickler for details, unfailingly fair, and well-informed, relying less on his staff and more on his own homework.

That he has the time to do so may stem from the small campaign tab he runs up every two years: less than $10,000 a race, paid out of his own pocket. (Yes, it's a rural and small-town district.)

Speculation is growing that health problems may prompt him to resign his chairmanship. Colleagues are quietly jockeying to replace him. All the more reason, at a time of savoring Olympic medals, to savor one lawmaker's Olympian effort to fulfill his office, doing what seems to come `natcherly.'

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