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Howard Baker, Former Senate Majority Leader, Dies At 88

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Former Senator Howard Baker has died. He was known for his time as the top Republican on the Senate Watergate committee. Baker asked a question which became one of the most famous in American history.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HOWARD BAKER: What did the president know and when did he know it?

INSKEEP: The president was Richard Nixon and the answer ended his presidency. So he was there for Watergate and then in the 1980s he was Senate majority leader. That made Baker a major player in the historic tax cuts proposed by President Ronald Reagan.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: At the time of the inaugural four years ago, he said, Mr. President, I want you to know I will be with you through thick. And I said, what about thin? He said, welcome to Washington.

INSKEEP: Baker turned out to be there through thin as well. After leaving the Senate Baker became President Reagan's White House chief of staff, restoring stability during the Contra scandal. Howard Baker died yesterday at home in Huntsville, Tennessee, at the age of 88. After doing something that not all politicians manage, he departed Washington having earned bipartisan respect. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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