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Public Statements

Tribute to Senators

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

TRIBUTE TO SENATORS -- (Senate - December 11, 2008)


Mr. LEAHY. Madam President, I would like to pay tribute today to the service of Senator Gordon Smith, who has served the people of Oregon and his country with honor. I have had the pleasure of serving with Senator Smith during his two terms here in the Senate, and during that time he, and his wife Sharon, have been become dear friends. Marcelle and I have often enjoyed traveling with Senator Smith and his wife Sharon, including a couple of trips to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum.

Senator Smith began his political career in 1992 when he was first elected to the Oregon State Senate. There he served as Minority Leader, and the President of the Senate during his first term in office. Since his election to the United States Senate, Senator Smith has always been willing to reach across the aisle to bring our colleagues together and his leadership has produced a list of impressive legislative accomplishments.

During his two terms here in the Senate, Senator Smith has committed himself to efforts on behalf of the people of Oregon, supporting both criminal justice reform and expansion of youth services. Following the tragic death of his son Garrett, Senator Smith worked tirelessly as an advocate for the early intervention and prevention of youth suicide, establishing a grant program for youth mental health programs through the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act which was signed into law by President Bush in 2004. I also appreciate the partnership that we forged in advancing the Innocence Protection Act, a package of modest procedural reforms relating to the death penalty, which I introduced in 2000, and much of which was enacted several years later.

Marcelle and I have valued his friendship and wish Gordon and Sharon all of the best.


Madam President, for most of my time in the Senate it has been my privilege to serve alongside one of its most respected members, the senior Senator from Virginia, Mr. Warner. As he prepares to retire from his Senate service, I would like to pay tribute to him as a leader, a legislator, and as one of my closest friends in this body.

John Warner is a living emblem of the finest the Senate has to offer. He is a skilled policymaker who actively contributes to the civility that helps the Senate function as the Founders intended.

Senator Warner has represented the Commonwealth of Virginia with vision, persistence and wisdom. He has helped lead the Senate through debates on some of the most nettlesome national security issues of our time. Always a gentleman, he has carried himself with the utmost integrity and honesty. He is a Senator of his word. We have worked together on many issues, and I am going to miss his counsel and his friendship.

John Warner came to the Senate in 1979, after early service in the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corp's, which led to his successful tenure as the Secretary of the Navy. He quickly made his mark on one of Congress's most important committees for steering our national security apparatus, the Senate Armed Services Committee. He rose quickly in seniority and has served as the committee's chairman, ranking member, and chairman emeritus.

He formed a now legendary partnership with Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia, and together they worked to fundamentally restructure the Nation's war-fighting organization in the mid-1980s. He has worked closely with the committee's current chair, Senator Levin, and with ranking member Senator John McCain, to support our troops through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, I have seen how the two key defense committees have come together to make that extensive and crucial department work better. John Warner has been an important part of this superb working arrangement, and it was fitting that the fiscal year 2007 Defense Authorization Bill was named in his honor.

Senator Warner is an accomplished advocate for Virginia--the home to a wide variety of military installations, as well as to rural and urban communities of varied needs. He has tackled the difficult transportation challenges of the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, making a real difference in the lives of millions. As a part time resident of Virginia I have always called him my Senator away from home.

Marcelle and I have enjoyed the friendship and company of John and his wife Jeanne, including on the Senate's delegation to the recent 60th Anniversary of D-Day. Foreign leaders know Senator Warner extremely well;
they see him, as we do here in the Senate, as a man of great stature and wisdom.

I thank John for his service and for his friendship, and Marcelle and I join all Members of the Senate in wishing John and Jeanne all the best in their future endeavors.


Madam President, I rise to acknowledge the work and commitment of a colleague whom I have had the pleasure of serving with for the last 12 years here in the U.S. Senate. Senator CHUCK HAGEL joined the Senate in 1997 after an already successful career in business and public service, both in his home State of Nebraska and here in Washington, DC.

While in the Senate, CHUCK has been a strong independent voice for all Nebraskans and citizens of this country. He is not afraid to share what is on his mind and he is certainly not afraid to reach across the aisle to work with all Senators. In one of his first acts of bipartisanship, Senator Hagel joined me as a cosponsor of the Landmine Elimination Act of 1997. I worked with CHUCK, who was himself injured by landmines while in Vietnam, to ban new deployments of antipersonnel landmines.

Senator Hagel has demonstrated an incredible alacrity on defense and foreign policy issues. While it was not popular within his own party, he made the difficult decision to support a timeline for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. This is just one example of many stances he has taken in Washington that demonstrates how CHUCK HAGEL was an independent voice that Nebraska is proud to call their own.

I am also pleased to know CHUCK and Lilibet as wonderful travel partners. The last trip we took together, in May 2007, was to the Middle East to assess regional conflicts in Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and the West Bank. Trips like these provide the opportunity to get to know Senators and their spouses beyond the day-to-day encounters in Washington and I cherish the time we had to together.

I am pleased to call CHUCK a friend and voice of reason in the U.S. Senate. I will miss him as both a friend and colleague. Marcelle and I and wish him and Lilibet well in whatever way he will next serve Nebraska and our Nation.


Madam President, I would like to pay tribute to the senior Senator from New Mexico, a dedicated public servant, a respected lawmaker and a man I am proud to call my colleague, Pete Domenici.

From his first days in the Senate in the 93rd Congress, to now 35 years later, Senator Domenici has earned a reputation as a powerful champion for New Mexico. While he and I have not agreed on some issues, I have never questioned his commitment to do what he believed was right for this country and the State of New Mexico. However, I might question which of our Italian grandmothers made a better meatball, but then again I wouldn't want a fight to break out here on the Senate floor.

Senator Domenici has too many accomplishments to list here today. Senator Domenici has had a long and distinguished career in the U.S. Senate. However what stands out most to me is his unending drive to enact Mental Health Parity legislation which he worked on so closely with our late colleague Paul Wellstone. I believe it was a fitting tribute to enact this legislation in the closing days of the 110th Congress.

I know it can sound repetitive when people hear Senators make remarks such as these about our colleagues as they are leaving the Senate. But I think it is important for the public to know that despite all the squabbling that goes on in Washington, there is the deep respect, affection, and caring that goes on among the Members of this body. After an incredible 35 years of service New Mexico and the whole United States are grateful, and I consider myself fortunate to have served 33 years with Pete Domenici in the U.S. Senate. Marcelle and I wish Pete and Nancy the best.

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