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Farewell To Senator Biden

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I turn now to the issue of the moment, which is the celebration of the career of our good friend from Delaware and wishing him well in the future. I remember being sworn in, in January of 1985, thinking I had gotten to the Senate at a pretty early age. I was 42 years old. I thought: Gee, I have gotten here at a pretty early age. At the same time I was sworn in for my first term, the Senator from Delaware was being sworn in for his third time. He was barely old enough to vote when he got here. We were born in the same year, but you got a 12-year head start on me, I would say to my friend from Delaware, and has had an extraordinarily distinguished career.

When we think about Senator Biden, certainly we think about his marvelous personality, his demeanor, his friendliness. He can have a good riproaring debate without being disagreeable, as we all say. He has been a pleasure to work with. I say that as somebody who has rarely voted on the same side as he has. We say goodbye today to an outstanding individual who has been a fixture in the Senate for 36 years and a friend to everyone in the Chamber. He now, of course, is going to enjoy an even greater achievement as he becomes the Vice President of the United States.

I remember right from the beginning in 1985, as I was discussing a few minutes ago, that Senator Biden made everybody feel comfortable. Although we were born in the same year, as I indicated, he certainly got here at an early age, and it has allowed him to spend most of his adult life in the Senate.

America got to know JOE pretty well over the course of the last year. They got a chance to witness his humor, his compassion, and, yes, his extraordinary decency. They learned firsthand his not entirely undeserved reputation for loquaciousness. They met his wonderful family. Barack Obama decided he liked what he saw in Joe Biden as well and invited him to be his running mate in what turned out to be a spirited Presidential campaign.

So next week, after the peaceful transition of power from one political party to another that has distinguished our democracy since 1801, Joe Biden will become the 47th Vice President of the United States. This inauguration marks the first time in almost 50 years that two Senators moved directly into the offices of President and Vice President. So no matter what outcome some of us may have hoped for in the election, I think my colleagues and I can feel a little institutional pride at that accomplishment--the fact that two Senators will be sworn in as President and Vice President.

Everyone knows by now JOE's famous loyalty to his beloved Amtrak and his regular commute by rail 80 minutes each day from his home in Wilmington to the Capitol. We know of his commitment to being home with his family every night.

I am sure every single one of my friends in this Chamber has a story to tell of working with JOE. For my part, one of several efforts JOE and I worked together on is the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act passed in 2006. After the election of the Hamas-dominated government in Gaza, JOE recognized, as I and others did, the threat that situation posed--and continues to pose as we have seen up close over the last weeks--the threat it poses to peace in the region. Thanks to his efforts, we were able to pass and have signed into law this important bill which restricts U.S. and foreign assistance to the Hamas-led government unless and until it takes serious steps to renounce terror and publicly recognizes Israel's right to exist. That bill was the right thing to do to confront terrorism. I am proud of my work with Joe Biden on it, and I know he is too.

I have also worked with JOE on tightening sanctions on the dictatorial, illegitimate regime currently ruling in Burma. Among other efforts, the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act, which we collaborated on, restricts the importation of Burmese Jade into America through other countries. That takes a large bite out of every lucrative source of profit for the Burmese regime.

JOE is well versed in these issues and many others, thanks to his years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, with much of that time as either chairman or ranking member. I know he is particularly proud of his role in pushing for NATO expansion in Central and Eastern Europe in 1998 and in 2003.

We will all certainly miss JOE's presence as 1 of 100. It will take some getting used to, to have a Senate without him, but the good news is he is not going very far. Obviously, Senator Biden's election as Vice President is a great honor and a fitting tribute to his 36 years of public service. I look forward to working with him as a key player in the incoming administration, as Congress and the new President work together to tackle the many difficult issues this Nation faces.

Let me say, on a personal basis: JOE, it has been a pleasure knowing you and working with you over the years. Elaine and I wish you and Jill the very best in the coming years.

I yield the floor.

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