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Public Statements

Senator Ted Stevens

Floor Speech

Location: Unknown


Mr. SPECTER. Madam President, I have sought recognition to join in paying tribute to Senator Ted Stevens, who was in this Chamber from 1967 until early 2009, and his presence is still felt, so pervasive was his impact on this body.

My first contact with Senator Stevens was shortly after my election, when I was in the process of selecting my committee assignments. I had said during the campaign that I would seek the Agriculture Committee, but when the first round came up and there was a spot left on Appropriations, I decided that was the best committee to select for the interests of my State.

I did not get the Ag Committee. Appropriations has a subcommittee, Ag Appropriations, and it was filled. But Ted Stevens generously opened the spot, taking another subcommittee assignment so I could maintain, in part, my statement that I would seek influence on the agricultural issues.

Ted Stevens had a reputation for being tough and demanding. He had a famous Hulk tie which I proudly have in my closet and wear on occasions when it is appropriate. But behind that tough exterior, there was a heart of gold and a very emotional man. He said that he did not lose his temper, he would ``use'' his temper, that he did not lose his temper, he always knew where it was.

I recall one session of the Senate in the middle of the night. During Howard Baker's term as majority leader, he would sometimes have all-night sessions. It is amazing how much you can get done and how short the debate is at 3 a.m. An issue had arisen as to residency. I believe it was Bill Proxmire who had made some statements about living in Washington, DC. That infuriated Ted Stevens, and he rose, and in a loud, bombastic, explosive voice, he said he did not live in Washington, he lived in Alaska, and because of his affection for Alaska, he could not consider living in Washington. This was part-time duty to handle a specific job.

In 1984 after the elections, Senator Baker retired, and the Senate leadership was up. At that time, we had the most hotly contested battle for leadership during my tenure here and perhaps of all time. There were five top-notch candidates: Senator Stevens, Senator Dole, Senator McClure, Senator Domenici, and Senator Lugar. It finally boiled down to Bob Dole and Ted Stevens, and Bob Dole won, 28 to 25. When the vote was taken, I happened to be sitting with Senator Dole. We had lived in the same town--Russell, KS--and had been friends for decades. When Ted Stevens came over to congratulate Bob Dole, I was in the picture--a photo I prize until this day.

Senate leadership elections are complex, and there was later consideration that perhaps Bob Dole's leaving the leadership of the Finance Committee opened the door for Bob Packwood, whose vote was for Dole, and perhaps Senator Packwood's leaving the leadership of the Commerce Committee chairman opened it up for Jack Danforth. That was a watershed election.

Senator Stevens and I did not always agree on matters, such as the outcome of the Iran Contra matters, but there was also a collegiality and cordiality. I was the beneficiary of one of the famous Alaska trips with Ted Stevens. I caught a king salmon, 29 pounds--toughest 15 minutes of my life--and it hangs on a shelf. The stuffed salmon hangs proudly in my Senate office. Great fish to eat. They have ways of preserving the carcass so that you can stuff it. You can have your fish and eat it too.

Ted Stevens was a mentor. During the Alcee Hastings impeachment proceedings, where I was cochairman of the committee assigned to hear the evidence and later making a floor speech, I thought there ought to be a standard for impeachment. Ted Stevens wisely counseled me against that. He said: Don't do that. Don't try to establish some standard. It is a matter of each Senator's individual judgment. And when the impeachment proceeding of President Clinton came up, Ted Stevens was one of the 10 dissenters. He voted no on one of the bills of impeachment.

During the course of Ted Stevens' problems with the Department of Justice and the investigation, I talked to him about those matters, some of the implications in the criminal law case. I responded to an inquiry shortly before the 2008 election, was on Alaska radio cautioning the voters not to consider Ted Stevens a convict because the case was in midstream and there were very, very serious questions which had to be adjudicated, and I said I didn't know all of the details, but I had reviewed enough of the file to know that it was an open question. During the confirmation hearings of Attorney General Eric Holder, when we had our private talks--I was then ranking--I called the issue to his attention, and he promised to make a thorough review and later did so. And the rest is history. Ted Stevens was exonerated and the issue was dismissed.

After that event took place, I was talking to Larry Burton, who worked years ago for Ted Stevens, a squash-playing partner of mine. A few of us crafted a resolution honoring Ted Stevens and saying what a tremendous force he had been here, but we were asked by the lawyers to hold up because some action might be pending in the Department of Justice, so that should be delayed.

Today, we will lay Ted Stevens to rest, and with him a really great American. His family--Catherine, a devoted wife, an outstanding lawyer, a great public servant in her own right as an assistant U.S. attorney. When my class was elected in 1980, their daughter Lily was an infant, and she grew up in the Senate and now is a fine young woman, is a practicing attorney, and is now 30 years old. And Catherine, Joan, Ted, and I spent many pleasant evenings over a martini and a dinner and some of Ted Stevens' really great red wine.

He was extraordinary in his devotion to his State, and no Senator has ever done more for their State than Ted Stevens did for Alaska. So he leaves a great record, a great reputation, and he will be sorely missed.

In the absence of any other Senator in the Chamber seeking recognition, I ask unanimous consent for 15 minutes to proceed as in morning business.


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