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Remembering Congressman Stephen Solarz

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. DODD. Mr. President, I rise today to pay tribute to a good friend and former colleague of mine, former Congressman Stephen Solarz, who passed away late last month at the age of 70. I would like to take this moment to convey my heartfelt condolences to Stephen's wife, Nina, the rest of his family, and everyone else who knew, worked with, and enjoyed Stephen during his life.

Stephen and I were both elected to the House of Representatives for the first time in 1974, members of a historic class of 75 Democratic freshmen who came to Washington in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Stephen remained a stalwart of the House, serving the people of his Brooklyn-based congressional district with distinction for nearly two decades.

Throughout his tenure in Congress, Stephen was always attentive to the needs of his constituents, even going so far as to nickname himself ``Representative Pothole'' for his work on local issues. But in spite of this, Stephen's tenure was perhaps most clearly defined by his work on foreign policy issues. As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee throughout his nine terms, Stephen demonstrated a strong and abiding passion for world affairs. Indeed, during his first month in office, Stephen went on an 18-day congressional delegation trip to the Middle East, meeting with the leaders of Israel, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt.

Beginning in 1979, Stephen took on some important leadership positions within the committee, serving first as chairman of the Subcommittee on African Affairs, and subsequently as chairman of the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs. During that time, Stephen was absolutely committed to ensuring that human rights and respect for the rule of law remained key pillars of U.S. policy in those regions.

He was an uncompromising supporter of sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa; one of Congress's most vocal and persistent critics of the authoritarian government led by Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines; and a tireless advocate of peace in Cambodia. Stephen was also a strong proponent of diplomacy and engagement, becoming the first United States Congressman to visit North Korea in nearly three decades in 1980. And perhaps just as significantly, Stephen was a committed defender of the House of Representatives who worked extremely hard to carve out a more prominent place for that body in foreign policy discussions.

As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee myself, I had the opportunity to work with Stephen on a number of occasions. And I must say that I was consistently impressed by Stephen's tenacity, intelligence, and commitment to justice and democracy. In nearly everything he did as a Member of Congress, Stephen was always well-prepared, knew the issues inside and out, and was not afraid to challenge those with whom he disagreed. That is the Stephen Solarz that my colleagues and I got to know over the years, and that is, in my view, the kind of Congressman Stephen will most be remembered as.

Once again, I would like to express my sincere condolences to Stephen's family and all those individuals who, like me, had the privilege of knowing him over the years. And I take this opportunity to thank Stephen for his many years of service to this country and his tireless efforts to create a more just and peaceful world.

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