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Heidi H.
Democrat ND

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  • Tributes to Departing Senators

    by Senator Heidi Heitkamp

    Posted on 2014-12-12

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    HEITKAMP. Madam President, I honor my friend and colleague from Louisiana, Senator Mary Landrieu, who is departing the Senate at the end of this year. Her career in public service began 34 years ago when she was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives. During that time and in her service in the United States Senate, she has proved time and again that the people of Louisiana could not have asked for a better advocate and fighter on their behalf.



    It is tough to describe someone like Senator Landrieu. Senator Landrieu is selfless, dedicated, tenacious, and resilient, but these are just words that, while accurate, fail to truly capture who this woman is and what she stands for. It is only by looking at Senator Landrieu's significant accomplishments that someone can truly begin to understand the depths of her selflessness, dedication, and resiliency. During my time in the Senate, I have seen Mary embody these words like few others in this body.

    Senator Landrieu and I both come from large families. I know the impact being one of seven children had on me growing up and I am sure Senator Landrieu can attest to how big of an impact being one of nine children had on her. During her time in public service, Senator Landrieu has worked hard to ensure that all children can benefit from having a family to call their own. Senator Landrieu has worked extensively with the Angels in Adoption program since its inception, and cochaired the Congressional Coalition on Adoption and the Congressional Foster Care Caucus. Senator Landrieu's work has changed the lives of children across Louisiana, the country, and around the world. Because of her work, there are countless children who are now able to feel the love and benefits of having a family.

    In 2005, Louisiana was victim of one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit this country. Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and Louisiana the likes of which this country has rarely seen. With one of the country's great cities devastated and in ruins, it was Mary Landrieu who took the lead on recovery efforts. It was Mary Landrieu who held FEMA's feet to the fire to better serve Louisianans. It was Mary Landrieu who helped direct billions of dollars in recovery funds to the State. It was because of Mary Landrieu that the great State of Louisiana has bounced back strong as ever.

    Senator Landrieu's leadership did not end with the recovery and rebuilding efforts. Following the passage of the Biggert-Waters Flood Reform Act in 2012, Senator Landrieu was one of the first to recognize and sound the alarm on the impending problems homeowners would face with unreasonably high flood insurance rates. Because of her early recognition of these problems and her proactive approach to finding solutions, Congress was able pass a bill preventing thousands of people across the country from being forced to pay disastrously high flood insurance premiums.

    I have also had the privilege of working with Senator Landrieu on energy issues. There is no better advocate in the Senate on energy than Senator Landrieu. I came here with the intent of learning everything that I could from Senator Landrieu. My only regret is that there was no way to fully take in all of her knowledge in the brief time that I have been here. That is a testament to the incredible work that she has done over her career to advance a pragmatic energy policy for this country, work that I hope to continue in the years ahead building upon the energy legacy that Senator Landrieu will leave behind. A word you hear often when people describe Senator Landrieu is tenacious, and this was never more apparent than on her work to advance the Keystone XL Pipeline. Anyone who watched Senator Landrieu work that bill and work behind the scenes to get the votes knows that she will fight to the very last second for what she believes in and that the word ``can't'' doesn't exist in her vocabulary. Senator Landrieu single-handedly forced this bill to the Senate floor and brought us closer than we have been in 6 years to approving this project once and for all. Senator Landrieu's pragmatic approach to this issue and willingness to embrace solutions over politics stands as an example for the rest of the Senate to strive for.

    Senator Landrieu always looked out for the energy interests of her State, while recognizing the need to provide and protect her gulf coast communities. She has pushed for increased LNG exports that would bring new jobs and significant investment to her State. She also has been instrumental in expanding oil exploration and production in the Gulf of Mexico, but while doing so she has made sure that her coastal communities receive a bigger share of the royalties and revenue to mitigate any impacts from the development. Working for jobs and economic development and protecting those most impacted by this development, that is a pretty good legacy to leave behind in Louisiana.

    The Landrieu family name comes with a long history of public service in Louisiana. The Landrieus, known for their big personalities that are eclipsed only by their accomplishments in office, can rest easy knowing that Mary has more than lived up to the family name. The Senate, Louisiana, and the country, are better off because of the work Mary Landrieu has done in the [[Page S6781]] Senate. I know I am not alone in saying that we will miss having her here. I also know I am not alone in saying that I am sure her work is not done. I wish her luck in this next chapter of her life and look forward to seeing the tremendous work she will accomplish outside of this Chamber.

    Mark Pryor Madam President, I also wish to honor my colleague, Senator Mark Pryor, who will be leaving the Senate at the end of this Congress. Senator Pryor has been a tireless champion for the people of Arkansas for 12 years in this legislative body. However, his commitment and dedication to the State of Arkansas is reflected not only in his work here, but in the public service he and his family have given for decades.

    As the son of the former Governor and U.S. Senator, Senator Mark Pryor grew up in a family which embodied public service, instilling his interest and desire to do the same in his career. After attending the University of Arkansas and working in the private sector as an attorney, he turned his sights to public service. While serving as a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives and then as attorney general for the State of Arkansas, Senator Pryor honed his understanding of the needs of the State and developed strong connections through its institutions which served him well throughout his career. It was here that I first met Mark. He was serving as attorney general in Arkansas at the same time I was serving as attorney general in North Dakota. I was immediately impressed with this young public servant and grew to understand that he is intelligent and principled in how he approaches his life and career. In 2003, Senator Pryor was elected U.S. Senator from Arkansas, reclaiming the seat his father once held.

    As a Senator, he served on various committees which allowed him to fight for the priorities of Arkansas, pass legislation and champion initiatives which helped this Nation. During his tenure on the Armed Services Committee, Senator Pryor protected the interests of Arkansas servicemembers and their families. His work on the Appropriations and Commerce Committees created opportunities for growth in transportation, rural broadband, energy, and agriculture, all critical interests for Arkansas. Leading these issues with bipartisan proposals and working closely with his colleagues on marshalling these efforts Congress after Congress, Senator Pryor earned the respect of his colleagues for his quiet devotion and steadfast commitment.

    Mark is a Senator who promotes common sense solutions--solutions that seek strong support and address some of the more important needs of this Nation's citizenry. During my short time in the Senate, we served together on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Small Business Committees. I very much enjoyed working with him and serving together for the benefit of others. I continue to find him to be a man of great honesty and integrity. This type of stewardship is to be admired and appreciated by those inspired to serve on the local, State or Federal level.

    I applaud my colleague for his years of tireless commitment in defense of his home State, for his service in the Senate and this Country. I wish the very best to him and his family in the years to come.

    Mark Begich Madam President, finally I pay tribute and recognize the accomplishments of a trusted ally and dear friend, Senator Mark Begich, who will be leaving the Senate at the end of the term. Mark has been a tenacious and steadfast advocate for his constituents and the State of Alaska and a strong moderate voice during his years in the Senate.

    I have had the honor and privilege to work with Senator Begich on both the Indian Affairs and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees. As someone who represents one of the most rural States in America, he has an impressive understanding and compassion for the unique challenges rural communities face.

    As a member of the Homeland Security Committee, he played a major role in postal reform negotiations. He understood rural citizens rely most on the Postal Service for critical deliveries of prescription medicines, time sensitive bills, and other important communications. He knew that without a rural post office, many small, rural communities would cease to exist.

    During his tenure on the Indian Affairs Committee, he was dedicated to confronting and addressing the unpleasant truths about the Federal Government's treatment of Native people in our country. He understood the threats facing subsistence rights, native languages, and rich cultural traditions, and fought to ensure they were given parity and respect. Senator Begich also knew far too many Native women today experience violence and sexual assault, particularly in remote areas, and so he fought for the tribal provisions in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Woman Act--VAWA--and advanced his Safe Families and Villages Act to extend those protections to Native women in Alaska. He has also been a fighter for American Indian and Alaska Native veterans and worked hard to increase their access to care at both Indian Health Service and Veteran Affairs facilities. His compassion for indigenous issues extended to tribes in the lower 48 States and Native Hawaiians, and I know Native people across the country feel they have lost a true champion with his departure.

    Anyone who knows Senator Begich knows he is an intellectually curious and energetic person. He always approached issues from a solutions- oriented mindset, which meant he was more tied to outcomes than to rhetoric, and the Senate was well-served by his presence. Senator Begich is also a devoted family man to his wife Deborah and young son Jacob. I remind myself that our loss is their gain, as I am sure they are excited to have him home more. I truly enjoyed working alongside him and look forward to when our paths cross again. I wish him incredible happiness and success in the next chapter.

    ____________________

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