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Mazie H.
Democrat HI

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  • Tributes to Departing Senators

    by Senator Mazie K. Hirono

    Posted on 2014-12-16

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    HIRONO. Mr. President, I take this opportunity to pay tribute to Senator Levin as his distinguished Senate career comes to a close at the end of the 113th Congress. Senator Levin has proudly represented the people of Michigan in the Senate for 36 years.

    The desire to help others has been in Senator Levin's makeup long before coming to Washington. In fact, one might say it is in his DNA. He comes from a family with a distinguished record of public service. I served with his brother Sander in the House of Representatives, another truly distinguished Member of Congress. Their father served on the Michigan Corrections Commission. His uncle served as a chief judge on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, and his cousin was a Michigan Supreme Court Judge.

    Given this public service pedigree, it is no surprise that he got started in politics at an early age. He was elected class President at Detroit's Central High School. After Swarthmore College and Harvard Law School, he served as an assistant attorney general and general counsel of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. In 1969 he was elected to the Detroit City Council and in 1978 joined the Senate.

    Senator Levin has served on the Armed Services Committee for as long as he has been in the Senate. His Armed Services Committee tenure has provided him the opportunity to work with 11 Secretaries of Defense, helping to ensure that our Armed Forces were ready and able to meet the national security challenges facing our Nation. He has long been a champion of the men and women of our military and their families. From visiting deployed troops far from home, to ensuring much needed training, equipment, and pay increases, and improving the delivery of benefits and services they have earned, Carl Levin has been there for our troops.

    Senator Levin is also a problemsolver. In order to improve the way the Pentagon buys its weapons and to get the most out of the taxpayer dollars the government is entrusted to spend, he has worked hard to improve acquisition practices throughout his career. In this arena, he led the way in passing the Competition in Contracting Act and the Weapons System Acquisition Reform Act.

    I was fortunate to serve on the Armed Services Committee during my first 2 years in the Senate. I have been able to observe Chairman Levin firsthand as he led the committee with a steady hand in a very bipartisan manner. I have been proud to be part of two National Defense Authorization Acts--including the one this body passed last week, which bears his name--which preserve our readiness and provides for the well- being of our men and women of the armed services and their families.

    Senator Levin also chairs the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, where he has led investigations in many critical areas, including the 2008 financial crisis, energy and food market speculation, abusive offshore tax havens, and unfair practices within the credit card industry. His investigations have led to many reforms and laws to fix these problems. In 2012, the National Journal wrote that ``the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations is one of the few institutions in Congress that's still working. Carl Levin is a big reason why.'' The Senate is losing one of its giants--a voice of reason, integrity, and fairness. Michigan's working families are losing a lifelong advocate for their best interests who has really made a difference. Carl, thank you for your service to our country. I wish you, Barbara, and your entire family all the best as you move to the next chapter of your journey.

    Aloha Carl, a hui hou, ``until we meet again.'' Tom Harkin Mr. President, I wish to recognize the accomplishments of the distinguished Senator from Iowa, Tom Harkin, who is retiring this year.

    Senator Harkin has served in the House and Senate for nearly 40 years. During those 40 years he has been a consistent and inspirational voice for the idea that America should be a place where everyone can succeed.

    Tom's life experiences shaped who he fought for and why. His mother died when he was 10. His father never got beyond the sixth grade and suffered from black lung disease. He grew up in a tiny town in Iowa. He saw what the New Deal, Social Security, and Medicare did for his family and he saw government as a force that could lift people up and give them hope.

    Last week, during his farewell remarks to this body, he said something that the progressives among us should take to heart. He said: `` . . . I believe government must not be just an observant bystander to life. It must be a force for good, for lifting people up, for giving hope to the hopeless.'' Under Tom Harkin's watch, government certainly has not been a bystander.

    One of his proudest accomplishments was gaining passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Tom stood with people with disabilities, one of the largest minorities in the United States, to enact historic legislation that changed the lives of millions of people. I was proud to cosponsor and support the 2008 Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. His commitment to creating and expanding [[Page S6916]] opportunities for those with disabilities is a hallmark of his career.

    Senator Harkin will also be remembered for his tireless leadership as the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. As chairman he worked to promote health care and education, fairness for workers, equal rights, and, above all, the American dream. He worked to fund those priorities for years on the Appropriations Committee.

    These are some of Tom's signature issues. But equally important has been his work fighting injustice and human rights violations across the globe.

    As a young Congressional staffer he travelled to Vietnam and uncovered torture on Con San Island, off of Vietnam. There people were being held in ``tiger cages''--5 foot by 9 foot cells dug into the ground where three to five people were held captive.

    While he lost his staff job over the pictures he took, he shed light on atrocities that too many others had either ignored or covered up.

    Tom's values and the results he has been able to achieve have made him a powerful moral and progressive voice for decades. Some of us were drawn to Tom during his Presidential run in 1992. I was. As a Hawaii State legislator, I supported the Senator from Iowa long before I ever had the privilege of serving with him in the Senate. In fact, when his bid for the presidency ended, some of us continued to support him, making buttons with a slogan I coined: ``Harkin for the Heck of It!'' Tom Harkin has done much to help build the ladders of opportunity that he so firmly believes is a big part of what government should do. His work inspires us to continue pushing to see that every individual in our country has an opportunity to improve his or her life for the better.

    Last week in his farewell remarks, Tom noted that while he is retiring from the Senate, he is not retiring from ``the fight.'' He also gave those of us who are still here a list of unfinished business to continue the fight.

    First, we have to do more to address income inequality and restack the deck so that working people have confidence that their government works on their behalf. Second, we have to work on addressing climate change. Third, we have to do more to give employment opportunities to the disabled, and finally, we have to pass the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

    These are all big fights. But it speaks to Tom's passion for public service and improving access to opportunity that in his farewell remarks, he would give us a list of unfinished business.

    I will miss him in the Senate. I am confident that Tom Harkin will be a prominent voice in American society for years to come.

    Aloha Tom, a hui hou, or ``until we meet again.'' Jay Rockefeller Mr. President, I also wish to pay tribute to a man who has dedicated nearly 50 years to public service. That is our retiring colleague Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.

    Jay Rockefeller's lifetime of service was shaped by his experience as a VISTA worker in a rural coal town in West Virginia. Jay told me that this experience was life changing, coming as he did from a very privileged background. Working day-to-day in that community, learning the hopes and fears and anxieties of the people, and seeing their struggles led to his lifelong commitment to improving the lot of working people everywhere.

    In his farewell remarks to the Senate, Senator Rockefeller said that the Senate must be a ``place in which we embrace the commitment to be deliberative, passionate, and unrelenting.'' Senator Rockefeller embodied these qualities while serving the people of West Virginia. He has been a deliberative, passionate, and unrelenting champion, especially for those whose circumstances in life are the hardest.

    His work on health care has impacted Americans in every corner of the United States, from the mountains of West Virginia, to my State of Hawaii. He was instrumental in the efforts to establish the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which provides care to more than 8 million children across the Nation. More than 30,000 of those children who currently receive coverage for necessary primary and preventive health care are those children in my State of Hawaii.

    From his Medicare Drug Savings Act to his Rebuilding America's Schools Act, Jay Rockefeller has truly been a champion for those who needed a hand up in life.

    We are all aware of Jay's efforts to enhance our national security while also holding our Nation to the highest standards possible as a chairman and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. His commitment to keeping America safe is met only by his commitment to ensure that our Nation's veterans get the care and benefits that they have earned and deserve. I have been privileged to serve with Jay on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.

    Senator Rockefeller reminds us that to those upon whom fortune has smiled, there is no greater calling than to dedicate ourselves to fight hard for those struggling, for those hard working, and for those who put us here.

    As Senators I hope that we heed Jay's words and in the coming Congress we work together on a bipartisan basis to collaborate and compromise on behalf of America's workers and families.

    On a personal note, Jay and I had one of the best conversations recently on the Senate floor where we discovered that we were two pretty private people, some would even describe as introverts, who picked a most public of arenas, politics, to do our life's work of making a difference in the lives of those we are privileged to represent.

    Thank you for your service, Senator Rockefeller. It has been an honor being your colleague and serving with you.

    Aloha Jay, a hui hou, or ``until we meet again.'' Tim Johnson Mr. President, I wish to recognize the contributions of Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota, who is retiring at the end of this year.

    Senator Johnson has served South Dakota in the House and the Senate for nearly 28 years. He was elected to the House in 1986 and was elected to the Senate in 1996. During those 28 years, Senator Johnson has been an advocate for bipartisanship to get results in Congress. In fact, bipartisanship could be considered one of the campaign platforms that first got him elected to Congress. As he related in his farewell remarks on this floor last week, when he first ran for the House of Representatives, he told the people of South Dakota that neither party had all the answers, that both parties had good ideas, and that both parties had men and women of good will.

    ``My job, as I understood it, would be to work in a bipartisan manner, listening to all parties and reaching a good fit--also known as compromise.'' Twenty-eight years later, it is clear that he not only understood his job well then, but his efforts to compromise have paid big dividends for South Dakota. Over the years he has worked on a number of issues, from the farm bill, to highway funding, to flood relief and to protect South Dakota's Ellsworth Air Force Base.

    No one Senator can deliver results on their own, but by working across the aisle, Tim has not only done well for his constituents but has gained a good reputation here in the Senate. He has served in leadership positions on the Senate banking committee, which he currently chairs, as well as the Senate Appropriations, Energy and Natural Resources, and Indian Affairs Committees. On each of these committees, Senator Johnson has championed issues that are important to the people of his State but has always done so with an eye toward fairness--listening to all parties, promoting compromise, and doing what is right for working people across the country.

    For these reasons, Senator Johnson is well-respected and has earned the good will of the Senate. When he was faced with the challenge of a lifetime--a brain hemorrhage in 2006--he was supported by a Senate community that set aside partisanship and political calculations. Everyone wanted to see him recover. When he returned to the Senate after months of recovery, he was welcomed by the whole community. Tim continues to be a profile in courage.

    His legacy is one of compromise and collaboration--two attributes that are [[Page S6917]] critical to the functioning of this body and two attributes which we would do well to remember.

    We will all miss Senator Johnson in the Senate. Aloha to him, his wife Barbara, his three children, and his six grandchildren, and a hui hou, ``until we meet again.'' MARK UDALL Mr. President, I would like to say a few words about my colleague, Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, who will be ending his 6-year tenure in the Senate at the end of this Congress.

    Senator Udall has served in public office for 18 years, serving in the Colorado House of Representatives for 2 years before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served for 10 years. He was elected in 2008 to the Senate.

    For Mark, public service is a family affair. His father, Arizona Representative Mo Udall, served in Congress for 30 years. His father ran for the U.S. Presidency. His uncle, Stewart Udall, served as President Kennedy's Secretary of the Interior. And his cousin, Tom Udall, serves as one of New Mexico's U.S. Senators.

    This legacy, coupled with Mark's love of the outdoors, give him a unique perspective on public service. Before running for office, Mark worked as an educator and executive director of the Colorado Outward Bound School. As an avid mountaineer and educator, Mark understands the value of America's open spaces, smart policies for conservation and economic growth, and finding practical solutions to our shared challenges.

    Mark Udall is a champion for the environment. His efforts to support progressive renewable energy policies as a State legislator and Member of Congress have helped Colorado become a frontrunner in clean, sustainable energy to prepare for a more sustainable future. He has also fought hard to expand the National Park Service, saying the Earth is borrowed from our children, not inherited from our parents, and that we must work to preserve these public lands to ensure their existence for future generations.

    I have had the privilege of serving with Mark in the House and on the Senate Armed Services Committee to support the men and women who defend our country. We have worked together to focus on making our military more energy efficient and less reliant on fossil fuels.

    Mark has climbed some of the most daunting peaks in the world. The kind of self-reliance and focus required to meet those kinds of challenges mark his work in public service. His decency and integrity in fighting for the middle class, for our environment, for transparency in government, inspire us to continue his work.

    It has been a privilege to serve with Mark.

    Aloha Mark and Maggie and a hui hou, ``until we meet again.'' kay hagan Mr. President, I thank my colleague Kay Hagan for her service in the Senate. Kay has spent every day of her 6 years fighting for North Carolina's families.

    Kay's father, brother, husband, and father-in-law are all veterans. She has two nephews on Active Duty. Their experiences--and the stories of thousands of North Carolina servicemembers and veterans--have helped guide Kay's work on the Senate Armed Services Committee, SASC, where I have been privileged to serve with her.

    As a member of SASC, I have seen firsthand Kay's deep knowledge and commitment to our servicemembers, veterans, and military families--in North Carolina and around the country. North Carolina, like Hawaii, has a large number of servicemembers and veterans, and Kay has worked to make sure our troops get the support they need while they are in harm's way and when they get home.

    Making sure veterans get the benefits they have earned and are treated with respect is another area where Kay has been a strong leader. She has worked to make sure veterans are able to transition to civilian life and prepare for college and career. Whether that means protecting veterans from scams or making sure colleges are serving veterans effectively, Kay has their back.

    Kay also is a strong advocate for children and families. She has worked on reauthorizing newborn screening legislation to make sure illnesses are detected and treated early. Just last week she got her bipartisan newborn screening bill across the finish line, and it will soon head to President Obama's desk.

    On education, Kay has worked on financial literacy in middle school and high school and turning around the highest-need K-12 schools. She has fought for minority-serving institutions and making sure job- training and college help adults earn an associate's degree or industry credential as soon as possible.

    As I was running for the Senate, I got a chance to get to know Kay, and upon my election, she was very helpful in showing me the ropes as a new Senator. The 20 Senate women have regular bipartisan dinners where we leave politics at the door, get to know each other, and relax. Kay is well known for her tireless work on behalf of her constituents, her graciousness as a host of Super Bowl parties, and her indefatigable positive attitude that rubs off on the rest of us.

    I and the Senate sisterhood will miss Kay. However, I expect that she will continue the spirited advocacy on behalf of the people of North Carolina whatever she next undertakes.

    Aloha Kay and a hui hou, ``until we meet again.'' Mark Begich Mr. President, I recognize the accomplishments of Senator Mark Begich, our colleague from the State of Alaska. These last 2 years, I have had the privilege to work with Senator Begich on a range of issues--from Native Adult Education and Health Care to fishing rights-- and I consider him a good friend. Senator Begich is not only someone who is easy to work with as a reasonable, open-minded legislator, but is also someone who truly cares about the people of his State and embodies the values of the Senate.

    In his farewell remarks last week, Senator Begich commented on the relative size of his State, which, at 660,000 square miles, is more than twice and three times as large as other large States such as Texas and California geographically.

    That is 164 times larger than my home State of Hawaii. It also gets a lot colder. Despite the differences between our States, as the two non- contiguous U.S. States, Hawaii and Alaska have always had a special bond.

    That bond was forged by Senators Inouye and Stevens--two of the Senate's giants. Those two men, who were from different parties and very different States, looked out for one another. They did a lot of good for our States, and all who come after them have sought to emulate their example of working together and looking out for each other.

    Mark did that for me even before I was sworn in to the U.S. Senate. As many of my colleagues may know, Senator Inouye passed away just weeks before I was to be sworn in. At the time I would been assigned to the Energy, Judiciary, and Veterans' Affairs Committees. However, with Senator Inouye's passing--and I have to thank our leadership here as well--I asked for a seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, an appointment critical to Hawaii, where military activity is a vital part of our economy.

    Mark Begich gave his seat up on the committee to open a slot for me. Not to shortchange Alaska, Mark got a seat on Appropriations. But I will never forget that he recognized how important the military was to Hawaii and how he agreed to help me out.

    Not only was Mark reinforcing the long-lasting Hawaii-Alaska bond, but it was also characteristic of Mark's desire to help-something that his constituents know all too well.

    As Senator Begich mentioned in his farewell remarks, ``Alaska is a very small place in many ways. People make personal connections with their elected officials.'' Whether it is answering constituent letters, or helping people navigate the Federal bureaucracy, Senator Begich has been there for Alaskans. He has also taken their concerns and made sure that everyone in Washington knows about them--whether it is the situation in the Arctic, fishing, energy development, or the challenges of Alaska Natives. There is not a Member of this body who has not heard Senator Begich talk about Alaska's unique challenges.

    As he also mentioned, most people in his State pretty much know each other.

    In a State like Alaska--much like Hawaii--you can't ``go Washington.'' You have got to stay grounded in the day-to-day concerns of the unique local communities back home. Sometimes this can be tough, but Mark has always [[Page S6918]] kept Alaskans first and foremost in all of his work in the Senate.

    I have had the privilege of serving with Mark on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, and have seen firsthand how hard he has worked on behalf of Alaska's veterans. He has been tenacious in working to see that Alaska's veterans and Natives have access to health care--and creatively, worked to see that veterans can access the tribal health care delivery system. As he has put it, if the clinics are there for some, why not have them be available to all? This is the kind of commonsense solution that is a hallmark of his time in the Senate.

    I will miss his good humor and his hard work. It is been a pleasure serving with Mark and I wish him and his family all the best in their next chapter.

    Aloha Mark and a hui hou, ``until we meet again.'' John Walsh Mr. President, I rise to pay tribute to our colleague, Senator John Walsh of Montana. While his Senate career is shorter than any of us would have hoped, the institution is better for his service and he will be missed.

    His road to this body is different than most anyone else. He grew up in Butte, MT, close enough to a copper mine that his house would shake when the dynamite went off. His dreams were modest--get an education, find a job, and do some fishing.

    But life often takes unexpected turns. He enrolled in the Montana National Guard in order to pursue those modest dreams, and found a home in the Guard. He rose to serve as Adjutant General of the Montana National Guard. In this capacity he commanded troops in Iraq in 2004 and 2005. He earned the Bronze Star, Legion of Merit Award, and Combat Infantry Badge for his efforts leading over 700 young men and women. This military experience is one that he carries with him in ways that most of us will never know.

    After retiring from the National Guard in 2012 he served as Montana's Lieutenant Governor, and currently, as a Senator. He is the first Iraq war combat veteran to serve in the Senate.

    His experience growing up in a working-class family, serving in the military, and as a public servant in elected office have made him a valuable Member of this body.

    His advocacy for Montana, and for our servicemembers and veterans, and his perspective on national security matters--particularly reigning in the National Security Agency--have been valuable to our caucus. I know that he will carry these priorities forward in whatever endeavor he pursues next.

    I am proud to have to served as his colleague in the Senate. Aloha John, and a hui hou, ``until we meet again,'' to you, your wife Janet, and your family.

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