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Robert C.
Democrat PA

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  • Tributes to Departing Senators

    by Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.

    Posted on 2014-12-12

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    CASEY. Madam President, I wanted to speak today about Senator Carl Levin and his years of service to the Senate and the people of Michigan. Senator Levin has served 36 years and is Michigan's longest serving senator.

    John F. Kennedy once said that ``leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.'' Senator Levin's time here has been an illustration of that statement, and I have experienced this firsthand ever since I arrived in the Senate in 2007 and sought his guidance on difficult issues like the war in Iraq. He is one of the best informed and knowledgeable members of the Senate.

    Carl Levin has been a leader for years on the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Senator Levin has served as the Democratic leader of the Armed Services committee since 1997, a term that overlapped with several defining events for U.S. national security, including the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the beginnings of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the operation against Osama bin Laden and the current conflict against the terrorist group ISIS. Chairman Levin has guided our caucus through the National Defense Authorization Act process every year, working to ensure members have an opportunity to include their priority issues in the bill. I am grateful for Senator Levin's support of my efforts to ensure Afghan women and girls remain at the forefront of our Afghanistan policy through this transition period. One of Senator Levin's most important legacies will be his thoughtful and principled opposition to shifting attention away from the fight against al Qaeda in Afghanistan to Iraq. Our caucus will miss Carl Levin's steady hand guiding us through these important matters.

    At the helm of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Senator Levin has led the charge against some of the worst abuse and corruption occurring in our country. Under Senator Levin's leadership the subcommittee conducted an eighteen month investigation into the causes of the financial crisis that culminated in four hearings in April 2010. The hearings brought forth information that helped craft the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. He also led an investigation into abusive and unfair practices of the credit card industry, which would lead to the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act, along with investigations into tax shelters, offshore tax havens and Federal contractor tax delinquency, among other issues. 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.'' Carl Levin's legacy can be summed up in one word: integrity. His commitment to our security and our servicemembers is incomparable. We wish him well as he returns to Michigan and moves on to new challenges and I thank him for his service.

    Tom Harkin Madam President, I also wanted to speak about my colleague Tom Harkin who will be retiring at the end of this Congress. I commend him for his 40 years of service in Congress for the people of Iowa.

    Senator Hubert Humphrey once said that the moral test of government should be how it treats those in the dawn of life, our children; those in the twilight of life, our older citizens; and those in the shadows of life, people with disabilities, among others. Tom Harkin's work in the House and Senate has been a testament to what Senator Humphrey said. Senator Harkin has never hesitated to stand up and fight for those without power. He is also proud of the legacy of the Great Society under President Lyndon Johnson and never shies away from reminding us of the work that was done then, or how much more we still have to do.

    When it comes to protecting and championing people with disabilities, there is no equal to Tom Harkin. He helped write the Americans with Disabilities Act, ADA, of 1990 and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. These bills did for people with disabilities what the civil rights acts of the 1950s and 1960s did for African-Americans. He authored the Television Decoder Circuitry Act to create universal closed captioning and he expanded services for children with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, IDEA. Under the Workforce Investment Opportunity Act, he enhanced employment opportunities for young people with disabilities and under the Affordable Care Act he created the Community First Choice Option to give states that offer services to people with disabilities outside of nursing homes extra federal funding.

    Senator Harkin pushed the issue of prevention and the health and wellness of Americans long before those issues became national themes. Senator Harkin wrote the prevention title in the Affordable Care Act and introduced the first bill that allowed the Food and Drug Administration, FDA, to regulate tobacco. He is also the reason the word ``Prevention'' is included in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's name. Child labor is another area where Tom was ahead of the curve. The Clinton Administration's Executive Order, ``Prohibition of Acquisition of Products Produced by Forced and Indentured Child Labor,'' was backed by Senator Harkin and he helped obtain the adoption and Senate ratification of United Nations Convention 182, a treaty that called for the elimination of the worst forms of child labor.

    On a personal note, I want to express my appreciation to Chairman Harkin and his staff on the HELP Committee for their help in getting three bills I introduced this Congress passed into law--the Children's Hospital GME Support Reauthorization Act, the Emergency Medical Services for Children Reauthorization Act and the Traumatic Brain Injury Reauthorization Act. Without the efforts of Chairman Harkin and his team, these bills would not have moved forward.

    The late Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, once said that ``Politics is not just about power and money games, politics can be about the improvement of people's lives, about lessening human suffering in our world and bringing about more peace and more justice.'' Tom Harkin is a living example of those words. Our Nation and our world are better today because of his life of service.

    Jay Rockefeller Madam President, as the 113 Congress comes to a close, the time has come to [[Page S6780]] say goodbye to several colleagues and friends who will leave at the end of this Congress. Today, I would like to pay tribute to our friend and colleague, Jay Rockefeller. Senator Rockefeller has served the people of West Virginia for 50 years, the last thirty of them in the United States Senate.

    While Senator Rockefeller has accomplished many notable things in his decades of service, you can really sum up much of what he did for our country in one word--kids. Nelson Mandela once said ``There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children.'' Jay Rockefeller worked tirelessly to ensure that we never lost sight of our children as we worked on issues large and small.

    One key example of his advocacy is the Children's Health Insurance Program or CHIP as it is better known. In the 1990s, members like Jay Rockefeller came together and created CHIP to ensure low-income children of working parents had access to health care. When my father was governor of Pennsylvania, he signed into law the CHIP program that initially insured over 50,000 children across the state and served as a model for the national program. On a personal level, I thank Senator Rockefeller for helping to expand this program to children around the country and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure CHIP remains strong for children in the years ahead.

    In 2009 health care reform was on the agenda again and Jay Rockefeller played a key role in getting a number of important provisions included. He pushed to expand Medicaid and to make sure insurance companies actually spent the bulk of dollars on health care and not administrative costs. He also worked to ensure that information provided to consumers buying insurance on the exchange could be understood by all, and, of course, he led the charge to protect CHIP kids and make sure they did not end up with the short end of the stick.

    Senator Rockefeller's work extends far beyond health care and children. Coal miners and their families have had no better friend in the Senate than Jay Rockefeller. He has tirelessly fought and won battles to protect their health, safety and pensions while also protecting and preserving Black Lung benefits for workers made sick by doing their jobs. His advocacy in this body will be missed. Now it is up to the rest of us to carry the torch.

    Senator Rockefeller is quoted as follows in the Charleston Daily Mail last year: ``Rockefeller said he knew all the Kennedys well but liked Bobby best. `Because he struck me,' Rockefeller said. `He had a soul, and there are a lot of photographs of him in West Virginia later when he ran for president sitting on a slag heap, looking mournful, looking off into the distance, thinking, `Why does this condition exist, what can I do?' '' Jay Rockefeller also has a soul and he has spent his life asking those same questions and finding ways to make things better. We will miss him in the Senate. We will miss his conscience and his voice, but we will never forget his example. I thank him for his decades of service and wish him well.

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