- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Senators offered gracious farewells yesterday to the 10 members who will not return for the 108th Congress in January.

The departing members include Strom Thurmond, the South Carolina Republican who holds the record for longest service in the Senate, and Jean Carnahan, the Missouri Democrat who served just two years of the term that her husband posthumously won and who lost her bid Nov. 5 to serve out the full term.

And regardless of past political fights and policy differences, senators of both parties had kind words for the 10.

"The United States Senate, for all of the notice it gets in the national press, is nonetheless still a family of sorts," said Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat, in thanking the senators who are leaving.

In her farewell speech yesterday, Mrs. Carnahan recounted her tenure which began after her husband, Mel, the incumbent governor of Missouri, died while campaigning to unseat Sen. John Ashcroft. Mr. Carnahan's name remained on the ballot and won the election, and the new governor appointed Mrs. Carnahan to begin his term.

"Life had not turned out the way it was supposed to. My husband, not I, was supposed to have been sworn in to the United States Senate, and I was to be seated in the gallery, beaming with delight," she said yesterday. "But, as someone has pointed out, life is not the way it's supposed to be."

She also had some advice for colleagues: "When you think of the role of government, seek a balance between one that does everything and one that does nothing. And where there is talk of war, let there be the free and open debate that becomes our great nation."

Of all the senators, Mr. Thurmond's absence may be most notable.

"There have been so many monuments to his service; there are schools and roads and bridges and parks all through the state of South Carolina that bear the name of Strom Thurmond, and that is because he is held with such incredible affection by the people of that state," Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, said of the man who will turn 100 Dec. 5 and become the only centenarian to serve in Congress.

Mr. Thurmond and fellow Republicans Fred Thompson of Tennessee, Jesse Helms of North Carolina and Phil Gramm of Texas are retiring, and will leave a sizable hole among the cadre of conservative Republicans.

"The Brookings Institution listed three of the bills that Phil Gramm authored or co-authored as a handful of the most significant pieces of legislation of the 20th century," Mr. Dodd said. "One of the most difficult opponents you can have on an issue is Phil Gramm. He doesn't take many prisoners, and he fights very, very hard for the matters in which he believes."

Senators had some of their kindest words, though, for Mr. Helms, who has a reputation for crustiness.

"What I discovered here in the United States Senate is he is quite a remarkable gentleman, and I use the term 'gentleman' in every respect," Mr. Dorgan said. "He is one of the most courteous, kind people that I have had the opportunity to serve with."

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, called him a "deeply religious man of immense integrity, indisputable honesty, unqualified patriotism and absolute independence a man who is absolutely fearless.

In addition to Mrs. Carnahan, Sen. Tim Hutchinson, Arkansas Republican; Sen. Robert C. Smith, New Hampshire Republican; and Sen. Max Cleland, Georgia Democrat, lost their bids for re-election.

Also departing are Sen. Frank H. Murkowski, Alaska Republican, who won his state's governorship in November and will name his replacement when he takes office next month, and Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, the New Jersey Democrat who withdrew from his re-election campaign when facing a collapse in his polling numbers.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide