- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2002

Speeches given by and for departing senators this week ranged from somber tributes and musings on Senate history to a call for stronger space programs, a pledge to go to the movies and even lighthearted memories of how one departing colleague spoke often of his "mama."
Republican Sen. Robert C. Smith of New Hampshire, who lost his re-election bid, used his final Senate floor speech yesterday to urge increased focus on exploring space and protecting U.S. interests there, predicting someday there would be a "space force" just as there is an Air Force.
"We must maintain space control," he said."Who do you want to control the satellites in space? Communist China? Iraq? North Korea? Libya or the United States of America?"
Mr. Smith said he has gotten some heat for being a leader on this issue; a newspaper in his home state dubbed him "space man."
Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, praised Mr. Smith for his work on space, for his fight against communism in the 1980s and because he "has the courage to stand for his convictions."
Many agreed the Senate is losing a spirited fighter, talented orator and wise man with the retirement of Sen. Phil Gramm, Texas Republican.
Mr. Gramm spent his last days in the Senate successfully fighting for the historic homeland security bill he crafted with Georgia Democratic Sen. Zell Miller. It is now on its way to the president to be signed into law.
"I am honored to have served here," Mr. Gramm said Monday in his farewell speech.
Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, said Mr. Gramm "can talk about anything, everything, and do so intelligently, and always with a good humor."
Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, said Mr. Gramm has saved taxpayers "close to a trillion dollars" through the years by fighting to block certain bills or lessen their cost.
Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said Mr. Gramm "has been at the center of every major economic and policy battle in my time here and even though I have frequently disagreed with him, I have always learned from him."
Mr. Byrd, who celebrated his 85th birthday yesterday, said he also learned much about Mr. Gramm's "mama," who was often mentioned in his floor speeches.
"Among other things, I learned that she receives Social Security and that she carries a gun and knows how to use it," Mr. Byrd said.
Sen. Fred Thompson, the Tennessee Republican who also played a key role in crafting the homeland security bill, is leaving the Senate to pursuing an acting career. He is currently a star in the TV series "Law and Order."
Mr. Byrd said he has not been to a movie in 50 years but will "make an effort to go" and see his friend on the big screen. "The Senate's loss is Hollywood's gain," he said.
Sen. Tim Hutchinson, the Arkansas Republican who lost his re-election bid, spent much of his final speech yesterday describing and thanking staff members, whom he said are "much more than employees" and "very good friends."
In remembering the departing senators, Mr. Daschle evoked the history of the Senate, saying "you can almost hear the voices" of past senators.
Mr. Smith also evoked the past, noting that he followed Senate tradition and carved his name in his Senate desk, which once belonged to Daniel Webster. "There's so much history in here," he said.
Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, remembered retiring South Carolina Republican Sen. Thurmond embracing a fellow World War II veteran on the beaches of Normandy when they visited on the 40th anniversary of D-Day.
"How well I remember that trip," said Mr. Warner, who also served in WWII. "How well I remember Strom Thurmond and what he's done for America."
Mr. Thurmond, who holds the record for longest service in the Senate, banged the gavel in the Senate chamber yesterday evening, officially bringing the 107th Congress to a close. He received a standing ovation.
The other departing senators are Max Cleland, Georgia Democrat; Jean Carnahan, Missouri Democrat; Frank H. Murkowski, Alaska Republican; Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican and Robert G. Torricelli, New Jersey Democrat.


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