- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 15, 2009

Joseph R. Biden Jr. offered passion and Hillary Rodham Clinton offered mostly prose as they said their goodbyes to the Senate Thursday to take up top posts in the Obama administration.

His face growing red and his voice catching at times, the vice president-elect told stories, recalled old colleagues and talked of his deep love for the Senate over his 36 years in the chamber. His longtime aide and designated replacement, Edward Kaufman, sat in the visitor’s gallery above the floor as the Delaware Democrat spoke.

Mrs. Clinton, whose nomination as secretary of state was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations earlier in the day, was considerably less emotional, thanking her New York constituents and ticking off a number of achievements big and small in her tenure, including securing funds to renovate a theater in Syracuse and “retrofitting state-owned trucks and school buses to employ clean diesel technology.”

The 19th-longest serving senator in history, Mr. Biden recalled he almost left the Senate days after he was elected in 1972 after an automobile crash killed his wife and daughter. He was only prevailed upon to stay “for six months” by fellow senators, including Democratic colleagues Sen. Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

“This place literally saved my life,” Mr. Biden said.

He recounted unlikely friendships he had made over the decades with conservatives, such as Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina and Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. He recalled seeing Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona supporting and embracing a cancer-stricken Democratic Sen. Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota during a Senate vote just weeks before Mr. Humphrey died in January 1978.

He recalled sneaking into the Senate chamber as a 21-year-old college student on a visit to Washington in 1963, at a time when security on Capitol Hill was far less onerous. Walking through an unguarded door, Mr. Biden said he found himself on the floor of the Senate for the first time and sat for a minute in the presiding officer’s chair until abruptly evicted by a Capitol police officer.

Famous for taking the Amtrak home each night to his home in Delaware, Mr. Biden joked that, as vice president, “for the first time in 36 years, I’ll have a home in Washington — public housing.”

“This place has been my second family and for that I will be forever grateful,” Mr. Biden said.

Mrs. Clinton spoke of the support and solidarity of colleagues following the September 11 attacks in her first year in the Senate.

She traveled to the World Trade Center site the day after the attacks with fellow New York Democratic Sen. Charles E Schumer.

With Mr. Schumer sitting nearby, she joked that it won’t be hard to keep tabs on him when she moves on to the State Department.

“Whenever I’m missing Chuck, all I have to do is turn on the television, especially if it’s Sunday in New York,” she said.

New York Gov. David Paterson has not named a successor to Mrs. Clinton.

The November election has resulted in four Democratic senators leaving the chamber: Mr. Obama, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Biden and Colorado freshman Sen. Ken Salazar, selected by Mr. Obama to run the Interior Department.

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