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Majority Leader McConnell Thanks Senator Luther Strange

DECEMBER 21, 2017

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding Senator Luther Strange (R-AL):


“I’d like to say a few words in tribute of a fine colleague whose too-brief time in the Senate will soon draw to a close. Senator Luther Strange of Alabama is the newest member of this body, sworn in just this past February. But he did not waste any time making an impact. In this historic year for the Senate, Luther quickly emerged as a strong voice on policy and an important vote on landmark legislation.


“And on a personal level, it didn’t take anyone long to realize that this newcomer would rank among the most diligent, dedicated, and public-spirited members of this institution. At first, we even wondered whether Luther might be a little too diligent. Upon arriving in Washington, the Senator dived into the task of meeting his colleagues with the friendly earnestness that is his calling card.


“The first time Luther passed Senator Roberts in a Capitol hallway, he stopped to introduce himself and share his excitement to be joining the Agriculture Committee. Nothing unusual there – but I have it on good authority that the very next day, when Luther found himself sharing an elevator with Senator Roberts, the junior Senator from Alabama introduced himself all over again. Not long after, a chance meeting on the train occasioned yet a third introduction. Pat Roberts had to put it a stop to it. ‘Yes, Luther,’ he broke in, ‘I think we’ve met before – and we’re sure glad to have you here, too.’


“We certainly were glad. Luther came to the Senate with a national reputation for integrity and excellence in public service. That started young. The proud son of a Navy veteran turned college professor, this Birmingham paperboy made Eagle Scout at age 13—an accomplishment that still shows up on his lapel from time to time. He received his bachelor’s from Tulane, where—and I know this may come as a shock—the man the Senate historian has apparently verified as the tallest Senator in history played scholarship basketball.


“After graduation, to save for law school, he spent a year on a boat that supplied oil rigs in the North Sea. He pitched in on everything, did whatever it took to help the team, and helped the crew navigate the ship through choppy waters. These qualities will sound plenty familiar to everyone who’s worked with Luther since. Luther built a sterling reputation as an up-and-coming lawyer in private practice. Then he then set it aside to serve the people of the state he loves as Alabama’s Attorney General.


“In the fine Alabama tradition of public servants like his friends and mentors Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby, he combined a steel spine with a servant’s heart. Whenever the people of his state needed defending – their businesses, their religious liberty, their Second Amendment rights – their Attorney General was there for them. Then as now, he fought fiercely when times required it and his principles demanded it.


“But no matter how important the issue at hand, from the Supreme Court to the Senate floor, Luther never loses his good humor or his conviction that we serve in order to help our constituents, not to aggrandize ourselves. Luther reminds us that character counts. He reminds us that deeply-held conservative values do not in any way stand opposed to collegiality and common decency. To the contrary, our values require these things.


“He reminds us that the American people need not choose between leaders who share their principles and leaders who dignify public service. They should hold their elected officials to a high standard, and demand that we do both. If you can’t tell, Luther’s colleagues look up to him – in more ways than one. We are sorry to see him go.


“In the farewell speech that Senator Strange delivered on this floor, he challenged his colleagues to revive greater comity in this body. He implored us not to give up on bipartisanship, or on building friendships that run deeper than policy disagreements. He reminded us that the Senate’s Marble Room, across the hallway from this chamber, used to be a popular gathering place. Senators from both parties would relax and get to know one another, above and beyond the specific disputes of the day. Today, Luther pointed out, this room often sits empty.


“His advice is well-taken. And I have an idea how we could begin to put it into practice. All of us, on both sides of the aisle, could try to approach our work with more of the optimism, can-do spirit, and reverence for this great institution that Luther Strange brought to work every day.


“Of course, the Senate’s loss will be a happy gain for Luther’s beloved family. Despite the fact that his bright idea for a first date with Melissa was a trip to the Talladega Superspeedway to take in the Talladega 500, he convinced her to marry him. Their loving partnership has now spanned 36 years and counting. They’ve raised two sons. I hear that Luke is just an inch shy of his dad's height, and Keehn is an inch taller. In recent years, Luther and Melissa became the proud grandparents of two young boys.


“And I have it on good authority that a certain black Lab named Sophie might be the most excited of all the Stranges to welcome the Senator back home to Birmingham. Wherever Luther’s distinguished career takes him next, I know he is glad it will involve more time with the people he loves most.


“He has served with distinction in the Senate during a year of historic achievements. On behalf of Alabamians, he has made vital contributions on the Agriculture, Armed Services, Budget, and Energy and Natural Resources Committees. He has cast votes to help middle-class families and set America on a brighter trajectory for years to come. We thank him. We wish him every success in his future endeavors. And we salute him for the dedicated service he has rendered to his country, and to the people of Alabama.”

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