Schumer Floor Remarks Paying Tribute To Retiring Senator Lamar Alexander And Welcoming Incoming Arizona Senator Mark Kelly

December 2, 2020

Washington, D.C. — Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the retirement of Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and the swearing in of incoming Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ). Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

First, let me add my words on fond farewell, to my friend Lamar Alexander and the touching moment between the Leader and the senior Senator from Tennessee, which was moving to all of us.

Now, Senator Alexander and I have not always agreed, but what an amazing and capable legislator, and true statesman, he has been. He has been the middle of things for much of his 18 years in the Senate. That’s because he is not some ideologue who stood alone in his corner. It’s because he is someone who’s been always willing and insistent on reaching across the aisle; on hearing another Senator’s perspective, and on searching for common ground, however narrow it may be.

He searches to do the right thing. I remember when we did the immigration bill and there was a lot of pressure on Senator Alexander to vote against it. I watched him wrestle with it and turn and churn, and I sort of knew in my heart he would do the right thing, in my judgment at least, and vote for that bill. And he did, at some real political consequence to himself. That's who he was and is: a man of principle.

We often would talk in the Senate gym almost every morning for a long period of time. I don't go to the Senate gym post-Covid. And more often than not, we found each other on opposite sides of the Senate gym. We helped open up the amendment process on child care legislation. Together we led the Rules Committee for a number of years.

We come from very different backgrounds, but I’ll never forget the weekend that Iris and I spent with Honey and Lamar at Blackberry Farms. And it was a beautiful weekend for us that we will always, always cherish and remember. 

Given the opportunity to put our stamp on a presidential inauguration, Lamar and I said whoever is in the Majority—we didn’t know—we would give each other time to speak, and it served us both well. This is the kind of person he has been: someone who is willing to reach out. Someone who is willing to see the other side. And someone, above all—in tumultuous and very difficult times for all of us—who is a man of principle and conscience.

Senator Alexander will leave this chamber with a legacy that every Senator would be proud of. I wish him and his family the very best. 

Now, on a few other words I want to make a few remarks about: we have a going and we have a coming.

And our coming is of a new Senator, who will be installed today. And that is Captain Mark Kelly who will be sworn in as the next Senator from Arizona. It may not be the role he expected for himself earlier in his life, as a US Navy Captain and then an astronaut aboard the International Space Station. As Mark likes to say, his wife Gabby was already the member of the family in Congress.

But tragedy upended both of their lives, and changed so many of their plans. Everyone continues to be inspired by Gabby’s recovery, by Mark’s devotion, and the courage it took for their family to re-enter public life and public service.

But that’s who Mark Kelly is: a devoted and honorable man, and we are delighted to welcome him to the Senate Democratic caucus and the wider Senate family.

So, a fond adieu to my friend Lamar, a fond welcome to my new friend Mark Kelly.