Lawmakers remember Bob Dole: 'Bona fide American hero'
Lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle mourned the loss of former Republican Sen. Bob Dole (Kan.), who died early Sunday at the age of 98.
The Elizabeth Dole Foundation announced in a statement on Sunday that Dole had died that morning in his sleep. The former senator revealed in February that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and would be undergoing treatment.
Dole represented Kansas in the Senate for nearly 30 years before waging an unsuccessful bid for president in 1996. He also ran for the White House two times prior but did not clinch his party’s nomination.
He rose to the highest echelons of congressional power, serving as Senate majority leader at two separate points in his career. He held the title for longest-serving Senate Republican leader for years until then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) eclipsed the record in 2018.
Dole was also a celebrated war veteran, having served in Europe during World War II. He was seriously injured in 1945 after being caught in a German machine gun attack, which left him temporarily paralyzed from the neck down.
He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Dole, and his daughter, Robin Dole.
Both Republicans and Democrats honored the life and legacy of Bob Dole on Sunday, sharing messages celebrating the former lawmaker’s career.
McConnell on Sunday said Dole, whom he called a "good friend and a bona fide American hero," had a mission that focused on "looking out for his neighbors," pointing to his efforts in Kansas, overseas during the war and in Congress. He said members of the Senate GOP and the upper chamber as a whole "were better off for Bob’s stewardship."
"Whatever their politics, anyone who saw Bob Dole in action had to admire his character and his profound patriotism. Those of us who were lucky to know Bob well ourselves admired him even more," McConnell wrote. "A bright light of patriotic good cheer burned all the way from Bob’s teenage combat heroics through his whole career in Washington through the years since. It still shone brightly, undimmed, to his last days."
"Bob Dole lived the kind of full, rich, and deeply honorable American life that will be impossible for any tribute today to fully capture," he added.
Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran (R) in a statement said Dole "will be remembered as a true American hero & an exemplary statesman - a man who chose what was right over what was convenient."
He said he uses Dole's desk on the Senate floor and is "regularly reminded of his tireless commitment to Kansas values while being, first & foremost, a statesman who treated others with respect and kindness."
House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) in a statement said Dole “lived an extraordinary life of resilience and service above self.”
“We are eternally grateful for Senator Dole’s dedication to our country,” she added, pointing to his service during World War II and his tenure in the Senate and House, where he served for eight years.
“Our condolences go to his beloved wife and family. May he Rest In Peace,” Stefanik wrote.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said the U.S. “lost an American legend in Bob Dole,” pointing to his service both during the war and in Congress.
“His courage and dedication to this country are an inspiration,” he added in a statement.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called Dole “a towering leader who embodied courage and excellence in public service.”
“Upon receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Senator Dole challenged us ‘not to question American ideals or replace them, but to act worthy of them.’ Senator Dole lived up to this challenge, devoting his entire life in service to the county he loved and to our cherished national values for which he fought,” she added.
Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), who served alongside Dole for roughly 20 years, said the Kansas Republican was “a giant of the Senate” before recalling memories he had.
“Traveling with him, working with him and writing legislation with him are among my fondest memories of the Senate,” Leahy wrote in a statement.
The Vermont Democrat recalled delivering remarks on behalf of Dole in January 2018 when he was being honored with the Congressional Gold Medal. Leahy that day called his former colleague “a Senate legend,” a catalyst, a facilitator and a “straight talker.”
“In the end, we’re only as strong as our values, and our values are only as real as our actions. Bob Dole rose to many, many challenges, often under tremendous pressures, to put country above party. An example we should all follow,” Leahy added in January 2018.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said he was “saddened” to learn of Dole’s death, calling him “a true statesman who served his country with distinction for 79 years.”
“I respected his character and commitment to American ideals. Our country has lost one of its great champions,” he added in a statement.