"It is with great sadness that I received the news today of the passing of my friend and Chief of Staff Steve Vermillion," Rivera said on the House floor Friday. "For nearly 25 years, I have known Steve as a friend, family man and committed public servant.

"My service in Congress has been greatly enhanced by Steve's invaluable advice and knowledge regarding all aspects of the legislative process."

Sensenbrenner also spoke, and said that Vermillion made a "great contribution" to the country through his service.

"He was a man of unquestioned ability, a man of deep integrity, and a man of great commitment to his principles and love of this country and the democracy that we have built and nurtured over the last 230-plus years," he said.

Vermillion is survived by his wife, Jennifer, and two children.