Bush hailed for principles as lawmakers pay respects

The late George H.W. Bush on Monday evening made his final journey to the U.S. Capitol, where he launched a long and distinguished political career more than a half century ago that culminated in winning the White House in 1988.

Vice President Pence, bipartisan congressional leaders, Supreme Court justices and Cabinet secretaries past and present packed the Capitol Rotunda as a flag-draped casket carrying the 41st president arrived for a ceremony that begins three days of mourning in Washington.

Bush died Friday at his home in Houston at age 94, just seven months after the death of his wife, Barbara Bush.

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Congressional leaders hailed the former president on Monday for his heroics as a young aviator during World War II and his presidential accomplishments. But it was Bush’s devotion to family, combined with his civil approach to governing across decades of public service, that was remembered most prominently.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Trump should beware the 'clawback' Congress Juan Williams: America needs radical solutions MORE (R-Ky.) hailed Bush as “a humble servant” and “principled leader” who governed with a “modesty and kindness that would have been surprising in someone one-tenth as tough and accomplished as he was.”

House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanUnscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden Coulter defends Paul Ryan: This is 100 percent Trump's fault The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration MORE (R-Wis.) praised Bush as “a gentle soul of firm resolve” who showed the world “that how we live is as important as what we achieve.”

Pence remembered Bush as “a good man” who “left America and the world more peaceful, prosperous and secure.” 

“There was a kindness about the man  … kindness, modesty and patriotism,” Pence said. “He was so modest, in fact, that he never wrote an autobiography.”

The one light-hearted moment within the otherwise solemn ceremony came when Pence related the story that Bush, as he prepared for the vice presidency, had joked that the position entailed “nothing substantive to do at all.”

But Bush used that role, Pence continued, to “set the standard as a sound counselor and loyal adviser to an outsider who came to Washington, D.C., to shake things up, cut taxes [and] rebuild the military” — a reference to Reagan that was also unmistakably an allusion to President TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE.

“And together they did just that,” Pence said. 

Inside the majestic Rotunda, bipartisan comity was on full display: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyCongress allows Violence Against Women Act to lapse Mandatory E-Verify: The other border wall Bret Stephens: Would love to see Hannity react when Dem declares climate change emergency MORE (R-Calif.) stood next to Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDonald Trump proved himself by winning fight for border security Trump should beware the 'clawback' Congress The national emergency will haunt Republicans come election season MORE (D-Calif.), likely the next Speaker. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, chatted up D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat. A few seats away were the Supreme Court justices, including Clarence Thomas, who was appointed by Bush, and Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughFive things to watch as Barr takes the reins of Justice, Mueller probe Virginia can be better than this Constitutional conservatives need to oppose the national emergency MORE, who served in the George W. Bush White House. Both justices survived brutal Senate confirmation hearings.

Members of the Bush clan, America’s foremost political dynasty, were on hand, including George W. Bush and his wife, Laura Bush, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who came up short in his presidential run against Trump two years ago.

Bush 41's vice president, Dan Quayle, also made a rare appearance in the Capitol. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was Defense secretary in the first Bush administration, walked in alongside former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who served as Bush’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War.

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderDems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters Congress must move forward on measure dealing with fentanyl GOP advances rules change to speed up confirmation of Trump nominees MORE (R-Tenn.), Bush’s Education secretary, sat not with his fellow senators but across the room with the former Bush Cabinet secretaries. Cannons, fired on the National Mall in honor of Bush, rattled the Capitol building, while the U.S. Naval Academy Glee Club sang “America the Beautiful.”

Bush will lie in state — on the revered Abraham Lincoln catafalque and under the Constantino Brumidi fresco “The Apotheosis of Washington” — until 7 a.m. Wednesday.  Members of the public will be able to personally view the casket and pay tribute to the late president during that time.

Trump was not on hand at the Capitol arrival ceremony but privately paid his respects with first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration Trump dismisses Ann Coulter after criticism: 'I hardly know her' The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight MORE hours later. Trump will attend Wednesday morning’s funeral service at the National Cathedral, but is not expected to speak.

The death of a former president is a rare event — the last former president to die was Gerald Ford, a former House GOP leader, 12 years ago.

The funeral is shutting down business in Washington, with the House canceling votes and committee meetings all week and the Senate scrapping votes until at least Wednesday. Ryan postponed his major farewell address at the Library of Congress and the annual Christmas tree lighting until after this week. Trump’s government-funding meeting Tuesday with Democratic congressional leaders was also delayed.

The only business the House and Senate conducted on Monday was to unanimously approve the use of the catafalque, on which the caskets of former Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy, former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, former Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP senator says Republicans didn't control Senate when they held majority Pence met with silence after mentioning Trump in Munich speech Mark Kelly's campaign raises over M in days after launching Senate bid MORE (R-Ariz.) and many others had rested.

Trump ordered the federal government to close on Wednesday, declaring it a national day of mourning for Bush. Security will be extremely heavy across the nation’s capital, as foreign leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, attend the funeral in northwest Washington.

Earlier Monday, Trump sent Air Force One to transport Bush’s casket and his surviving family members, including George W. Bush and Laura Bush, from Houston to Washington, D.C. Because the current president was not on board, the 747 plane was dubbed “Special Air Mission 41.”

During a brilliant, sunny December day, the plane landed at Joint Base Andrews, where Bush’s casket was met by top military brass and an honor guard and transported to the Capitol in a black hearse. Bush’s service dog, a yellow Labrador retriever named Sully, accompanied the casket to Washington.

The son of a U.S. senator who was born to privilege, George H.W. Bush enlisted in the U.S. Navy after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack at Pearl Harbor and, at 18, became the nation’s youngest naval aviator. On Monday, Bush, a colorful socks fanatic, was sporting socks with Navy planes, his spokesman said, a tribute to his military service.

Bush’s time in Congress was short. After moving to Texas in the 1960s, he ran for a Senate seat but lost. He served in the House from 1967 to 1971, where he kept offices in the Longworth House Building, but he left Congress after losing a second Senate race.

While his Senate bids were unsuccessful, there is a bust of Bush in the Capitol, where, as Reagan’s vice president, he served as president of the Senate.

“He was my very best friend. He was a great mentor to me. He got me into politics,” Rep. Roger WilliamsJohn (Roger) Roger WilliamsCongress starts first day of shutdown with modest hope Senate agrees to last-ditch talks, but no clear path over shutdown Pelosi vows Dem help after GOP ‘meltdown’ on spending bills MORE (R-Texas), who is a family friend of the Bush’s, told The Hill. “For the nation, it is the loss of a man we may never see the likes of again, a leader that led entirely by example and a leader who could reach out and make a deal, but never give away his core.”

Mike Lillis contributed.

-Updated 11:09 p.m.