Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse to act on debt ceiling next week White House warns GOP of serious consequences on debt ceiling Lindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees MORE (R-Ky.) choked up during a tribute to outgoing Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderAuthorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate The Republicans' deep dive into nativism Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain MORE (R-Tenn.) from the Senate floor on Wednesday, lauding him as a “friend of 18 years.”
“He is hands down one of the most brilliant, most thoughtful and most effective legislators any of us have ever seen,” McConnell said of Alexander in his remarks bidding farewell to the Tennessee Republican.
McConnell acknowledged that he has leaned on the senator, who has long been an ally of his in the upper chamber, for his “wisdom for many years.”
The GOP leader, choking up several times, added that he thinks he “leaned just as much on his optimism, his can-do spirit, his ability to look on the bright side and then discern how some more hard work could make it brighter.”
McConnell, pausing to compose himself, went on to say he is “going to miss” the “regular dinners” he shared with his colleague.
Watch Majority Ldr. McConnell choke up during his speech on Sen. Lamar Alexander: pic.twitter.com/PEVPkTsVu2— The Recount (@therecount) December 2, 2020
While McConnell said he “is dreading life in the Senate without [his] brilliant friend,” he added that he “cannot begrudge him the silver lining,” saying the “most distinguished public servant has more than earned the right to spend more days fly-fishing or walking trails in the Smokies.”
“I'm sorry that in a few more weeks ... it will just be the rest of us left, but you're leaving this body and those of us in it and the nation it exists to serve stronger and better,” he added.
McConnell was one of a number of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle that attended Alexander’s farewell speech, which took place after McConnell’s remarks on Wednesday.
In his own address from the floor, Alexander urged senators to work across party lines.
“Our country needs a United States Senate to work across party lines to force broad agreements on hard issues, creating laws that most of us have voted for and that a diverse country will accept,” he said.
“When the presidency and at least one body of Congress was of different political parties, that offers an opportunity to share the responsibility or the blame for doing hard things,” he said, while also calling on senators to work toward bipartisanship and “stop blocking each other’s amendments.”