Former Sen. Johnny Isakson dies at 76

Former Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonSchumer makes plea for voting bill, filibuster reform in rare Friday session Jan. 6 brings Democrats, Cheneys together — with GOP mostly absent Pelosi leads moment of silence for Jan. 6 with no Republicans except Cheneys MORE (R-Ga.) died on Sunday at the age of 76, the Isakson Initiative announced.

“It is with deep sorrow that The Isakson Initiative shares that former U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson passed away overnight on December 19, 2021, at age 76. Sen. Isakson’s family is grateful for the prayers and support,” it said on the former senator's Twitter page.

“Funeral arrangements will be shared when finalized,” it added.

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The former Georgia lawmaker, who had served in both the House and Senate, was considered an esteemed lawmaker members of both political parties respected, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted, adding that he is best known for legislation including the No Child Left Behind Act and his work on immigration policy, Department of Veterans Affairs reform and health care.

 
"Johnny was a proud Republican, but he put country before party, and valued building consensus over political combat. I always loved Johnny’s description of the only division he saw as between 'friends and future friends,'" Biden said, who noted they served together on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellNAACP president presses senators on voting rights: 'You will decide who defines America' Sununu says he skipped Senate bid to avoid being 'roadblock' to Biden for two years 'All or nothing' won't bolster American democracy: Reform the filibuster and Electoral Count Act MORE (R-Ky.) said in a statement that Isakson was "one of my very best friends in the Senate."

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"But the amazing thing about him was that at any given time, approximately 98 other Senators felt the same way. His infectious warmth and charisma, his generosity, and his integrity made Johnny one of the most admired and beloved people in the Capitol," McConnell said.

Sen. Jon OssoffJon OssoffTwo-thirds of Americans support banning lawmakers from trading stocks: poll On the Money — Student borrowers stare down rising prices Top Biden adviser expresses support for ban on congressional stock trades MORE (D-Ga.), meanwhile, said that Isakson "was a statesman who served Georgia with honor."

"He put his state and his country ahead of self and party, and his great legacy endures. Alisha and I will keep Dianne and the Isakson family in our prayers," Ossoff added.

And Georgia Gov. Brian KempBrian KempAbrams treads carefully in relationship with Biden Four states declare states of emergency ahead of weekend snowstorm Stacey Abrams's shocking snub of Biden, Harris signals possible 2024 aspirations MORE (R) said that the state "has lost a giant, one of its greatest statesmen, and a servant leader dedicated to making his state and country better than he found it."  

"Johnny Isakson personified what it means to be Georgian," Kemp said.

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Isakson jumped into politics during Barry Goldwater's 1964 Republican presidential campaign as a volunteer, according to the Journal-Constitution. Isakson would later serve in Georgia's state House and state Senate in addition to running Georgia's Board of Education.

He subsequently set his sights on Congress, where he served in the House between 1999 and 2004 and in the Senate between 2005 and 2019.

Weeks before Isakson stepped down after his 15-year tenure in the Senate, he emphasized the need for bipartisanship in Congress.

"Bipartisan doesn't mean a Democrat or Republican talk to each other once in a while. It means that two people come together. Probably have differences. Probably have a lot of differences. But they find a way to get to the end of the trail, where there is a possibility of a solution," Isakson said in early December 2019.

Updated at 3:48 a.m.