tv U.S. Senate Senate Tributes to Sen. Bill Nelson CSPAN December 13, 2018 3:35am-4:01am EST
for all of my life. it's been an incredible honor. madam president, i yield the floor. . the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. rubio: madam president, we just heard the words of the senior senator from my state, and i want to take a moment because it reminds me of a truthism that came to mind as i heard him speak and i reflect back on our almost eight years of service here together now.
you know, political divisions have existed in our country since its very beginning. what has changed is that there was a time not so very long ago when americans knew each other, when americans had political differences but they also served on the p.t.a. board together, when we disagreed about who to vote for but we coached each other's kids in little league or we were members of the same church and worshipped together or we lived side by side as neighbors. and so when all you know about someone is who they voted for or what their political positions are, it's easy to dislike them. but when you know them as a fellow parent, as a neighbor, as your children's coach, as someone you live side by side with, then you know them as a person. and it's a lot easier to dislike a political opponent than it is to dislike the whole person.
and i raise that with you because i'm very proud of the relationship, the working relationship that we've had in our eight years here together. one of the things that made that possible is that i knew bill nelson as a person. if all i knew about him was that he and i did not always vote the same way on every issue, that's what most people know about us who serve here. that's one of the challenges that we so often face. the men and women we represent in our respective parties and in our respective political leanings, they usually only know about our colleagues on the three minutes they may see them on a television interview. but we get to know each other as people. we get to know each other outside of politics. and i knew bill nelson, and i know bill nelson as a person and as a man. now i'm an enormous admirer of
his knowledge of florida. he knows every nook and cranny of the state. i recall -- he'd probably remember this -- but we were together on a coast guard aircraft after one of our storms, and as we overflew the state from above, he was like pointing out and identifying down to the street level every corner of the geography of the state. and i remember thinking, you know, i've been in florida politics for awhile. i know the state fairly well, and he knew it down to the street level. and so to try to keep pace, i went back and opened up the atlas and tried to replicate 25, 30 years of state service to try to at least be in the same neighborhood as he is in in his knowledge of our state. it was incredibly impressive. it wasn't something he memorized by looking at a book, though. it was back he had been to all of these places at some point during his service to our state. i would say that certainly in the last quarter century there has been no greater champion not
just for florida's space industry, but for the space program. not just for nasa but for all of it. for the belief that great nations do great things, that they explore the heavens. and there has been no greater champion for it. and his leaving the senate will be a tremendous loss and will require all of us to work harder to ensure that america remains a nation active and engaged in space. but above all else, i knew him and know him as a good man, and i emphasize the word man because i think oftentimes we have developed in our modern culture a warped sense of what it truly takes to a strong, good person. we live in an era in which we celebrate pride and arrogance. but i have learned through example, watching him up close that bill nelson is a man of the kind of humility that our common faith tries to instill in us.
he's a man in a time when it's so easy to be indifferent to the suffering of others. bill nelson in his service years has been a man of compassion. he told you a handful of stories. there are so many more of real human beings who he has stayed engaged in cases involving them without cameras, without press, without bumper stickers, without documentaries or any sort of recognition that so often people seek in the political process. we live in a time in which being crude and abrasive is celebrated as strength while decency is oftentimes ridiculed as weakness. but bill nelson has been an example of decency. i cannot recall a single time in our eight years of service together in which he did anything to harm me or embarrass me or in any way create unnecessary conflict, in fact any conflict at a personal
level. in fact i would say that the worst thing he ever did to me was he once in front of an audience accused me of being a moderate. it goes further than that. our staffs would travel together across the state, and sometimes people would be shocked by it. they were aghast when my regional director and his regional director would share a ride to wind up at an event together as if somehow republicans and democrats are supposed to be allergic to one another when in fact in the end no matter how we view our politics, we're all going to be in this nation for the rest of our lives so we better figure out a way to work together on the issues that will impact us all. and so i will greatly miss the opportunity to continue to serve with him, but i know that his service to our nation and our state is not finished. i know he will find new endeavors. i know this simply because he is not one that's going to sit back and rest and reflect.
he's going to keep working, and i'm excited to see what god's plans are for the rest of his years. and i believe there will be many more, because despite the differences in our date of birtt he's old. i'm saying that he's older than i am. he can probably still beat me. in fact he probably can always beat me in a pull-up contest or push-up contest. this is not an exaggeration. this is true, which is why i never challenged him to one. i will miss greatly working with him in the senate but look forward to working with him beyond it. this i think is no exaggeration. when the history of florida politics as it is written, the name bill nelson will be among the giants of florida political history. for few who have ever served at any level have done more for longer in the service to the people of the sunshine state
than the senior senator who moments ago bid his farewell to a place and a chamber where he's done so much good for our state, for our nation, and for the world. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. ms. klobuchar: madam president, i rise to honor our friend bill nelson. as a member of the commerce committee, i've been able to see firsthand his leadership and have learned a lot from him. i think we all heard his heartfelt remarks about what he loves. he loves this service. he loves grace up there and his family. he loves his staff. and he loves everything about the state of florida. and service for him was of course service in the army and service as an astronaut and service in the state government, in congress, and in the u.s. senate. and i first met bill in
minnesota. i'm not sure he remembers this but i do because it was like one of the first senators i met outside of a minnesota senator. and he came to help my good friend, paul wellstone. and i remember what struck me immediately about him was how kind he was and how warm he was. now part of that of course, the warmth was that he was bringing from florida. and our states have maybe you wouldn't think a lot in common. but what you might not know, madam president, is that there are entire beaches in florida filled with minnesotans in the winter months, perhaps even entire towns. but in this point he had come to our state. so it was no surprise then when i first got elected and we got to washington that bill and grace were so welcoming to our family. they got me involved in the prayer breakfast which has meant a lot to me, through my years in the senate it has been such a comfort. and i've gotten to know so many
people really because of their encouragements. i've gotten to know bill's leadership firsthand as i mentioned on the commerce committee. i was talking to his staff about all the things we did on that committee. i see senator mccaskill here who also served with us. senator thune, the chairman. i remember when bill took on all kinds of consumer issues time and time again. 911 system, fraud and abuse, taking on the issues that matter to people in their daily lives. and then bigger things: modernizing our space program, our aviation policies, responding to disasters, climate change. i remember once he said this, i have seen the blue brilliance of the earth from the edge of the heavens, and i will fight on to save this planet. but what i most will remember bill by is his incredible
marriage to grace. at a time when it's not easy to be in the senate and make sure you keep your relationship strong, and grace of course was in leadership in her own way in the senate spouse clubs. when i was down there a few months ago, grace told this really nice story when we were in jacksonville about how my daughter had played piano at grace's encouragement when they had the senate spouse event, and they smartly decided to have kids of senators perform. i remember it a different way. i remember that the kids that were performing were of course their own daughter, nan ellen, who is a beautiful singer and sings "god bless america" to major stadiums. i remember trent lott's son who is a professional country western singer, performing. and then i remember that my husband had raised his hand and volunteered that our 13-year-old daughter would play piano when she's not even that good at it.
we got to the event. all senators are there. and grace is just smiling like we're about to see, you know, liberace perform. and abigail is sitting there with her music with little post-it notes on and harry reid calls her up and says the next to perform is abigail. she has been playing piano since she was six years old. and i wanted to say but she only practices a half an hour a week. she gets up there, pounds it out, stands up and says now i'm going to play a song that i made up. no. and she played this song, and it actually wasn't that bad. and the first one there to greet her was grace, and grace says that was so beautiful, abigail. perhaps tomorrow at the luncheon you'll just want to play the second song. grace was so sweet to her and to our family, and really, to call of the spouses and everyone that she worked with. so i think when we think of bill, we also think of grace.
and it has been my honor to work with both of them and to respect both of them. and as senator rubio said, we know that there are many great things ahead. so, thank you, bill, thank you, grace. i yield the floor. a senator: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. mr. thune: madam president, i rise today to thank and honor our colleague and the ranking member of the committee on commerce, science, and transportation, senator bill nelson. bill nelson has served the people of florida, as has been mentioned by some of my colleagues, for this nation spanning more than four decades. i've been horred to have bill nelson as a colleague from my first day in the senate, and for the last four years as a partner in an especially successful working relationship at the commerce committee. over this time we fostered a can-do spirit with committee
colleagues that drove nearly 100 committee legislative accomplishments. together we worked on policy for our nature's future in technology, aviation, ocean management, surface transportation, scientific research, space, and many other areas. senator nelson exited an especially extraordinary passion for prioritizing safety, the future of manned space flight, and unshakable belief that powerful companies should be held to account when consumers aren't treated fairly. certainly in the instances where we used the authorities of our committee to demand answers about cybersecurity failures, troubling privacy violations, and the scourge of illegal robo calling, i always knew that senator nelson had my back. we're both passionate about serving the people of our respective states, and i won't soon forget my visit with bill
to the everglades where he clearly in his element introduced me to some alligators and some unwelcomed python squatters, who nonetheless love florida too, and i have a photo of bill holding on to one of those big snakes and makes our rattlesnakes in south dakota look small by comparison. certainly in instances when we use the authorities of our committee to demand answers about all these other important issues, we worked closely together. and i was pleased not only to have senator nelson in florida, to join him in florida, but also to welcome him in south dakota to show him some of the issues important to our state. i had the privilege of showing senator nelson on a very cold october day mount rushmore. and i remember as we were walking up there the wind was
flowing, -- blowing, as it typically does in south dakota, 40 miles per hour, and it was very cold and i know he spends a great deal of time in florida where many of my constituents, like senator klobuchar's spend their winters, that it felt especially cold to him. but we had a chance to go underground and look at some of the tunnels of the gold mines tunnels that are part of the engineering laboratory. i remember thinking at the time that senator nelson is the only senator that has been in space, so he's been thousands and thousands and thousands of miles in space, now he's been 5,000 feet under ground too, and there aren't many people who can say that. but bill's work in the senate and commerce committee has left a legacy. i also want to acknowledge his outstanding staff team who have supported his efforts. he mentioned them. but my -- i and my staff have had the opportunity to work closely with his staff, and they
are the very best and true pro be federals in every sense -- professionals in every sense of the world. i'm grateful for the work we've been able to do together, as your colleague from florida, senator rubio, pointed out, you will, as you not only leave this place, but continue your life in florida continue to impact that state as you have so much in the past. i want to wish senator nelson and his wife grace all the best as they head to more long sunny days in their beloved home state. so, madam president, with that, i yield the floor. mr. cruz: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from texas.
mr. cruz: madam president, i rise today to recognize my distinguished colleague and friend senator bill nelson. he has represented the people of florida in the united states senate for 18 years now. today it may seem that there's very little that unites people of different parties in this congress. it may seem a strange notion to say good things about your political rivals and opponents, but this is america. i think the day will never come where men and women of honest hearts and good faith cannot come together and find common goals worth fighting for together. bill and i have served together on the senate armed services committee and on the senate commerce committee, but the principal area bill and i have had the privilege of working closely together concerns space. bill and i have worked hand in hand promoting and protecting america's program of space
exploration, supporting the critical institutions in the state of texas, in the state of florida, and throughout the country that have made our country a world leader in space. and it has been a true bipartisan partnership. both bill and i believe that america is and should be going forward the leader in space, that we have a responsibility and that there are great and glorious things to accomplish for mankind through space exploration. in this time of bitter partisan division, of nasty personal rivalries, we've been able to see true bipartisan cooperation. we worked together hand in hand on the 2015 commercial space bill, passed that into law, signed into law by president obama. we worked hand in hand on the
nasa authorization act of 2017, worked hand in hand, passed that into law, signed into law by president trump. there are very few major substantive areas that have major legislation, one signed by obama and one signed by trump, and i think that's a reflection of the bipartisan cooperation we have seen. we worked hand in hand on the space frontier act and we're working together to extend the operation of the international space station to 2030. that accomplishment, that cooperation is good for america, it's good for our leadership in space. i've got to say i'm still jealous, that unlike senator nelson, i haven't been on an actual trip to space for a hands-on experience, but i suppose anything can happen. and, bill, i promise you, our work will continue. america's leadership in space
will continue. we will persevere and constantly show those who say that it can't be done, that there is still the will to drive to explore to create, to learn and search the unknown for answers. bill, you're right, i believe that in our lifetime a human being will step foot on the surface of mars and that the first boot that lands on the red planet will be an american boot of an american astronaut planting the flag of the united states of america. there is still a will in our nation to tame the stars and behold the wonders of creation even closer. and i will say that spirit of exploration also inspires generations of little boys and little girls who look to the skies and wonder, what if? we cannot limit our gaze to the
earth blow us -- below us, it isn't in our nature. i will say finally, in addition to his commitment to space leadership, and i would note in addition to bill's bipartisan cooperation, his team worked hand in hand with my team to pass meaningful legislation to find compromises that would make it not just through the senate but through the house and signed into law. and the members of his staff were skilled and dedicated partners in producing those results. but i'll tell you beyond that, on a very personal level, bill is a good man. just a moment ago when i congratulated him on his farewell speech, he chuckled and said, i may have one of the only people who has taken you to dinner. and you, you -- and, you know, back in 2013, my first year in this body, it was a tumultuous time. we were in the midst of battles
where more than a few bare-knuckled punches were thrown around and right in the midst of that, why don't you come out and have dinner with grace and me. and we went out and had a delightful relaxing and engaging dinner where we didn't talk about policies, we talked as three human beings privileged to have a chance to serve our country. it was a gesture of friendship we all know harry truman famously said, if you want a friend in politics, buy a dog. well, that has not been the way bill nelson took on politics. we have had friendships and it has worked for florida and the united states. bill, it has been privilege to work with you and i look forward to continue to work with you in the years ahead in your next