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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dole Leaves Senate With Fond Tribute

WASHINGTON -- Robert Dole bade a loving farewell to the Senate, struggling to keep his emotions in check as he concluded a "great ride" of 35 years on Capitol Hill to devote himself fully to his uphill bid for the presidency.


Speaking Tuesday for the last time as the longest-serving Republican leader in Senate history, Dole shared reminiscences that transcended partisan differences, stressing values of civility and compromise that marked his 11 years as the party's Senate leader.


He spoke fondly of Democrats as well as Republicans in an old-fashioned kind of senatorial collegiality that stands in contrast with the already bitter tone of his campaign against President Bill Clinton.


The accomplishments he cited with particular pride -- expanding nutrition programs, bailing out the Social Security system, extending civil rights protections to the disabled -- were those he achieved in concert with Democrats.


"We were Democrats and Republicans" working across party lines for a common solution, he said, suggesting a similar approach for dealing with the solvency of the Medicare program.


After a morning filled with tributes from colleagues on both sides of the partisan aisle, Dole strode into the Senate chamber shortly after noon, bringing his colleagues to their feet in unison as they broke into loud and sustained applause.


Former senator Howard Metzenbaum, with whom Dole tangled on numerous occasions, joined a small group of longtime colleagues who came out of retirement to say their goodbyes.


Senators sat in hushed, almost reverential attention as Dole began to speak, getting only a few words into his remarks before his emotions caught up with him and he had to pause to collect himself.


Dole said of the Senate, "It's what America is about. We come from different states and different backgrounds, different opportunities, different challenges in our lives. And, yes, the institution has its imperfections. ... We're like America. We're still a work in progress.''