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Lawmakers remember ex-speaker Tom Foley as ‘leader grounded in decency’

October 29, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
Former speaker Tom Foley died at the age of 84, after spending more than 30 years as a member of the House of Representatives. Here are excerpts from his memorial at the Capitol, where leaders and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle lauded his decency and service.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally tonight, lawmakers bid farewell to former Speaker of the House Tom Foley, who died earlier this month at the age of 84. Foley served for 30 years in the House, including five years as speaker. At a memorial service at the Capitol, President Obama, Former President Clinton, and Speaker John Boehner all remembered the Washington State Democrat as a statesman with a sense of humor.

 Foley’s one-time colleagues on both sides of the aisle lauded him as someone who frequently crossed party lines, as his family received an American flag in his honor. Here’s a look at some highlights from the afternoon tribute.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: A leader grounded in decency, in principle, he brought honor to himself, to his family, and to this House.

And he did all these things a public servant should do and, frankly, did many of them better than the rest. But it was his sense of fairness, his port-in-a-storm-bearing that will always stand out for me. It’s how he held this institution together at a very difficult time.

REP. JIM MCDERMOTT, D-Wash.: When he assumed the speakership, he brought to it a scholar’s depth of understanding and a disciple’s passion. He led the House with fairness and comity, a style of leadership we haven’t seen. We recently have looked for it, but we have not seen what Tom was able to do with both sides.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky.: Tom and I weren’t on the same side on most issues. His faith in government was, shall I say, a little more robust than mine.

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 (LAUGHTER)

MITCH MCCONNELL: But we shared a deep respect for the institution and a belief that working with the other side, particularly at a time of divided government, is no heresy, when it enables you to achieve some good for the nation. That kind of comity is sometimes viewed as old-fashioned around here. But that’s never been true.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When we’re standing outside these magnificent buildings, we have that sense of wonder and that sense of hope. And, sometimes, the longer you’re here, the harder it is to hang on to that. And, yet, Tom Foley never lost it, never lost that sense of wonder, never lost the sense of gratitude.

 What a privilege he felt it was to serve. And he never forgot why he came here, on behalf of this nation and his state and the citizens that he loved and respected so much.

JUDY WOODRUFF: He was truly a gentleman of the Congress, Gwen.

GWEN IFILL: And a creature of the House of Representatives.

JUDY WOODRUFF: He was.

GWEN IFILL: He’s missed by everyone.