Bennet gets emotional during tribute to departing Udall
DENVER — Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet still hasn’t gotten over his colleague, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall’s defeat last November and it showed during a heartfelt tribute to the departing lawmaker on the Senate floor Thursday.
Bennet, who as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee oversaw all of his party’s top senate campaigns, remains the most broken up about Udall’s loss to Republican Congressman Cory Gardner.
Choking up near the end of his prepared remarks about Udall, Bennet referred to Colorado’s departing senior senator as “one of the good guys.”
“We are all diminished by his loss; every one of us, for the sake of this institution, could do well to live up to the example Mark Udall has set.”
That marked the end of Bennet’s remarks, which summarized Udall’s path to public office, his family’s history and his contributions and work on behalf of Colorado’s new energy and aerospace industry, its lands, natural resources and people.
He also lauded Udall’s career-long commitment to civil liberties, touching on his opposition to the NSA domestic surveillance program ended last year after revelations from former contractor Edward Snowden and his push to help de-classify information about the CIA’s Bush-era expanded interrogation techniques, finally made public in a Senate report just this week.
“Mark truly is the very best of what it means to be a public servant: independent, responsible, tough, focused on the future and possessing an abiding ‘can do’ spirit,” Bennet said. “His calm presence, his unassuming nature, his ability to see pure good in those around him are exactly what we so desperately need in our process today.
“Simply put, Mark Udall has fought for Colorado families in the most constructive way possible, by pushing thoughtful, common sense solutions, but has never, ever fought to achieve a partisan political fleece.”
Bennet’s full remarks, as prepared for delivery, are printed below:
I want to take a moment want to speak about my friend, Mark Udall.
Mark’s sister, Doty, describes him as an “ok” politician but an extraordinary public servant. I think it’s fair to say that Mark could never reduce his role as a representative of the people of Colorado to just politics. It’s just not in his DNA.
And it is with a heavy heart that I see him leave the United States Senate because he is my friend. But it is especially sad at a time when Mark’s kind of leadership and constructive engagement are so sorely needed.
Udall is a name that is synonymous with the West. And Mark, and the collective service of the Udall family, for me, have come to represent the very best of our Western way of life.
They have embodied that pioneering and entrepreneurial spirt dating back to the days when Americans were building entirely new lives on the frontier. They have a historic love for the beauty and majesty of the West and have spent lifetimes protecting it.
Mo and Stu Udall, Mark’s uncle and father, both served our country during World War II. Stu was elected to serve the second district of Arizona in Congress.
When President Kennedy asked Stu to serve as his Secretary of Interior, Mo Udall won Stu’s seat in Congress.
Unlike his son Mark, Mo never ran for the Senate. Mo explained why. He said:
“I told the Arizona press club with (Barry) Goldwater present that there were three reasons I was not running for the Senate: 1) I love the House, 2) my wife and family are against it, and 3) I’ve taken a poll and you are going to beat the hell out of me.”
Although, he did run for President. The New Republic reported on that: “The Arizona congressman Morris Udall liked to tell a story about a response he got at a barbershop in Maine: He looked in at the door and, meaning to introduce himself, said ‘Mo Udall, running for president.’ ‘Yeah,‘ the barber said, ‘we were laughing about it this morning.’
It’s not hard to know where Mark acquired his self-deprecating approach to the world, just as it’s not hard to where he inherited his commitment to civil rights, conservation, and good government.
Mark has said that it was during this time that his political views formed. In the Arizona Daily Star he said, “I loved the seat at the side of the table, listening to my dad, my uncle, and people like Bobby Kennedy and Justice Douglas debate the real issues of the day.”
In 2008, when Mark was elected to represent Colorado in the United States Senate, his cousin Tom, Stu’s son, was elected to serve the state of New Mexico.
Mark Udall’s connection to the West and to public service comes from both sides of his families.
Mo Udall, a man of many talents, met Patricia Emory, Mark’s mother, while playing basketball in Colorado.
Patricia or “Sam” Udall was a sharpshooter, a pilot, and a Peace Corps volunteer at the age of 56. She was a native Coloradan and the person Mark credits most for his passion for the outdoors, backpacking and climbing.
Today, in the 21st century, we face a profound set of challenges and a dramatic test of our democratic institutions. Can what Mark Udall often calls this experiment in self-government continue to thrive into the next century and beyond? Mark has carried the tradition of his family by serving as a moral, forward-pointing compass.
Throughout his career he has defended personal freedom and liberty and has built a legacy of conservation and preservation.
As a member of the Colorado General Assembly representing Longmont and parts of Boulder County Mark toughened the laws against poaching big game as “trophy” animals.
As a member of the House of Representatives, worked across the aisle to establish the Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge, cleaning up the former nuclear site and preserving 4,000 acres of wild land near Denver.
He established the James Peak Wilderness Area, protecting 14,000 acres of some of our most scenic land in Gilpin and Grand Counties.
And he passed the Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness Act to designate nearly 250,000 acres within the Park as wilderness, including Longs Peak, which is a 14er I have actually climbed. Mark Udall has climbed all of them in Colorado. And they are included in the 100 tallest peaks in the state which Mark has also climber.
These are lands that will be protected well after any of our political careers are long over.
Mark has been vocal, active, and effective in the fight against climate change and in the promotion of renewable energy.
He was the statewide co-chair of the successful 2004 campaign to pass Colorado’s amendment 37. This measure required Colorado’s power companies to generate more of their electricity from renewable sources.
Colorado was the first state in the union to take this issue to the voters.
Amendment 37 passed and Mark Udall was a driving force behind that effort.
After his victory in the state, Mark took this issue to the House of Representatives. The House has twice passed a national renewable electricity standard championed by Mark.
During his time in the Senate he has continued to push for a national policy.
His doggedness in standing up for Colorado’s wind energy production saved thousands of good-paying jobs across the state and ensured that we continue to lead the nation in developing our clean energy economy.
The same is true for our ski areas, which have expanded recreation activities and summertime job opportunities thanks to a law Mark passed in the Senate.
And Colorado’s aerospace industry is thriving in part thanks to Mark Udall. His work on space policy also dates back to his time in the House of Representatives as ranking member on the Space Subcommittee.
Mark helped revitalize aeronautics and aviation research and development at NASA and ensure the Hubble Space telescope received service and funding.
In the Senate, Mark helped lead the Colorado delegation in opposition to a proposal that would have cancelled the Orion program, costing the state 1,000 jobs. The Administration backed off.
And last week, with a shuttle and rocket both build by companies based in Colorado, NASA launched the successful test flight of the Orion vehicle. We will again carry astronauts into space, traveling deeper than ever before and we will eventually visit Mars.
Mark has been a staunch defender of the rights and freedoms we cherish as westerners. As a member of the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees Mark fought every day to protect the security of the American people and the Bill of Rights.
He’s taken on the NSA and CIA when they violated our Constitutional values.
In 2011, he worked on the classified level to pressure intelligence officials to dismantle a massive email collection program that affected Americans’ privacy. Administration officials were unable to provide evidence that the program was effective and it was shut down. This only became public information when the New York Times reported on it in July of 2013.
Well before Edward Snowden made headlines in 2013 Mark warned of the NSA’s overreach. In 2012, on this Senate floor he warned the American people that they would be shocked to learn about what the NSA was doing in secret.
And he introduced landmark, bipartisan surveillance reform legislation with Senators Ron Wyden, Richard Blumenthal, and Rand Paul. It became the basis for the USA Freedom Act, which received 58 votes just a few weeks ago. There was a time before the relentless use of the filibuster when a majority of votes the Senate would ensure passage.
Earlier this week the Intelligence Committee released the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s study of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. Nobody fought harder to shed light on these tactics than Mark Udall.
His goal from day one has been holding the CIA accountable, shedding light on this dark chapter of our history, and ensuring neither the CIA nor any future administration would make these grievous mistakes ever again.
He accomplished his goals with respect for the process and without leaking classified information but by applying pressure both publically and privately until the report was finally released.
He has been effective because he has stood on consistent principle on every issue we have faced. He voted against the Patriot Act, opposed the war in Iraq, and helped lead the fight to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
M_President, Mark truly is the very best of what it means to be a public servant: independent, responsible, tough, focused on the future and possessing an abiding “can do” spirit. His calm presence, his unassuming nature, his ability to see pure good in those around him are exactly what we so desperately need in our process today.
Simply put, Mark Udall has fought for Colorado families in the most constructive way possible, by pushing thoughtful, common sense solutions, but has never, ever fought to achieve a partisan political fleece.
When Colorado was struck with series of natural disasters – from wildfires to floods – Mark was at his very best, standing up for our state to lead the efforts to ensure our communities have the support they need to recover and better prepare for the threats we face next. And he has strengthened the way we respond to the growing threat of wildfire by emphasizing prevention efforts that will save lives, property, and tax dollars.
We would expect nothing else from a man who has dedicated himself and his career to standing up for Colorado families, the middle class, and the values of the American West.
As a Senator, a representative, a state legislator, and director of the Colorado Outward Bound School, Mark has been a model public servant. He has lived up to, and exceeded, the high standards his family has set for more than a century.
Through all of his work, Mark has always fought against the dysfunction that persists in Washington.
It is true however that Mark can’t take full credit for his work. His wife and partner, Maggie Fox, shares his commitment to leaving more opportunity behind for the next generation.
She’s worked as a teacher and community organizer on the Navajo and Hopi Reservations of Arizona and New Mexico and for the Colorado, North Carolina and Northwest Outward Bound Schools. She has become a leading voice in many efforts to protect our land, air and water.
And Mark’s staff has been among the finest, most professional and most effective in the Senate. It has been a pleasure for me, and for my staff, to work alongside them on behalf of the people of Colorado.
Over the past few years, I have learned there are two broad categories of people in Washington.
There are those who embrace and add to the dysfunction, because it serves their ideological convictions or gives them an opportunity to star on the cable news, or both. And then there are the people who are actually trying to save the place. They’re looking for areas of compromise to break the gridlock and move us forward.
Mark is one of the good ones.
I have no doubt he will continue to make contributions to Colorado and our nation in a variety of ways, but we are diminished by his loss. Every one of us, for the sake of this institution, could do well to live up to the example Mark Udall has set.