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Colleagues Mourn the Death of Stevens

Lawmakers on Tuesday mourned the death of former GOP Sen. Ted Stevens, hailing him as a titan of the Senate and a fierce advocate for Alaska.

Democrats and Republicans alike praised Stevens, who died at 86 in a plane crash Monday in rural Alaska.

“It is with deep sadness that Elaine and I note the passing of a friend and former colleague, Senator Ted Stevens,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement. “In the history of our country, no one man has done more for one state than Ted Stevens. His commitment to the people of Alaska and his nation spanned decades, and he left a lasting mark on both.”

Sen. Mark Begich (D), who defeated Stevens in 2008 after the Republican was found guilty in a corruption trial, said Stevens was one of the Alaska’s “greatest statesmen.”

“Alaska has lost one of its greatest statesmen and a true pioneer of our state with the passing of Senator Ted Sevens,” Begich said. “Over his four decades of public service in the U.S. Senate, Senator Stevens was a forceful advocate for Alaska who helped transform our state in the challenging years after Statehood.”

Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) — who campaigned for Stevens even after the Alaskan was indicted on corruption charges in 2008 and testified on his behalf during his trial, also praised his close friend.

“Ted Stevens was an extraordinary American,” Inouye said. “He risked his life while serving in China with the Flying Tigers in World War II. He was a leader in the Senate, having served as Chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Chairman of the Commerce Committee, Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and President Pro Tempore of the United States Senate.

“I have lost my brother,” he added.

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who has faced ethics questions of his own, noted that he and Stevens would take turns baby-sitting each other’s children.

“Ted was a very close, personal friend of me and my family,” Young said in a statement. “I used to babysit his kids, and he would babysit mine. He’s been my mentor, first in the State Legislature, and then as our Senior Senator and I will miss him a great deal.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) mourned the loss of her “dear friend” Stevens and compared him to other giants in American politics. “The love and respect that Alaskans of all persuasions feel toward Ted Stevens is on a par with what the American people felt towards leaders such as John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ronald Reagan,” Murkowski said in a statement.

“Ted had the vision of a John Kennedy that Alaskans are an exceptional people who would achieve great things in his lifetime; the compassion of a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in devoting his life to alleviating the Third World conditions that plagued Alaska’s Native people; and the unwavering strength of a Ronald Reagan whether fighting for the men and women of our military or for Alaska’s right to develop [the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] and its abundant natural resources,” she added.

It is unclear whether Stevens will formally lie in state in the chamber. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who died earlier this year, received that honor at the request of his family, and several other lawmakers have been given the honor over the years.

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