Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Remarks of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) Remembering Senator Craig Thomas

Posted on June 5, 2007

Madam President, we will miss Craig Thomas. Craig Thomas would want it to be said that he was a conservative. He enjoyed expressing conservative views on this floor. He enjoyed expressing conservative views in our Energy Committee on which we served together, and the Senator from Louisiana and I served with Senator Thomas. He kept his feet firmly planted on the ground in Wyoming from which his conservatism came. He obviously well represented the people of Wyoming because he barely noticed there was an election last year. When Craig Thomas ran, he was elected by an overwhelming margin. Craig Thomas was a conservationist. He was chairman of the National Parks Subcommittee during the time I served on the Energy Committee, and he enjoyed that very much. I am not a bit surprised because he took great pride in the fact that Yellowstone, a great, premier park--I can say that even though we have the Great Smokies in Tennessee--but Yellowstone, which has such a special place in the hearts of all Americans, Craig Thomas took special pride in his jurisdiction of that responsibility. He was honored by the National Parks Association a couple of years ago. Craig Thomas was awarded the singular honor of the National Parks Association for his stewardship of our national parks. Craig Thomas was no-nonsense. That came from several places, I suspect. One was, as the Senator from Nebraska noted, he was a marine. One was that he was a cowboy, a real cowboy. I saw Senator Inhofe talking about him in that respect. Another reason is he came from Wyoming. I see that Senator Enzi from Wyoming is here. Wyoming citizens, I have noticed, don't waste words. They think about them before they say them, and they often don't say them. They don't feel a need to fill every vacuum with a string of words, which is an unusual characteristic on the floor of the U.S. Senate, but Craig Thomas was such a person. I think, in fact, he grew up in Wyoming, came from Wyoming, lived in Wyoming, kept his feet planted in Wyoming, and helped contribute to that no-nonsense approach to life he had which enriched the Senate. Craig Thomas was also interested in working across party lines. Earlier this year, Senator Lieberman and I and others began a breakfast on Tuesday morning at 8 o'clock for those Senators who had time to come, not for the purpose of passing legislation but for the purpose of getting to know each other better across party lines so that we could perhaps come to solutions more quickly in other areas. It was interesting to see who came to that breakfast. We all are busy. We all have tremendous demands on our time. We started off with 40 Senators of both parties. Sometimes it got to be 10 or 12 or 14. But almost every Tuesday morning at the bipartisan Senators' breakfast, Craig Thomas was there, and he always had a contribution to make. He was there 2 weeks ago, in the week before our recess, which is why it was such a surprise to learn that he died yesterday, because when he was there, he sat quietly, but you could tell he had something to say, and he finally said it before he left. The subject was immigration. He had some questions, and he had some comments. He looked the perfect picture of health. He looked as if he would last forever. That was the last I saw of Craig Thomas. We are a family here in the Senate. We say that often to one another, but it is true. We have breakfast together, as we did this morning at the bipartisan breakfast or as we will tomorrow morning at the Prayer Breakfast where we will remember Craig Thomas . We have lunch together, which we are about to do, Republicans on one side and Democrats on the other. We have committee hearings and meetings all day long and little visits, and then in the evenings, if that weren't enough, why, we get together and we go to receptions for each other. That is how we live our lives here. So it is a surprise to us to suddenly find ourselves without Craig Thomas, whom we saw at breakfast, whom we saw at lunch, whom we saw at committee meetings, and whom we saw in the evenings. We will miss him, but we greatly respect his presence here in the Senate for such a long period of time. When he got sick last year, we heard that he was soon doing fingertip pushups again. So all of us thought--at least I thought--well, Craig is going to be fine. He is going to be fine. But, as will be the case with each of us, in the end, his life has come to a conclusion. It has been a life of public service, one I greatly respect. To Susan and to his family, Honey and I offer our sympathy and our respect for his life. We will be thinking and praying for them, and we will be remembering how much joy our friend Craig Thomas brought to the U.S. Senate. # # #