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Congress Pays Tribute to Former President Reagan - 2004-06-09


Members of Congress have continued their tributes to Ronald Reagan, as thousands of people in the nation's capital line up to view the former president's casket lying in state in Washington, D.C.

The Senate passed a formal resolution of bereavement at Mr. Reagan's death, as tributes continued in both houses of Congress.

As with a similar House action on Tuesday, the Senate vote was unanimous, recognizing what it called Mr. Reagan's "illustrious statesmanship, his leadership in national and world affairs [and] his distinguished public service to his state and his nation."

In the Senate as well as the House of Representatives, lawmakers combined personal memories of Mr. Reagan with statements about his leadership qualities and strong political beliefs.

"At a time of great despair in our nation Ronald Reagan came into office and restored hope," said Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. "He was an unequalled champion of freedom, smaller government and market-oriented principles. His philosophies guided our nation to become the economic and military superpower that it is today."

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner recalled the message Mr. Reagan, with support from Congress, insisted on sending to the former Soviet Union.

"We could send a strong signal to the world and particularly to the Soviet Union: We mean business. We mean business. Do not ever entertain the idea of striking out against the free world, be it the United States or our NATO allies," Mr. Warner said.

Democrats have largely avoided sharp criticisms of Mr. Reagan, focusing on his ability to compromise when he realized certain policies were not working.

Congressman Steny Hoyer, the number two Democrat in the House, recalled Mr. Reagan's contentious, but respectful relationship with then Democratic Speaker of the House, Congressman Thomas O'Neill.

"These two men, the most powerful political figures in our nation in the 1980s, one a Republican, the other a Democrat, demonstrated to all Americans that our elected leaders could disagree politically, without being disagreeable personalities or personal," he said. "They reminded all of us that cynicism and mean spiritedness are inimical to American democracy and that our real adversaries lie beyond our shores, not here."

In one of the more moving tributes of the day, Senator Edward Kennedy, whose brother John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, said Mr. Reagan's true achievement was the renewal of America's faith in itself.

Meanwhile, thousands of people began to stand in line in high temperatures to view Mr. Reagan's body lying in state in the central rotunda of the Capitol, long before it arrived in Washington from California.

Mr. Reagan is the 10th President to lie in state at the Capitol, the last being Lyndon Johnson in 1973.

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