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Sen. Bob Dole Receives Congressional Gold Medal

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

This is a busy stretch in Congress. This afternoon, though, lawmakers from both parties stopped to gather in the rotunda along with President Trump to honor a former leader.

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PAUL RYAN: We award the Congressional Gold Medal to the soldier, the legislator and the statesman from Kansas, Senator Bob Dole.

(CHEERING, APPLAUSE)

KELLY: Here's NPR congressional correspondent Scott Detrow with more on the ceremony.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: As the 94-year-old Dole looked on from a wheelchair, it seemed like congressional leaders were competing to see who could offer him the most praise. Here's Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the house.

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STENY HOYER: If I were going to invent a United States senator who would reach out across the aisle, reach out across the country to serve this nation well, I would invent Bob Dole.

DETROW: That coming from a Democrat would have been hard to fathom early in Dole's political career. When he was Gerald Ford's running mate in 1976, Dole was so partisan that the phrase hatchet man almost became his official title along with senator.

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BOB DOLE: If we added up the killed and wounded in democrat wars in this century, it would be about 1.6 million Americans, enough to fill the city of Detroit.

DETROW: But over the years, Dole served as Republican Senate leader longer than anyone else. He cut deal after deal after deal, changing that reputation from hatchet man to statesman. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Dole's fingerprints are all over countless pieces of consequential legislation.

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MITCH MCCONNELL: It was this son of the Dust Bowl and the Depression who broke the stalemate and helped save Social Security. In 1990, it was this wounded warrior who reached across the aisle to help pass the Americans with Disabilities Act.

DETROW: It's not that Dole wasn't partisan. It's that he valued results and worked with Democrats and Republicans alike to pass bills. Here's Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PATRICK LEAHY: You have to be a quarterback, a shepherd, an explainer, a father-confessor. And Bob, you were every one of those.

DETROW: Throughout the ceremony, it wasn't hard to pick up on a wistfulness that people like Dole just aren't in the Senate anymore. At the ceremony, the House chaplain prayed that Dole would inspire lawmakers to work across the aisle. When it ended, lawmakers went back to their immediate task, struggling to pass yet another short-term funding bill, their third in just more than a month. Scott Detrow, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.