McConnell Honors Retiring Senator Richard Burr

‘[O]ur unflappable, calm colleague with an easy manner — almost casual, really — has been one of this chamber’s most dogged legislators and most relentless champions across a whole array of critically important causes… So we thank our colleague for his outstanding work for our country.’

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding Senator Richard Burr (R-NC):

“I’d like to begin my tribute to another of our distinguished departing colleagues by quoting his own words, from a letter written in 2009. ‘Dear Mr. and Mrs. Carver, Thank you for entrusting me with [your son’s] memorial bracelet at the Asheville Veterans Day Ceremony. I wish there had been more time to talk that day. I returned to Washington, DC with the bracelet on my wrist. … [your son’s] unrelenting courage and zeal for life are what I will think of when I look at his name on my wrist. Rest assured that I will wear his bracelet forever.’

“A quiet gesture; unheralded and understated; but leaving hugely impactful ripples in its wake. A perfect case study in Senator Richard Burr.

“At first glance, it might appear to the uninitiated that our distinguished friend is a man of contrasts or contradictions. For example — this impeccably-dressed Southern gentleman has been known to drive around town in a rickety old Volkswagen Thing that our dear departed colleague John McCain once called, ‘an assault on the senses.’

“Or take the fact that when most of us were happy enough to finish high school as either a successful jock or a successful student, Richard was both a standout scholarship football player and winner of the science fair.

“Or consider that our unflappable, calm colleague with an easy manner — almost casual, really — has been one of this chamber’s most dogged legislators and most relentless champions across a whole array of critically important causes.

“That special bracelet bearing Army Chief Warrant Officer Mitch Carver’s name isn’t just a comfort to one Gold Star family. It’s an outward sign of Richard Burr’s entire approach to his job: supporting service, honoring sacrifice, and making life better for folks in North Carolina and across the nation.

“For five years, Richard’s colleagues tasked him with helming the Intelligence Committee. Some of this institution’s most sensitive and critical responsibilities wound up in his lap. But Senators on both sides knew that Richard’s thoughtfulness, fairmindedness, and discretion tailor-made him for that role. No showy victory laps; no braggy press tours. He led with the serious, collegial, and patriotic tone that the issues demanded.  

“This quiet competence has been part of the Richard Burr brand from the very beginning.

“As a backbench House freshman, Richard spearheaded massive reforms of the Food and Drug Administration.

“Long before COVID-19, he had a personal passion for helping to equip BARDA and our other pandemic preparedness initiatives.

“Richard has authored transformational legislation that disability advocates called the most important advance for their cause in a quarter century.

“He’s reached across the aisle to help deliver justice for victims of decades-old hate crimes.

“He drove bipartisan consensus on a measure that’s helped save students and families nearly $100 billion in loan payments.

“In a situation folks in my own state know well, he stepped up to help tobacco farmers transition to succeed in a freer market.

“And as ranking member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Richard delivered much-needed relief to men and women who have served our nation with the Veterans Choice Act of 2014.

“It’s truly amazing what you can accomplish when you’re willing to be patient, keep an even keel, share some credit… oh, and occasionally, even jump out a window.

“Let me explain. This is creative problem-solving in action. Back during sequestration, when staffing shortages had closed some of the normal entrances and exits around the Capitol campus, our friend found himself in the Russell building while the only open exit was all the way over in Dirksen. Rather than lengthen his commute, this ever-pragmatic man of mystery found the lowest window around, grabbed his dry cleaning, shimmied out, and hopped right down to the sidewalk.

“Now the day is fast-approaching when our colleague will escape from this institution for good. But Richard’s remarkable legacy here will endure.

“Whether that’s meant using his charm and judgment of character to disarm committee witnesses and get to the bottom of complex issues under investigation…Or using his fluency in House-speak to translate key happenings for us, his colleagues in the upper chamber…And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how Richard excels at turning up the pressure to break a stalemate. You see, if an issue is dragging out and no solution appears forthcoming, unless Richard was the point person himself, he’d frequently just threaten to leave town altogether until things got worked out!

“We’re talking about a colleague who’s famous for keeping closer tabs on the Senate’s weekly wrap-up proceedings than just about anyone. In fact, as I understand it, Richard’s team became famous for tracking the timing of final votes so closely that some other offices would try calling Team Burr for the scoop before they’d even try the cloakroom!

“Now, with Richard’s seemingly laid-back demeanor, you might assume our friend was just eager to get to the beach, or hit the links. But that would be another one of those deceptive appearances. The truth is, Richard didn’t become an expert at speedy getaways because he 

wanted to shortchange his duties. Just the opposite. Even as devoted a public servant as Senator Burr knew that, in the final analysis, another set of duties was even more essential. When our colleague was first elected to the House in 1994, he and his beloved wife Brooke had two young sons. And Brooke was carving out her own tremendously successful career in business. So our friend was bound and determined that serving the people of North Carolina would not mean skimping on his proudest job of all, as father to Tyler and William — and now, as a grandfather, too.

“Through decades of committed service, he’s found a way to do it all. But even so, I know Richard’s excited to make up for lost time.

“So we thank our colleague for his outstanding work for our country.

“And I have it on good authority that our friend has a favorite catchphrase that he’s used to bid farewell to his office after they’ve spent a long day doing good work. So, Richard, as you like to say: ‘Dilly Dilly!’”