Leader McConnell Pays Tribute to Senator Bob Corker

‘So the Senate is preparing to say goodbye to one of our most energetic and accomplished members. We’ll miss his enthusiasm and his expertise. But we will also miss his famous generosity, and the great kindness that everyone close to Bob jumps at the chance to describe… Bob, we’ll miss you a lot. The Senate and the great state of Tennessee will miss your service.’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding the retirement of friend and colleague, Senator Bob Corker (R-TN):  

“Now, finally, I’d like to close with a tribute to another distinguished member of this body who is leaving us at the end of this Congress. Senator Bob Corker is one of the most hardworking and -- frankly -- relentless members of this body. He’s a builder by trade and a fixer by nature. And Senator Corker is always a man on a mission.

“Our distinguished colleague hails from a state with a long legacy of impressive senators. Tennesseeans such as Senator Howard Baker, Senator Al Gore, Senator Bill Frist, and our own colleague Senator Alexander all developed national reputations as leaders. But after twelve years of working with Bob, I could not feel more comfortable saying that he himself will now a become part of that great legacy. He’s met that high bar and set it high himself.

“No sooner could any Senator turn his or her attention to some important but stalled initiative… some dead-ended negotiation… or some thorny national problem... than you’d see Bob Corker diving right into the fray and attacking that problem with everything he had. The limitless work ethic, the entrepreneurial drive -- these things have defined Bob Corker since long before he was sworn in as a Senator.

“He started working odd jobs at age 13. At 25, he’d saved up enough money to co-found his own construction company and strike out for himself. That firm grew from an $8,000 lark into a major operation that spanned more than a dozen states. Bob was a natural. He was constantly sniffing out opportunities and tackling them with vigor. Along the way, he picked up what some close to him now joke is an addiction to the feeling of a closing handshake -- that sign that needs were met, a deal was done, and both parties would walk away happy.

“The term ‘work-a-holic’ might be putting it mildly. I’m told that after one particularly hairy negotiation ended in success, Bob exclaimed, I’d sell it back to him -- if I could turn around and buy it again!’ So unlike many of his colleagues, Bob did not necessarily always aspire to public service. In fact, it took a direct appeal to his builder’s instincts to set this political career in motion. Bob saw a message in a church bulletin. They needed volunteers with construction experience to help a mission in Haiti. Bob went, along with his father. And he came back with the drive to keep doing real good for real people.

“That conviction eventually took him to City Hall in Chattanooga, where people still talk about the transformative wave of education reform, economic development, and public improvements that was unleashed during his time as Mayor. Tennesseeans liked what they saw. They decided the next chapters of Bob Corker’s serial success story should be written right here, on their behalf, in the United States Senate.

“If I even tried to relate a comprehensive catalog of everything Bob Corker has gotten done in the Senate, this speech would be our last act of business before New Year’s. But a few highlights stand out especially. It was early in Sen. Corker’s first term when the financial crisis threw our economy into chaos. But this fired-up freshman immediately started working with committee chairs and new friends across the aisle. He became a pivotal player, putting his private-sector acumen to great use and helping craft policies to begin restoring stability. He’s been a leading voice on housing reform, of course.

“And the combination of his background with his post on the Foreign Relations Committee has led to some unique Bob Corker accomplishments. Just this year, he’s been hard at work on the BUILD Act, to overhaul how America makes loans to new projects in the developing world. He was also a key champion of the Electrify Africa bill that became law in 2016, laying groundwork for a more stable power grid across that continent.

“There are also other, subtler ways he’s remained the consummate businessman. Tennesseans know that many of the good things their junior Senator has achieved for his home state didn’t even involve legislation. Every bit the former mayor, Bob has continued to hustle to convince every new job and new investment in sight why his home state is the place for them -- phone call by phone call, meeting by meeting.

“So the Senate is preparing to say goodbye to one of our most energetic and accomplished members. We’ll miss his enthusiasm and his expertise. But we will also miss his famous generosity, and the great kindness that everyone close to Bob jumps at the chance to describe. He is thoughtful to those he knows well -- and to those he’s just met. I have it on good authority that, on at least one occasion, Bob met a promising young man working in a check-out line and signed him up, on the spot, for a job interview with his Chief of Staff.

“But most recently, we know Bob Corker as the brilliant Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. He has traveled constantly. He has engaged issues around the world with an enormous degree of skill and capacity. He’s a powerful voice for American interests, and those of our allies -- and a forceful, influential thorn in the side of those who might wish us harm.

“He’s also used that position to champion vulnerable people around the world. His spearheading of the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act -- focusing resources and attention on a humanitarian crisis affecting millions -- will be a core piece of that legacy. I know Bob prides himself on bringing more regular order back to the committee and getting it back to basics. Legislation, treaties, and under his leadership, the committee passed the first authorization bill for the State Department in 14 years.

“Predictably, that Bob Corker work ethic is on full display when he’s traveling the world on our nation’s behalf. I hear that, when Bob was leading a trip to Israel and Palestine a few years ago, he heard about smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza and decided he should see for himself. So the way I heard it, he arranged for ground transportation to Gaza, examined the system, and was back in Tel Aviv later that day to discuss the situation with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

“I’ll admit, though, that I am plenty excited to see what this hugely accomplished individual will get into next. And there’s plenty of talk about what mission is next in the queue. I’ve heard his name is in the hat for an opportunity envied by many in this chamber – the chance to spend a lot more time with family. I’m sure Elizabeth and the family will oblige with a smooth confirmation process. But I have to admit, whatever comes next, I really doubt we’ll be able to call it a ‘retirement’ in any ordinary sense of the word. You see, I’ve heard what happens when Bob Corker tries to relax.

“Apparently there was one summer when he endeavored to really take up water-skiing. You know -- nice, lazy days; soak in the sunshine. Well, that didn’t last long. Bob went all in. He practiced and practiced. He kept it at all summer. And soon, he was a masterful but somewhat exhausted and slightly burned-out water-skiier.  And once the challenge was gone -- on to the next thing. On to the next deal. On to the next construction project. Bob, we’ll miss you a lot. The Senate and the great state of Tennessee will miss your service. But we can’t wait to see what you build next.”

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