Leader McConnell Tribute to Senator Heller
‘In just seven years, Dean has authored or helped introduce 100 pieces of legislation that are now law. Perhaps first and foremost, he’s built a reputation as one of the Senate’s chief advocates for veterans…As a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, he’s fought to expand access to care, contributing key provisions to the VA Mission Act and spearheading the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act. It’s a legacy that’s already making a difference for our veterans…a policy legacy that will
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding the departure of Senator Dean Heller of Nevada:
“I’m sorry to say it is time to begin offering thanks and farewells to members whose Senate service will conclude at the end of the 115th Congress. Today, I’d like to begin with our friend, the senior senator from Nevada.
“It doesn’t feel like much of an exaggeration to say that Dean Heller may have been destined for public service. I don’t just mean his eagerness to serve or his outgoing personality. There were other signs. One of the stops on his childhood paper route in Carson City was the Governor’s Mansion itself. Talk about early civic involvement.
“At every step of the way -- from successful businessman to his local and statewide races, all the way here to the Capitol -- Dean earned the respect of his neighbors and constituents by following the hard-working example set by his parents. His mother worked as a cook in a school cafeteria. His father, an auto mechanic who raced stock cars on the side. And their son grew up to be the only sitting senator I’d trust to replace my transmission.
“When most politicians use phrases like ‘rolling up their sleeves’ and ‘getting their hands dirty,’ they’re usually referring to things like late-night negotiating and taking tough votes. In other words…more talking. Not Dean Heller. He means it literally. As Dean likes to say: Here in Washington, during the week, he works for the people of Nevada. But at home, on the weekends? There, he works for his wife, Lynne, on the ranch they keep up together.
“But let it not be said that, even in the midst of hard labor, Dean isn’t capable of multi-tasking. After all, sometimes official duties just can’t wait. So I have it on good authority that on one occasion, Dean had to field a surprise phone call from President Obama on his cell while standing right in the middle of a ditch. And another time, he took a call from President Trump and talked business right there in the aisle of a home improvement store. Something about this image seems just right. Not talking—not posturing—doing. That’s Dean Heller, isn’t it?
“He didn’t come to Washington D.C. to court praise for lofty rhetoric or become a TV star. He came here to do. In just seven years, Dean has authored or helped introduce 100 pieces of legislation that are now law.
“Perhaps first and foremost, he’s built a reputation as one of the Senate’s chief advocates for veterans. Dean shares his home state with more than 200,000 men and women who have served our nation, including one he calls ‘Dad.’ Keeping the promise of top-notch VA services across Nevada’s widespread rural communities is no small task. The facilities in Reno, in particular, weren’t always up to the job. But day in and day out, Dean has made it his mission to right the ship.
“As a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, he’s fought to expand access to care, contributing key provisions to the VA Mission Act and spearheading the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act. It’s a legacy that’s already making a difference for our veterans. But these are hardly the only victories Dean’s won for Nevada and for our nation.
“He came to the Senate in 2011 representing a state that had been hit hard by the Great Recession and was trying hard to regain its footing. Nevada communities faced ballooning foreclosure rates and persistent unemployment. Fortunately, their new senator was intent on hooking up the economic jumper cables and getting things humming once more.
“Dean has seized opportunities to champion an economic agenda that puts workers and job creators back in the driver’s seat. He was a driving force behind the once-in-a-generation tax reform passed last December. It’s put more money in the pockets of working families. It’s pouring a new, 21st-century foundation for American businesses to compete, win, and create more jobs here at home.
“Today, Nevada’s doing better. Our nation is flourishing. And Dean Heller was there every step of the way. He was especially instrumental in making sure that tax reform increased the child tax credit. Dean knew that working parents need that money more than the IRS does. Nevada veterans, Nevada workers, Nevada families. Dean never lost sight of the reason he came here to Washington. He’s been a happy warrior here in the trenches, with a ready grin and an iron determination to do right by his friends and neighbors.
“I also have it on good authority that seeing Dean in action back home in his natural habitat is truly a sight to behold. His joy at every conversation, every handshake around Carson City, is palpable. Nevadans are Dean’s people—always have been. And he’s always been theirs, too.
“According to some of the staff who’d travel around the state with him, it’s practically impossible to make any brief stops, anywhere—at a fast food restaurant, or a sporting goods store, or even a gas station. Dean would inevitably run into friends and set about swapping stories or Carson City inside jokes.
“On the rare occasions when Dean didn’t know the proprietor or fellow customers—no trouble. He’d have a room full of new friends in about three minutes flat. I’m told it never got old for the people around Dean to witness the energy he drew from his friends, neighbors, and constituents. He was delighted to be one of them and honored to be their employee.
“‘A man of the people.’ Not a cliché, in this case. A reality. You don’t need to take my word for it. I hear there’s objective evidence out there—photographs from the Nevada Day Parade in Carson City. Suffice it to say it takes a certain kind of person to steal the show, riding horseback, dressed head-to-toe in full Western regalia, something like John Wayne. No wonder his grandkids -- Brielle, Zachary, and Ava -- know him as ‘Duke.’
“Now, his boss, Lynne, might very well have put him up to it. I hear she rides right there alongside him. But Dean’s no newcomer to the parade. In fact, it’s the very same parade he marched in as a Scout years ago. If you read that story in a book, you’d think it was almost too earnest and too all-American to be true. But that’s Dean Heller. He’s the paperboy who started out delivering the headlines and wound up making the headlines...The Senator who still saddles up for the same parade from his childhood memories. One of Northern Nevada’s favorite sons. And a dedicated servant of the entire Silver State.
“So Dean’s colleagues are really sorry to see him go. For a leader with this much heart and this much talent, any departure would feel premature. This one certainly does. But I doubt Dean will have trouble finding good uses for a little more spare time. I know he and Lynne must be looking forward to saddling up their horses and setting out for the Sierras a little more often than they’ve been able to lately. And I hear he could use a little bit of rehearsal time before he leads the Heller Family Band through its repertoire of Christmas carols this year. Lead trombone is no laughing matter. Maybe he’ll even find time to get back in the driver’s seat for a race or two.
“Whatever it is Dean does next, he should take with him great pride in all he has accomplished here. In a policy legacy that will continue lifting up our nation’s veterans, workers, and middle-class families for years and years to come. And the sincere best wishes of the friends he’s made here in this chamber—for health, happiness, and every future success for himself, Lynne, and their lovely family.”
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