McConnell Honors Retiring Senator Jim Inhofe

‘Over the last half century, Jim Inhofe’s devotion to his country, his fellow Oklahomans, and his conservative principles has produced a mountain of a legacy… Jim, thank you for your truly exemplary service.’

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

“The annual defense bill that I just discussed will carry the name of one of our most senior and distinguished colleagues this year — the outstanding Armed Services Committee Ranking Member to whose career it will provide the perfect capstone.

“Behind Senator Jim Inhofe’s often soft-spoken manner and unfailing humility are a pair of traits that have combined to produce one of the most effective legislators I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.

“At the same time, over the same one career, Jim’s name has come to mean both steady, solid conservative constancy here at home and relentless energy as a globetrotting dealmaker. The mixture has left his home state, our entire nation, and faraway lands all changed for the better.

“The roots of Jim’s conservative bona fides aren’t hard to trace. In fact, the story of his entry into politics is a familiar one for millions of Americans.

“There was honorable military service. There was hard work and success as a small businessman in his hometown of Tulsa. And then, there were the inevitable headaches of having your can-do, entrepreneurial dreams bogged down in bureaucracy and regulation. Jim knew it shouldn’t be that way. So he threw his hat in the ring.

“Jim’s passion for harnessing American energy was obvious pretty early on, too. Apparently, even while he was still a student at the University of Colorado, Jim got together with some classmates and filed a claim on uranium deposits discovered nearby.

“This is a man who seems to have been born with a built-in turboprop. Our friend has an insatiable drive to discover and get things done.

“Short stints and bouncing around were how a busy young Jim Inhofe worked his way to a college degree… by way of nine different schools. It’s also how this seasoned aviator circumnavigated the globe!

“Jim’s conservative convictions and his boundless problem-solving energy might have seemed to be on a collision course, but instead, they’ve proven the perfect harmony — 

“From the State Capitol, where Jim earned the trust of his Oklahoma Senate colleagues and served in the thankless role of minority leader…

“To a gubernatorial campaign during which he reportedly lost 57 pounds…

“To the 1994 Senate race, where our friend clawed his way back from 32 points down in the polls to win back a seat Republicans had held only six of the last 45 years…

“To the five more landslide re-elections that followed.

“You’d be forgiven if you assumed that such a successful elected official might have made some major compromises along the way. But you don’t become famous for flying planes upside down without a strong internal compass that stays fixed on true north.

“Our friend knows that faith can move mountains. And James Mountain Inhofe has himself been moved to incredible achievements by his love of God, love of country, and love of neighbor.

“Don’t get me wrong. Jim knows how to twist the screws to get things done:

“Like landing generational investments in transportation infrastructure across Oklahoma and the heartland…

“Or protecting American energy dominance, by pioneering and then protecting the new technologies and methods that have ushered in a whole new era of prosperity and independence for our country …

“Or strengthening and modernizing our armed forces by leading the must-pass NDAA across the finish line.

“Jim’s done it all. But in a city where a lot of people treat friendships and relationships as means to desired ends, Jim has always viewed genuine relationships as noble ends in themselves. 

“Just take it from our Democratic colleague from Rhode Island. Senator Whitehouse once had to admit that Jim was simultaneously his ‘worst foe’ and a ‘key ally.’

“Or consider the many years Jim has devoted to deep partnerships with leaders in Africa. By all accounts, Jim’s engagement began not with lobbying a particular issue or advancing a particular administration’s priorities.

“Our friend has never been anyone’s tool or puppet. Jim formed deep, genuine, personal bonds with fellow legislators and leaders in Africa just because he felt drawn to do so.

“But, as always happens with Jim, where relationships started, big results followed. Jim’s trusted status as a senior statesman and stable counselor had Secretaries of State, Secretaries of Defense, and Ambassadors seeking his sage advice.

“Just a few years ago, as I understand it, Jim was called upon to help ease an extremely tense and acrimonious political standoff between rival leaders in Kenya.

“Of course, he’d known both men for years. And when the opportunity arose, during the country’s national prayer breakfast, Jim took a moment of personal privilege after praying an invocation and got the two men to literally hug each other, in front of the cameras and their countrymen. It made international news.

“So you get the picture: relationships matter. But with Jim, two relationships matter most of all: the one with his God, and the one with his beloved Kay.

“Jim and Kay have been married for 63 years. And anyone who’s spent any time around Jim knows what happens when his beloved bride calls him up. It doesn’t matter if you’re the President of Kenya or the President of the United States – your conversation is politely put on hold. The woman Jim calls ‘his rock’ always comes first.

“Over the last half century, Jim Inhofe’s devotion to his country, his fellow Oklahomans, and his conservative principles has produced a mountain of a legacy.

“But I know his most cherished peak is his and Kay’s mutual love and devotion, and the legacy that relationship has produced. Namely, Perry, Katy, Molly, and Jim, who have in turn grown the Inhofe clan by — I believe — sixteen grandchildren.

“Our dear friend has given generously to his country. He’s more than earned some extra time with those he loves most.

“Jim, thank you for your truly exemplary service.”


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