George H.W. Bush’s Final Gift to Washington

12.05.18
Joyce N. Boghosian
Politics /05 Dec 2018
12.05.18

George H.W. Bush’s Final Gift to Washington

Time, love and tenderness are always running short on Capitol Hill. The current climate in Washington, post-contentious mid-term election scramble, pre-looming immigration showdown, and the possible government shutdown, would have undoubtedly proved no exception were it not for former President George H.W. Bush. Even in death, he serves his country.

The passing of former president and life-long statesman, George H.W. Bush, and perhaps the many tributes and reminders of a long life spent in public service, seems to have taken all the fight out of legislators to engage in a bitter feud over border wall funding. At least for now.

Republicans and Democrats had been firmly deadlocked over funding for President Trump’s proposed border security improvements and were facing a December 7th deadline to reach an agreement or risk a government shutdown.

After the 41st president’s passing, lawmakers agreed to postpone votes, giving both sides of the aisle more time to pause and reflect. And time, perhaps, to consider their own legacies.

Votes Postponed

On Monday, Congressional leaders approved a two-week funding respite that pushes back the looming government shutdown deadline until December 21. The two-week stopgap measure, known as a continuing resolution, will fund government agencies through December 21.

The House has canceled votes and committee meetings for the week. House Speaker Paul Ryan has also postponed his farewell address at the Library of Congress. Even the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony has been delayed.

In Memorial

Instead, Capitol Hill will spend the next few days remembering and honoring George H.W. Bush. He will lie in state, on the storied Abraham Lincoln catafalque and under the Brumidi fresco “The Apotheosis of Washington,” until Wednesday morning.

His funeral will then be held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

President Trump has ordered the federal government to close on Wednesday, declaring it a national day of mourning for the former president.

The Art of the Grand Bargain

George H.W. Bush was known for his character, steadiness and modest humility. He never even wrote an autobiography. He was also well known as someone who wasn’t afraid to cut deals with the other side.

A Bipartisan Tribute

Together, members of the Senate made their way to the majestic Capitol Rotunda, where the former president will lie in state until Wednesday.

Inside the Rotunda, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) stood shoulder to shoulder with Minority Leader, and next House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

Appropriations Committee members Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) walked with their arms linked. Maryland’s Republican Governor Larry Hogan chatted easily with D.C.’s Democrat Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Dick Cheney, Bush’s former Vice President, walked in with former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who served as Bush’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War.

Even in the press, the former president has unusually broad support. In Bloomberg’s “George H.W. Bush Was the Nice Guy Who Finished First,” the 41st president is credited with unusual respect across the political aisle.

Maureen Dowd liked him, writing affectionately of their long friendship for the New York Times in “The Patrician President and the Reporterette: A Screwball Story” and calling Bush her “My faithful correspondent, Poppy Bush, scribbling and typing notes through decades of history.” When he disagreed with her, which he sometimes did, he always did it kindly and politely. And privately.

The Public Servant

Though he was born to privilege, George H.W. Bush dedicated his life to public service. Will Republicans and Democrats be inspired by his sterling example to find better and more civil ways of working together?

For the statesman, the family man and the patriot, George H.W. Bush, there could be no higher tribute.

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