It was the second time this month that former Sen. Bob Dole has visited his old haunt.
Earlier in December, the 89-year-old Kansas Republican came to the Senate floor in a wheelchair to implore his colleagues to vote for a United Nations disability rights treaty.
On Thursday afternoon, he walked half the length of the Rotunda and back to say goodbye to an old friend.
The memorial service for Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawaii, took place in the morning with eulogies from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
Inouye, the second-longest-serving senator in history, died Monday at the age of 88. He will lie in state at the center of the Rotunda, his casket draped with the American flag, until Friday morning, when he will be transported for another service at the National Cathedral.
His storied relationship with Dole is well-known. The two men met in a Michigan army hospital, where they were both recovering from injuries sustained during World War II, and they went on to serve side by side in Congress for just less than three decades. Dole went on to serve as the Senate’s top Republican and then left Capitol Hill to run for president; Inouye remained in the Senate, becoming president pro tempore and the chairman of the Appropriations Committee.
“Sen. Dole told Sen. Inouye he planned to go to law school and eventually serve in Congress,” Reid said in his remarks Thursday. “Dan Inouye was elected to Congress in 1959 as Hawaii’s first Congressman; Sen. Dole was elected to Congress a year later. Sen. Inouye always joked, ‘I went with the Dole plan, and I beat him.’”
Dole was not at Thursday morning’s service. He arrived about 4 p.m. as part of a cycle of visitors filtering in and out of the Rotunda to pay respects — staffers and former colleagues, constituents and tourists just passing through.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., led a women’s basketball team into the Rotunda. House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., came to view the casket of his Senate counterpart in a solemn moment.
And Dole, held by his wife, former Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., shuffled slowly forward, followed by Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Unlike other visitors, who are not allowed inside the roped off area where four Capitol Police officers stand guard over the casket, the Doles were ushered through. They stepped gingerly onto the small platform of the catafalque on which the casket sat so they could lay their hands against the flag.
Struggling to stand and overcome with emotion, Dole shook and wiped away a tear.
He could have come forward in his wheelchair, but he opted to stand.
“I wouldn’t want Danny to see me in a wheelchair,” he said.