The Senate's rare Sunday session convened on a somber note, mourning the loss of a son of the chamber's president.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., each opened with condolences for Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., on the death of his son Beau Biden, the former attorney general of Delaware, Saturday night.
Shortly after that, Democratic Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the most senior member of the Senate, recalled watching Beau grow up from the time he arrived in the Senate shortly after the elder Biden's election.
"I knew the tragedy his family had gone through, and I cherished time with his office right near mine, when his sons Beau and Hunter would be there with him," Leahy said. "I watched them grow up. I saw Beau Biden become the epitome of what a ... state's attorney general should be. That's a model that all attorneys general throughout the country could have followed."
"I was in Iraq during the war. It was a day when it was well over a hundred degrees out. I was being brought to a place where there was going to be a briefing. I was being zipped into this building. There were a number of soldiers wearing t-shirts, shorts and sidearms playing ball outside in this 110, 120-degree heat. As I went in the door, one of them turned around and gave me a big wave, but his arm blocked his face. I wasn't sure who it was," Leahy said. "It was Beau Biden. I remember we gave each other a big hug, and he was there as a captain in the Delaware reserves — decorated for his service. We talked about what he was doing. He was praising the men and women who worked there."
Leahy said that as was his custom with service members with ties to Vermont, he told Beau that he would call his father, by then already the vice president. Leahy said that when he reached Biden in Washington, Beau had already emailed his father to say to expect the phone call through the White House switchboard.
"We talked about what a great job Beau was doing. You could hear the pride in his father's voice. You could hear his pride," Leahy said of the vice president. "It was pride that was deserved."
Beau Biden was awarded the Bronze Star.
"I remember Joe saying, when we were first here in the Senate, the two of us, he was going home every night he'd be on the train heading home," Leahy said. "Why? Not as much even that the kids needed him, but he needed them."
McConnell, minutes before, extended sympathies on behalf of the Senate, noting Biden's current constitutional role as its presiding officer after 36 years of service.
"I'd like to begin by expressing sincere condolences to the entire Biden family in their moment of such deep and profound loss. Beau Biden was known to many as a dedicated public servant, a loving father of two, and a devoted partner to the woman he loved: Hallie," said McConnell. "I've known the vice president for many years, and it’s hard to think of anything more important to him than his faith and his family. I hope he will find comfort in the former as he grieves such a terrible loss."
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