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Looking to Inouye’s family, seated at his left, he said, “Your dad did more for me than you’ll ever know.”
Biden also spoke of Inouye’s unshakable integrity, the resolve of his character and of how his great professional success was due in part to moral compass.
“That ... is the most valuable capital any man or woman who has ever served in this place can possess. And he had it from the outset,” he said.
Wreaths were placed on three sides of Inouye’s casket by Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., by Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and by Biden. After a benediction by the House chaplain, the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, the procession began for family and lawmakers to pay their respects.
Inouye’s wife, Irene Hirano, held the arm of a military officer as she approached the catafalque alone, in a somewhat private moment. He then led her around the curve of the Rotunda to accept the condolences of the senators who stood behind the rope barriers. She paused to speak with Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., who just Wednesday was tapped to succeed Inouye at the helm of the Appropriations Committee.
As the senators made their loop around the hall, led by Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer, they passed House lawmakers who were grouped in a separate section.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and his wife paused in front of the casket and put their arms around each other, and as they moved on they remained arm-in-arm.
And Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, D-Hawaii, who served with Inouye for two decades and who will retire at the end of this session, was walking as he normally does, slowly and bent over his cane. His eyes were wet and red-rimmed, but the 88-year-old lawmaker smiled as he shook hands with his friends from the other chamber.
He was trailed closely by his communications director, Jesse Broder Van Dyke, who was pulled into a hug by Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii.
Many senators stopped to embrace Hanabusa. Before his death, Inouye asked Hawaii Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie to appoint her to his seat.
Pelosi took Hanabusa’s hand when it was House members’ turn to take their lap around the casket, led by House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving.
Rep.-elect Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., a war veteran herself, came to Washington for the ceremony and paused in her wheelchair to give a salute. Another veteran, outgoing Rep. Allen B. West, R-Fla., did so, too.
Later in the day, another old soldier and friend, former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., was led by Reid and McConnell into the Rotunda to say goodbye. Dole and Inouye met after World War II, when they were both recovering from grave injuries.