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Senate leaders praise Lugar in floor tribute


– Tributes continue to pour in for Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., who leaves office at month’s end after 36 years.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., each called Lugar a “giant” of the chamber on Tuesday.

McConnell recounted highlights of Lugar’s life: Eagle Scout, high school and college valedictorian, Rhodes Scholar, Navy intelligence officer, businessman, school board member and Indianapolis mayor, all before he was first elected to the Senate in 1976.

“He’s excelled at everything he’s ever done. And most incredibly, he’s done it with perfectly smooth elbows,” McConnell said on the floor of the Senate. “Walk into any office on Capitol Hill, and you won’t find a single person who will say a bad word about Dick Lugar.

“He’s earned the admiration and respect of everyone who’s ever crossed his path. I assure you in the world of politics, that’s nothing short of a miracle,” McConnell said.

Lugar, 80, lost this year’s Republican primary election to state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who was defeated in the general election by Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd.

McConnell touted Lugar’s expertise in trade, agriculture and national security policies, as well as his big appetite for knowledge and data.

“Now to a lot of liberals, he’s a walking contradiction: a Republican intellectual. And he’s always worn that reputation lightly,” McConnell said.

The Republican leader talked at length about the 1991 Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction legislation that has dismantled thousands of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in the former Soviet Union. The program “is a great achievement, not just for (Lugar) but for the entire world,” McConnell said.

“I have no doubt he’ll be remembered as one of the best” senators, he said.

Durbin agreed a short time later.

“There aren’t many with the vision of Dick Lugar,” he said in his remarks on the floor.

Durbin said Lugar has been “a powerful force” on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and “an extraordinary ally and colleague on so many important issues.”

Also Tuesday, Lugar was named the recipient of the 2012 Commitment to Development “Ideas in Action” Award, sponsored by the Center for Global Development and the publisher of Foreign Policy magazine. The annual award is given to people or groups “for making a significant contribution to changing attitudes and policies of the rich and powerful toward the developing world,” according to the sponsors.

President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta heaped praise on Lugar on Dec. 3 as the six-term senator and his Nunn-Lugar partner, former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia, received the Department of Defense’s highest civilian honor, the Medal for Distinguished Service.

Lugar was honored last weekend by the Hoosier Environmental Council, which gave him its inaugural Statesman Award. He also was honored recently by the U.S.-Central Asia Enterprise Foundation.

Lugar and the University of Indianapolis announced Friday that he will lead a Washington, D.C., internship academy named for him. Lugar also will deliver occasional lectures as a distinguished professor at the University of Indianapolis.