Honoring Henry Hyde's Lasting Legacy

The following speech was delivered Tuesday prior to the House’s passage of legislation to name a room, H-139, in the U.S. Capitol after Rep. Henry Hyde.

As this session of Congress draws to a close, so draws to a close also the storied career of a lion of the right, Henry Hyde of Illinois.

As the chairman of several major committees at the center of repeated national controversies, Henry Hyde, as members on both sides of the aisle know, has been a paragon of dignity, civility and commitment to principle, and I would add he has been a lion of the right to life, and this chamber will miss his roar.

Chairman Hyde’s biography speaks for itself. He is the holder of no fewer than eight honorary degrees from eight separate colleges and universities in addition to his B.S. from Georgetown and his J.D. from the Loyola University School of Law.

His service in the Navy took him to Lingayen Gulf, an extension of the South China Sea. Upon returning home, he was elected to the Illinois House in 1966 and then to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1974, where he has served with distinction.

Throughout his career, whether it was closed-door White House briefings or high-level meetings with diplomats, Henry Hyde has played a vital role in this nation’s war on terrorism. And as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, he held fair hearings and respected the constitutional law of our Founding Fathers.

It is the Hyde Amendment for which the gentleman from Illinois first made his name in Congress. He eloquently remarked, “I look for the common thread in slavery, the Holocaust and abortion. To me, the common thread is dehumanizing people.”

The first Hyde Amendment passed in 1976 banning abortions financed by Medicaid and has remained in force ever since. An argument can be made that it is the most important piece of legislation this Congress has considered in the past 50 years.

Henry Hyde’s respect for life extends to his support for the family leave bill and his sponsorship of legislation to expand the number of women eligible for pregnancy benefits.

Quite simply, when I think of Henry Hyde’s career and the classic speeches he has given in this august chamber, I of think another classic, “Ulysses,” by Alfred Lord Tennyson, who wrote:

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in the old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal-temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Let us honor this rare leader, and may God bless the golden years of the gentleman from Illinois.