TRIBUTE TO BARBARA BOXER; Congressional Record Vol. 162, No. 176
(Senate - December 07, 2016)

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[Pages S6826-S6827]
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                        TRIBUTE TO BARBARA BOXER

  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, in 1922, Rebecca Latimer Felton was the 
first woman to sit in the U.S. Senate. She served in this body for only 
1 day, but

[[Page S6827]]

during those 24 hours she made a bold prediction for her time about the 
future role women would play in the Senate. She said: ``When the women 
of the country come in and sit with you . . . you will get ability, you 
will get integrity of purpose, you will get exalted patriotism, and you 
will get unstinted usefulness.'' I will second that.
  Barbara and I served together in the House--and we have served 
together in the Senate for 20 years. And let me tell you, no one 
embodies Senator Felton's prediction better than Barbara Boxer.
  Throughout the years, I have loved getting to know Barbara as a 
colleague, but more importantly as a friend. Loretta and I joined 
Barbara and her husband, Stu, on official trips, personal vacations and 
countless dinners. We have eaten, drank, joked, and bonded. And as her 
career in the Senate comes to an end, keeping those bonds of friendship 
strong as she heads west is one my life goals.
  Barbara made quite an impact on the Senate Chamber before she even 
entered this body. On October 9, 1991, the Senate Judiciary Committee 
was set to vote on the nomination of Justice Clarence Thomas to serve a 
lifetime appointment on the U.S. Supreme Court, without listening to 
Professor Anita Hill's allegations of sexual harassment. At the time, 
there were two women in the Senate, Barbara Mikulski and Nancy Landon 
Kassebaum. Now, while this was going on in the Senate, the women of the 
House tried speaking out in that body. They were censured. And they had 
enough. So they marched out of the House and over to the Senate--29 
women House Members, led by Congresswoman Pat Schroeder from Colorado 
and Barbara Boxer from California. American politics has never been the 
  The following year, a number of esteemed women were elected to the 
U.S. Senate. Several reporters deemed 1992: ``the Year of the Woman.'' 
Senator Mikulski, the dean of women, as she is often referred to, said: 
``Calling 1992 the Year of the Woman makes it sound like the Year of 
the Caribou or the Year of the Asparagus. We're not a fad, fancy or a 
year.'' She was right. But California made history. For the first time, 
one State sent two women to represent them in the Senate: Dianne 
Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.
  Barbara often reminds me of the line from Shakespeare's--A Midsummer 
Night's Dream: ``Though she be but little, she is fierce.'' In 1994, 
when Republicans took control of Congress, one of the first things they 
did was go after environmental regulations, including rules to limit 
the amount of arsenic in the drinking water. Barbara immediately 
launched a good, old-fashioned, 3-day ``Ms. Smith Goes to Washington'' 
filibuster. And like most of the fights she takes on, she won.
  Barbara is a call-it-as-you-see-it kind of person. Maybe it is 
because she grew up in the no-nonsense, working-class town of Brooklyn. 
Or maybe it is because her parents and Jewish grandparents, who 
immigrated to this country from Russia instilled in her a deep love for 
America's Constitution and freedoms--a sense of obligation to give 
something back and a determination to fight for underdogs, truth and 
  She has sponsored or cosponsored more than 1,200 pieces of 
legislation and helped lead the fight on issues ranging from women's 
rights to healthcare to protecting California's natural wonders to 
keeping lead and other potentially lethal hazards out of children's 
  The vote that sealed our spiritual kinship took place in October 2002 
when she and I voted against the Iraq war resolution. One of our dear 
friends, Paul Wellstone, also voted against the resolution. Paul was in 
a tough reelection fight that year. A reporter asked him if it was a 
hard choice to vote against the war. Paul said it was a risk, but not a 
choice. His conscience wouldn't let him vote any other way. It seems to 
me that is how Barbara Boxer approaches every one of her votes in 
Congress: It might be a risk, but it is not a choice. She listens to 
her conscience, and the people of California respect her for it. But 
let me be clear: that doesn't mean she will not work hard to find a 
  She proved that in recent years when she and Jim Inhofe--the 
unlikeliest of odd couples--worked together to pass important 
legislation updating regulations on toxic chemicals and shepherding 
through a surface transportation bill that no one thought could be 
  I will close with this. Early in Barbara's political career, people 
used to come up to her and say: How did you get so strong, how did you 
get so tough? Barbara would humbly respond: Oh, not tough. I am just an 
ordinary person, and I do what I think is right. I agree with most of 
that, but let me tell you--Barbara is as tough as they come. She can't 
be bullied or intimidated, and she never loses her courage. I want to 
thank Barbara for sacrificing so much time with her own family to make 
the families of America safer, healthier, and more hopeful. For that 
and a thousand other reasons, I will miss her in the Senate. But I know 
I can count on her to keep pushing those of us who remain to listen to 
our consciences--to fight for change and do the right thing.