Washington D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich gave back-to-back speeches on the Senate floor in honor of former Senator Pete Domenici, who passed away in September.
Senator Heinrich's remarks as prepared for delivery are below.
I am proud to join my fellow Senator from New Mexico Tom Udall today to recognize the life and service of the longest serving senator from our great state, Senator Pete Domenici.
Senator Domenici dedicated his entire life to the state and people he loved.
He served our state in the Senate for 36 years.
His decades of service to New Mexico left a lasting impact that will continue to be felt in every corner of our state for many years to come.
Many in New Mexico called him Saint Pete because of how relentlessly he fought on the Appropriations and Budget Committees to secure resources for the people of New Mexico.
You can still see the fruits of his labors at our state’s national labs, at our military installations, at our colleges and universities, in water systems and community centers all over our state.
And that is because while he worked on the forefront of major policy debates here in the Senate, Pete Domenici always put the interests of New Mexico above all else.
Just like me, Senator Domenici’s first public service experience came on Albuquerque’s City Council—then called the City Commission.
At least in my experience, I know that working at the local level was an invaluable way to learn how to hear from diverse viewpoints and stakeholders and find ways to build consensus and get results for my constituents.
I have tried to bring that approach with me into the Senate, and I know that Senator Domenici did the same.
I am grateful for the example Senator Domenici set for all of us here in this body on how to advance important and complex policy goals in Washington with civility.
Republicans and Democrats alike who worked with him on issues like the budget, energy, national defense, nuclear deterrence, and mental health parity still point to his dedication to bipartisan cooperation and compromise.
Although they didn’t always see eye to eye, Senator Domenici, a Republican, and Senator Jeff Bingaman, a Democrat who served New Mexico alongside him for the vast majority of his time in the Senate, always made a point of improving the lives of New Mexicans by working together.
Their spirit of cooperation across party lines is still present in our state’s congressional delegation.
And I believe that Senator Domenici’s focus on putting policy results above party politics still resonates today.
One of the greatest examples of this was Senator Domenici’s work alongside two progressive Democratic lions of the Senate, Paul Wellstone and Ted Kennedy, to pass mental health parity legislation.
Senators Domenici and Wellstone didn’t agree on many issues, but they found something they had close experience with.
Both senators had close family members who had experienced great challenges finding a way to pay for mental health treatment.
Insurance companies were not required to cover mental health and addiction treatment in the same way they covered treatment for any other diseases.
Because of that, most insurance companies didn’t cover these essential services at all.
Starting in the mid-1990s, Senators Domenici and Wellstone worked with mental health advocates to advance legislation to change that.
After Senator Wellstone was killed in a tragic plane crash, Senator Domenici kept up the fight for six more years with Senator Kennedy.
The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act was finally passed in October of 2008, only a few months before Senator Domenici's retirement from the Senate.
That is the type of bipartisanship and statesmanship on behalf of the American people that we should all remember.
We should all try better to keep that spirit alive in today’s Senate.
I join all New Mexicans, and all Americans, in mourning the passing of Senator Pete Domenici.
Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with his wife, Nancy, and all of his family and loved ones at this time of great loss.
I am certain that Senator Domenici’s legacy will not be forgotten in New Mexico or here in the Senate.