VIDEO: Heinrich Delivers Remarks Commemorating Senator Tom Udall

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) delivered farewell remarks on the Senator Floor recognizing U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.).

VIDEO: Heinrich Delivers Remarks Commemorating Senator Tom Udall [HD DOWNLOAD LINK HERE]

Senator Heinrich has served alongside Senator Udall in the U.S. Senate since 2013 and in the New Mexico Congressional Delegation since 2009.

Senator Heinrich's remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

It is my honor to commend the Senior Senator from New Mexico, my longtime partner in this chamber, and my good friend, Tom Udall, for his years of service to our state and to our nation.

Before I speak about Tom, I would like to quickly take a moment to also recognize the service of Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small over these last two years.

Congresswoman Torres Small actually served for a time in Senator Udall’s office in Las Cruces.

For these last two years in the House of Representatives, she has dedicated herself to delivering resources for the people of southern New Mexico.

I am so grateful to have served alongside Xochitl in our congressional delegation, and I am greatly looking forward to seeing how she will contribute her heart and talents to New Mexico next.

Now let me tell you a little bit about our senior senator.

One of the first times I ever spent any serious time with Tom Udall was actually on horseback.

Tom was serving at that time as the Congressman for northern New Mexico’s 3rd District, while I was leading the Coalition for New Mexico Wilderness. 

Together, we rode into the rugged mesas and canyons east of Las Vegas, New Mexico that we both hoped could soon be designated as the Sabinoso Wilderness.

It was clear right away that he shared my sense of wonder in wild places and a strong commitment to protect precious landscapes for future generations.

And despite his day job walking the halls of Congress, he was pretty comfortable on that horse of his.

More than a decade later, Tom and I would repeat that horseback ride in the Sabinoso alongside President Trump’s then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

We were both serving together in the Senate by this point.

And we had successfully worked together to establish not just the Sabinoso Wilderness, but also the Ojito, the Columbine-Hondo, the Valles Caldera National Preserve, and the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte National Monuments.

Now we were trying to convince Secretary Zinke—someone I might describe as a wilderness skeptic—to sign off on the Bureau of Land Management’s acceptance of a generous land donation by the Wilderness Land Trust.

This land donation would finally open up public access to the spectacular opportunities in the Sabinoso—which was then totally landlocked by private lands, and it would substantially grow the Sabinoso Wilderness Area.

A couple hours of both of us riding into Canyon Largo alongside Secretary Zinke, local sportsmen, public lands advocates, and community leaders accomplished what months of testy congressional hearings and office meetings here in Washington could not.

Just days after his visit, Secretary Zinke announced that his reservations over accepting new wilderness were assuaged and that he would approve the donation.

Thanks to our efforts and that horseback ride, for years to come, all New Mexicans will be able to visit this stunning gem of rim rock canyon wilderness that we all own. 

This story is just one example from Senator Udall’s long career that demonstrates how bringing people together—even those who may have major disagreements—can still help you find some common ground and forge a productive path forward.

That’s one of the main lessons that I will take with me always from the example Senator Udall sets as a principled leader.

Tom has devoted his entire life to serving the people of New Mexico.

As our state’s Attorney General, Tom took on major challenges from curbing pervasive drunk driving and domestic violence to prosecuting unethical and corrupt politicians and protecting consumers and seniors from predatory scams.

Then, during his ten years of service in the U.S. House of Representatives, Tom fought to deliver for northern New Mexico’s communities.

He also stood firmly against the Bush administration’s tax cuts for the wealthy, opposed the misguided invasion of Iraq, and called on Congress to rein in the civil liberties abuses in the Patriot Act.

Tom was first elected to serve our state in the United States Senate in the exact same year that I first came to Congress.

It has been a privilege to sit in a front row seat during his time leading our state’s congressional delegation.

And I believe all of us in this body can agree that there are few greater examples than Tom Udall in embodying the best of what it can mean to be a senator.

Over his two terms in this chamber, Tom has shown us all how to act with decency and integrity, how to stay true to your principles, but also how to find the deliberative compromises that have become all too rare in today’s Senate.

Tom knows that to get anything done—especially in this era of extremely polarized party politics—you need to be able to bring people together, have the patience to work through disagreements, and focus on results.

That was perhaps best demonstrated in his ability to pass the landmark bipartisan overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act—likely the greatest environmental law achievement in the last decade.

TSCA is just about the most complicated law that you could possibly imagine. 

However, the powers it grants to the Environmental Protection Agency are some of the only things protecting all of us from harmful chemicals.

In the last decade, it became increasingly clear that the original law, which passed back in the 1970s, was no longer effective and required significant reforms.

But getting a new law passed had proven to be impossible for many senators who had tried for years to get it done.

Because of all the major industry interests and disagreements from various groups, TSCA Reform had become one of the many things that conventional wisdom said would never get done—especially in today’s gridlocked Congress.

But Tom didn’t take “No” for an answer. 

He took on the years-long daunting challenge of convening a wide range of stakeholders to get the details right and successfully steered a new law through to final passage.

I believe Tom Udall was successful in this precisely because of the way he stands up for his principles with moral clarity.

At a time when our democracy has felt fragile, Tom has led the way in fighting the corrosive effects of dark money in our politics.

He championed voting rights.

And he called for rules reforms to make the Senate work for We The People once again. 

Through his role on the Foreign Relations Committee, Tom has held administrations from both parties accountable for responsibly exercising American power overseas.

Tom has been a steadfast champion and ally for Indian Country, fighting for water access, education, health care, and law enforcement resources for tribal nations. 

For years, Tom has called on us to finally confront the climate crisis that threatens New Mexico’s land and water and the future of our entire planet.

And I have been so proud to partner with Tom over these last years to pass landmark protections for the natural resources and public lands that we all treasure in New Mexico.

Our children and future generations will see the legacy of Tom’s conservation work for years to come.

Finally, it goes almost without saying, but I am confident that Tom leaving the Senate will not mean leaving behind his lifetime commitment to service.

Far from it.

Whatever this next chapter brings, I’m certain Tom will never stop looking for ways to help the people of New Mexico.

Though I do hope he will also find time to get outside in a remote mountain pass or on a fast moving river.

It has truly been the honor of a lifetime to serve alongside Senator Udall for the last 12 years and fight together to deliver resources and results for New Mexicans.

Thank you, Tom, for everything you have taught me, and for everything you and Jill have done for New Mexicans and all Americans.

Julie and I wish you all the best in this next stage of your life.