12.11.19

Gardner Honors Senator Johnny Isakson’s Distinguished Career on Senate Floor

Isakson was instrumental in completing construction of the Aurora VA Medical Center

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) spoke on the floor of the United States Senate today in honor of Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), who announced he would leave the Senate at the end of the year due to health complications.

Isakson Floor Speech

NOTE: Click here or the picture above to view Senator Gardner’s remarks.

“Anyone who has ever worked with Johnny knows him as a kind, thoughtful, and compassionate colleague,” said Senator Gardner. “I wish Johnny and his wife Dianne the best as they get ready to begin a new chapter in their lives. I know they’re looking forward to having more time to spend with their three children and eight grandchildren, but we are very grateful for Johnny’s time and his service in the United States Senate, for all of his work to take care of our nation’s veterans, and for the quality of person that he is.”

Remarks as delivered:

Mr. President, I want to agree with my colleague from Alabama, Senator Jones. Now Senator Jones and I haven’t been here as long as some of our other colleagues have been, but I think it’s probably fair to say that when Senator Jones and I have a colleague who is departing or the presiding officer has a colleague who’s departing, there’s one day of farewell, maybe there’s an hour window where we can come to the floor or a reception in the Mansfield room to say thank you.

I think it’s fair to say that I’ve been in line for a long time to get to this day to say thank you to Johnny Isakson, as has my colleague Senator Jones. These tributes started when you first announced that you would be retiring from the Senate, and it is very fitting that they continue through this day because of the work that you have pursued, the accomplishments that you have made, but also the humanity that rests in your heart. All of us are better off because of your work, knowing you, and I hope that a little bit of Johnny Isakson rubs off on all of us that we can be here today knowing that we’re a better institution, better leaders, better public servants because of your model.

Johnny Isakson, Senator Isakson, has done a lot of things that have been discussed on the Senate floor, so I don’t know how much I can add but I’m going to add a few I think to the kind words that have been said.

You know, so many people have said such great things, the first time that you and I had an opportunity to really work together though, was something that will benefit generations of Coloradans. And that was the VA Hospital in Colorado – something that may have shaved off some of the patience that Senator Isakson has, seemed to be unending patience at times, this one though, I’m sure, took a little bit of a toll. Frustration with a very crazy collapse of a VA facility that had taken over a decade and hundreds of millions of dollars to complete. A project that started out in the nineties that didn’t get done until about a year ago or so. A project that started out at $300 million that ended up at over two billion dollars.

But through it all, you were mindful of a very simple purpose, Senator Isakson was mindful of a very simple purpose, and that is that this facility is to benefit the veterans who have given so much to this country. And the first thing you said to me, that Senator Isakson said to me, was that don't worry, we're going to get this done, and we're going to make reforms so that this never happens again.

Under Senator Isakson’s leadership, we've seen changes at the VA and we've also seen changes about how new facilities are going to be completed and built so that we can avoid the kinds of mistakes that led to the delays in Colorado. But ultimately, Senator Isakson knew that this would be the crown jewel in the Rocky Mountain region for veteran service and veteran care. And that's exactly what it continues to do, and we have Senator Isakson to thank for the completion of that and the time on task it took to get the job done.

Senator Isakson held a field hearing in Aurora, Colorado with I think at the time the undersecretary Sloan Gibson to find out what had happened, why the delays occurred and then to fix it and to hold the people who were responsible for the delays accountable. That's the kind of leadership that Senator Isakson provided. And you know throughout that process, Senator Isakson, I think I threatened to rename the colonoscopy unit after a couple of people. But to you, we should name the town after you for the work you did to complete that facility.

I remember the first time I gave him a little bit of a treat from Colorado to thank him for his work. It was a box of Enstrom toffee, a family company in Western Colorado. It's a pretty incredible treat and I gave it to him thinking that he'd never had this before and he looks at it and he says, “Oh, Enstrom toffee, I love this stuff. I used to give this out to my clients when I was in real estate.” And so I couldn't even surprise him with what I thought was a very special Colorado treat.

Johnny is the kind of person that has the ability to cut through a problem, to cut through the smoke, to cut through the haze and the fog of a challenge and to go right to the merits of it and to be able to very concisely riff on any issue at a moment's notice and cut to the heart of a problem, and to provide a solution to that problem and to that challenge. So you know the old saying goes, “you’re known by the company you keep.” And you look around this chamber, and you see the people who came to pay their thanks to Senator Isakson. It was pretty good company. And you’ve done such great things for Georgia, for this country, I can’t thank you enough, Senator Isakson enough, for his leadership for helping us all out in Colorado and making this country a better place. Senator Isakson, thank you for all that you have done.

I yield the floor.

###

Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.