Henry Hyde of Illinois served as the chairman of this committee for six years before his retirement at the end of the 109th Congress.
It is especially fitting that it will be forever identified with the outgoing chairman of the House International Relations Committee. And if it weren’t for his astonishing array of accomplishments, The Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act could easily become known as the crowning achievement of the gentleman from Illinois. But the fact is, Mr. Speaker, this ground-breaking legislation is but one of the innumerable milestones in Henry Hyde’s impressive record of public service.
Henry is retiring from Congress after choosing not to seek a 17th consecutive term. He would have loved to stay with us longer, but as he recently told an interviewer, “Father Time and Mother Nature have a way of beating up on me.”
By contrast, Mr. Speaker, I am confident that History will be kind to Henry Hyde.
A member of the International Relations Committee since 1982, Henry has been a key figure in crucial debates and decisions about war and peace, international arms control, the expansion of NATO, United Nations reform and halting the spread of HIV-AIDS, which he has astutely compared to the Bubonic Plague in its tragic scope.
Henry has also served with distinction on the Judiciary and Intelligence committees, but I will let others speak to his achievements there. And of course, the continued, devoted support by his constituents through 16 terms in Congress speaks volumes about his work on behalf of his district.
It was in the political cauldron of Chicago that Henry Hyde became entranced with politics early in life. He grew up as an Irish Catholic Democrat, but strayed from one of those faiths in time to vote for Dwight D. Eisenhower for president. So he became a Republican sometime in the 1940s.
But Mr. Speaker, I prefer not two dwell on the things that divide me from my dear friend Henry Hyde. Rather, I’d like to point out that the both of us came of age during the Second World War, and this has formed our world views and forged our common values. And it is on this basis that we have often seen eye to eye and found ourselves shoulder to shoulder in struggles that consistently have been of service to our national security, from the intricacies of key international agreements to the staggeringly complex issues involved in the fight against global terrorism.
Henry has held a firm grip on the gavel in the International Relations Committee these past six years, through some of the most pivotal and riveting challenges of our times. He wielded his authority with fairness, intellectual honesty and no small amount of wit. As The Washington Post noted in 1998, he “has managed to maintain a reputation for even-handedness, for patience and restraint, a remarkable feat for someone known both for his savagely held beliefs and for his keen sense of which way the wind blows.'' Mr. Speaker, the International Relations Committee flourished under Henry Hyde’s direction.
It will be daunting for me to take up the gavel as Henry Hyde leaves us, Mr. Speaker. Anyone who knows him will understand how much Henry will be missed in our committee and in this House. Earlier this week we commemorated Henry’s contributions by lending his name to a room in this very building, the Capitol. He will therefore always have a place here – and, what is far more important, he will have a place in the hearts of his colleagues. Some of us may disagree with some of his policies, but he is one of the institutional treasures around here, a true gentleman of the House.