Former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker, Jr., Dies at 88

Howard Baker, a Republican U.S. Senator from Tennessee, who also served as President Ronald Reagan’s Chief of Staff, and United States Ambassador to Japan, has died. Baker was 88.

President Obama and VP Biden issued Statements on his Passing

President Barack Obama said Baker was many things over the course of his career, and Vice President Joe Biden noted that Baker partnered with him on some of the most significant pieces of legislation that he worked on in Congress.

President Obama’s Statement:

Michelle and I were saddened to hear about the passing of Howard Baker.  Howard was many things over the course of his career – from Senate Majority Leader, to White House Chief of Staff, to Ambassador.  Yet, it was his ability to broker compromise and his unofficial role as the “Great Conciliator” that won him admirers across party lines, over multiple generations, and beyond the state he called home.  Over an 18-year Senate career, Howard fought for the people of Tennessee and helped lead America through difficult times. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Howard’s wife Nancy and the entire Baker family.

Statement by Vice President Biden

Jill and I were saddened to hear of the passing of our friend, former Ambassador, White House Chief of Staff and Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker. And our hearts go out to his wife Senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker, who partnered with me on some of the most significant pieces of legislation that I worked on in Congress.

Howard and I worked together and traveled together, and we became good friends over the years. He was one of the best Majority Leaders I’ve ever served with. He was honorable, he was tough, and he was fair. He possessed tremendous wisdom and integrity, and he had an ability to put himself in the other person’s shoes so he could work out an honorable compromise.

I watched Howard do it time and time again. He teamed up with Senator Ed Muskie to pass the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. He helped restore confidence in the integrity of government as a member of the Watergate Committee. He risked his career to pass the Panama Canal Treaty. And when he was President Reagan’s Chief of Staff, I was honored to work with him on the judicial nomination process.

President Harry Truman once said, “It’s understanding that gives us the ability to have peace. When you understand the other fellow’s viewpoint, and he understands ours, then you can sit down and you can work out your differences.” That’s who Howard Baker was. The understandings he reached at every stage of his career have made our country and our world a better place. He was a good man.

Photo: Howard Baker