Washington, DC – The Bipartisan Policy Center expresses our deepest condolences to the family of Sen. Bob Dole on his passing today at the age of 98. Sen. Dole was a soldier and statesman, a giant in the U.S. Senate, and a political leader who knew that working across the aisle is the only way to sustain our democracy. Sen. Dole has touched the lives of countless Americans—not just through his legislative accomplishments and philanthropy but by the personal example he set of honesty, courage, and patriotism.
After leaving public life, Sen. Dole joined forces with Sens. Howard Baker, George Mitchell, and Tom Daschle to form the Bipartisan Policy Center.
“Senator Dole was a fierce political competitor, the quintessential man in the arena. But he knew when to put country ahead of partisanship. He saw politics as the means to an end, one of righting wrongs, improving lives, helping people in need, and strengthening America. It is this vision that led Senator Dole to bring together one-time political adversaries to create a think tank that works to bridge America’s political divide,” said Jason Grumet, president of the Bipartisan Policy Center. “Among Senator Dole’s many remarkable traits, his unique capacity for humor—no matter the circumstance—was essential to his leadership. Senator Dole’s advice that we should take the nation seriously, far more seriously than ourselves, has never been more important. We are deeply saddened by Senator Dole’s passing but more resolved than ever to advance his legacy.”
“Bob’s friendship was a blessing that enriched my life beyond measure. His dedication to public service, his determination to keep Washington and Congress places of civility, and his kindness to me and my wife, Linda, made our friendship a blessing as rich as life offers,” said Sen. Daschle, co-founder of the Bipartisan Policy Center. “Bob didn’t always have an easy life. He faced some hard yesterdays. He endured losses—physical, political, and personal. But for all he did lose, Bob never lost himself. He never lost his sense of humor. He never lost his sense of integrity. He never lost his love for his hometown of Russell, Kansas, or his love for his wife, Elizabeth. And he never lost his hope for tomorrow,” Daschle added.
Just last week, Sen. Dole penned an op-ed that includes the following appeal to his fellow Americans:
“Too many of us have sacrificed too much in defending that freedom from foreign adversaries to allow our democracy to crumble under a state of infighting that grows more unacceptable by the day. Take it from Eisenhower, and the dwindling band of brothers who fought under his command: ‘Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose.’ And take it from me: Our history is rich with political debate and deep divisions, but collectively we share a common purpose for a better America. We cannot let political differences stand in the way of that common good.”
In 1983, Sen. Baker tapped Sen. Dole to sit on the Social Security Committee. To ensure Social Security remained solvent, Sen. Dole reached across the aisle and worked tirelessly with Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Their final recommendations were enacted into law.
In a personal note to Sen. Dole, President Ronald Reagan wrote, “I salute you for the leadership role you played in making this landmark legislation possible. This compromise proves that bipartisanship can resolve serious national problems. It is a clear and dramatic demonstration of how effectively our system works when men and women join together for the common good.”
Well before his work with BPC, Sen. Dole was known as a lawmaker willing to seek out compromises in order to pass important legislation. In 1977, Sen. Dole joined Democratic Sen. George McGovern to forge a bipartisan compromise for providing federal support to needy families. Their proposal—the 1977 Food Stamp Act—controlled costs while streamlining food purchases for eligible families.
“The Food Stamps Program, Social Security reform, and the Americans with Disabilities Act all carry the stamp of Bob Dole’s character,” said BPC co-founder Sen. Mitchell. Sen. Dole and Sen. Mitchell were early supporters of the ADA and were instrumental in its passage. “Bob combined strong convictions with a pragmatist’s sense of the need to get things done. That’s a rare combination, but it is essential to a functioning government.”
In 2007, Sen. Dole co-chaired the bipartisan President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors with former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala. The commission examined the quality of health care and benefits for returning members of the military who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Sen. Dole was a long-time champion of bipartisanship. At his alma mater, the University of Kansas, Sen. Dole helped establish the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics. The institute, which houses his congressional papers, photos, and personal history, was founded as a non-partisan forum dedicated to public service, training for leadership, and promoting politics as an honorable profession. Sen. Dole also served as chairman of the board of The Dole Foundation, which he founded in 1983 to advance educational and workforce opportunities for the disabled.
A decorated WWII Army veteran, Sen. Dole attained national prominence as a senator from Kansas. He was elected to Congress in 1960 and to the U.S. Senate in 1968, and he served as Senate majority leader from 1985 to 1987 and 1995 to 1996. From 1971 to 1972, he served as chairman of the Republican National Committee. In 1976, President Gerald Ford selected Sen. Dole as his vice-presidential running mate. In 1996, Sen. Dole won the Republican nomination for president and later resigned from the Senate to focus on the campaign, losing his bid for the White House to President Bill Clinton.
Sen. Dole is survived by his wife, former secretary of labor, secretary of transportation, and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Hanford Dole, and by his daughter Robin.
View BPC’s tribute to Sen. Bob Dole here.