Vice President Mike Pence Monday kicked off three days of reflection and mourning for former President George H.W. Bush, telling lawmakers gathered at the U. S. Capitol rotunda that Bush — a former vice president — was as a personal role model.
Pence said Bush in his eight years as vice president “set the standard as a sound counselor and loyal adviser to an outsider who came to Washington D.C. to shake things up.”
“Soon Americans from every corner of the country and every walk of life will make their way to this rotunda to pay the respects of a grateful nation,” said Pence.
Bush will lie in state Monday night, Tuesday and early Wednesday. Bush died Friday at age 94. A state funeral will be held Wednesday at the National Cathedral, and the body will then be transported for a separate memorial at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston.
“It is deeply humbling to stand before you today at the beginning of a week in our nation’s capital when we will commemorate and celebrate the lifetime of service and leadership of the 41st president of the United State,” Pence said.
President Donald Trump did not attend the ceremony Monday, but came by the rotunda later that evening to pay respects. He is expected to attend Wednesday’s funeral.
In his place, Pence on Monday praised Bush’s service as president during “an uncertain time in the world, made momentous by his leadership.”
To Bush’s family, Pence said, “we thank you for sharing this special man with our nation and the world.”
Bush spent four years as a member of Congress from Texas. Colleagues recalled his time at the Capitol, as well as his military career as a World War II naval aviator.
“Bush was just a teenager when he volunteered for military service and became the Navy’s youngest aviator,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky. “With his even temperament and his hard-won expertise, George Herbert Walker Bush steered this country as straight as he steered that airplane.”
Bush was elected president in 1988. He lost his re-election bid to Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, 48, recalled the first election where he was old enough to vote, and said he supported Bush.
Ryan, whose party lost control of the House last month and will retire at the end of the year, praised Bush as a model of grace in defeat.
“He was the first president to teach me and many of us that in a democracy sometimes you fall short, and that how you handle that, that is just as important as how you win,” said Ryan.
This post was updated at 8:45 p.m. to include President Donald Trump’s visit to the U.S. Capitol.