I’m here to speak on behalf of all those have had the privilege to work for Lowell Weicker during his more than 30 years as an elected official serving the people of Greenwich, the Fourth Congressional District, the state of Connecticut and the United States. I had the honor of serving under him as his counsel when he was Senator and Chief of Staff when he was Governor.
Whatever role we served for him, we were proud of all that he did for so many at the local, state and national level.
While Lowell Weicker came to national prominence as a very junior Senator on the Watergate Committee, that was at the beginning of a lifetime of accomplishments.
He was an advocate for those who did not have a voice and for those who were marginalized. He championed HIV research, funding for clinical trials and needle exchange at a time when those with AIDs were outcast.
He authored what would become the Americans with Disabilities Act. He championed Birth to Three intervention. He preserved federal funding for NIH (and for his efforts had a building there named after him), as well as funding for NOAA oceans research, Legal Services and Public Television.
He was an untiring advocate for equal rights and opportunities. He spoke out against Apartheid in South Africa and was willing to be arrested for his beliefs. He spoke at Ebenezer Baptist Church on MLK day, honor- ing his efforts on behalf of civil rights for all.
As Governor, he brought fiscal stability to Connecticut after inheriting the worst budget imbalance in the nation.
Lowell Weicker had a significant impact on me personal- ly. He and Claudia were there at my wedding to Cindy. They were at the hospital the day af- ter our daughter Courtney was born, and he will always be Uncle Governor Lowell to her. He recommended me to President Ronald Reagan for nomination as U.S. Attorney. And he taught me to appreciate a good bourbon!
Most importantly, he taught me the respect for our Constitution and Rule of Law. It’s a les- son that is important for all of us in the country today, and it’s a lesson that his words best con- vey, and I will share them with you.
On July 18, 1985, the U.S. Senate was considering legislation to provide the President (Reagan) the authority to line- item veto budget items. Senator Weicker was vehemently op- posed to this proposed legislation. He saw it as an intrusion on our tripartite system of government. His words in debating the proposal reflected his principles and the man he was.
He started by observing that, at that time: “There is one overriding problem confronting this Nation. It is the deficit. It is not going to go away by tax reform; it is not going to go away by a line item veto; it is not going to go away by constitutional amendment. It is going to go away by hard choices being made by the President, by the Members of the House, by the Members of the U.S. Senate, by the Republican and Democratic parties.
”He continued: The proposal “fails on the account of what it will accomplish in terms of the deficit. Now, at least to me of equal importance, and, in some ways, of far greater importance, is what this legislation does to our Constitution, to the protection that we all have afforded us by three separate but equal branches of Government … There is one item that does not need fixing, and that is the Constitution of the United States.”
Senator Weicker went on to comment on the years-long de- bate he had with Senator Jesse Helms.
“This was the famous court stripping debate, or, as it was phrased by the proponents of the amendment, a debate concerning busing. It was the legislative branch of Government trying to impose itself on the judicial branch, in effect saying when we do not like what you decide in this case – the remedy applied by the courts to adjudicate discrimination – we will tell you what you can or cannot do. In this case you cannot have the remedy of busing. But do not be misled about busing. The precedent to be established was Congress telling the courts of this Nation what to do.”
Lowell Weicker then spoke about the importance of an in- dependent Judiciary: “When my time comes for justice, I hope that I stand before an independent bench, not one receiving its direction from the Senate or from the House or from the President. The rights of all of us as Americans, stands to reason, are best protected by three – farbetter than two, far better than one – three separate but equal branches of Government.
It was this independence of judgment that he looked for in those he nominated to the Judiciary.
Senator Weicker returned to the need for having the courage to stand up and fight for what one believes in: “So, whether it be court-stripping in terms of reducing the powers of the courts, or whether it be a line item veto, which reduces the power of the legislative branch, no such change is called for. What is called for is a good deal more courage and integrity than have been exhibited up to this point in dealing with the deficit. I hope we will come to our senses, understanding that there will be no easy out to the deficit. I hope we will come to our senses and make those very hard choices.”
Lowell Weicker was never afraid to make hard choices and to fight for what he believed in. Consistent with his concerns and advocacy for the marginalized, Senator Weicker spoke about what was at stake if Congress or the President were to limit the independence of the Judiciary. Speaking about the school busing debate, he said:
“Maybe in this case it was black schoolchildren who were unpopular, so we do not hesitate to go in and tell the courts. Maybe it will be unpopular one day to be old. Maybe it will be unpopular to be retarded. May- be it will be unpopular to be a middle-class American. I mean, these things change. But the Constitution should not change for that very reason. The courts should stand alone and independent of opinion or philosophy.”
In conclusion, he said, “I do not care whether it is prayer amendments or abortion amendments or line item vetoes or balance-the-budget amendments, I am going out on this floor every single time to do everything I can within my physical power to assure that regardless of how dry we are running the well – financially or fiscally or conceptually in this country – there is one well that remains full to the top for my children and all Americans and that well is the Constitution.”
Lowell Weicker to the end did everything he could to ensure that our Constitution and Rule of Law stayed intact, and he fought tooth and nail for what he believed in.
In closing, I want to relate a story about a phone call Lowell had with President Reagan during the time of the Senate debates on court-stripping.In 1986, the Senator spent the evening at my house when he was back in Connecticut campaigning for those on the Republican ticket who were up for election.
I was U.S. Attorney at the time. It was a Friday night. It was in the midst of the Iran-Contra funding scandal. He and I were watching the movie “Reds” star- ring Warren Beatty, about John Reed, an American journalist and communist activist. My phone rang and I went to answer it. The voice said “This is the White House calling for Senator Weicker. Is he there?”
I told the Senator and he went to the phone. I heard him talking to President Reagan saying that “This Iran-Contra is not Watergate, there is no comparison. I would be happy to speak about that and publicly support you.”
He came back into the living room. We turned the movie back on. He laughed and said, “I’m sure that President Reagan would not be surprised that I was watching ‘Reds’ when he called. In fact he might have expected it.”
Thank you, Lowell Weicker, for all you have done for this state, this country … and me.
Stan Twardy is a corporate litigator serving clients with criminal, civil and regulatory investigations conducted by federal and state agencies. Before entering private practice, he was a United States Attorney forthe District of Connecticut and