Stevens gives last Senate speech as staffers weep

WASHINGTON (AP) - November 20, 2008 Family members and aides wept openly in the gallery as Stevens, who turned 85 this week, spoke of having "no rearview mirror" and looking forward to a time when he might be vindicated. He lost his bid for a seventh term this week after his convictions in federal court on charges of lying about gifts on disclosure forms.

"I only look forward and I still see the day when I can remove the cloud that currently surrounds me," Stevens said.

The speech was a poignant coda to a four-decade Senate career that began not 10 years after his home state, Alaska, achieved statehood. It came as the 110th Congress finished business with a sizable caucus of senators over age 80 whose regard for each other transcended their party affiliation.

Perhaps a quarter of the Senate filed into the chamber to hear the speech, with Republican Leader Mitch McConnell turning his chair all the way around to face Stevens. Those gathered in the galleries and on the Senate floor gave the outgoing senator a standing ovation, a violation of Senate custom. But no one objected.

"More than anyone else, you have taught me the meaning of representing my state," said another retiring senior senator, Pete Domenici, R-N.M.

"That's right, Ted!" barked yet another long-timer, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va.

Stevens lost his re-election bid this week to Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, a Democrat, and is appealing his felony convictions. He has said he's not seeking a pardon from President George W. Bush.

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