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George H.W. Bush's body lies in state at Capitol Rotunda

By
Daniel Uria
President George H.W. Bush arrives at Texas A&M
The flag-draped casket of former President George H.W. Bush is carried by a joint services military honor guard followed by family members at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on Thursday in College Station, Texas. Pool photo by Jeff Roberson/UPI

Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Republican leaders on Monday spoke on behalf of the late President George H.W. Bush at the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C., where he'll lie in state for three days.

Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell remembered Bush, praising him for his military service and career as a politician.

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"There was a kindness about the man that was evident to everyone who ever met him. All his years in public service were characterized by kindness, modesty and patriotism," Pence said.

McConnell praised Bush for his "steady hand," leading the country through events such as the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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"With his even temperament and hard-won expertise, George Herbert Walker Bush steered this country as straight as he steered that airplane. He kept us flying high and challenged us to fly higher still. And he did it with modesty and kindness that would have been surprising in someone one tenth as tough and accomplished as he was," McConnell said.

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Ryan recalled Bush was the first president he had the opportunity to vote for and hailed him as a good leader, father and husband, and a person who demonstrated "the finest qualities of our nation and of humankind."

"He reached the heights of power with uncommon humility. He made monumental contributions to freedom with a fundamental decency that resonates across generations. No one better harmonized the joy of life and the duty of life ... God bless the 41st president of the United States," Ryan said.

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President Donald Trump did not attend the service but later appeared with first lady Melania near the casket and he saluted the former president.

Also paying their respects were all members of the Supreme Court, except for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is recovering form broken ribs, as well as retired Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Public viewing began at 7:30 p.m. Monday and will last until 8:45 a.m. Wednesday.

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Earlier Monday, members of all branches of the U.S. military greeted the arrival of Bush's casket, which was transported from Houston in a plane designated as Special Air Mission 41, or Air Force One when the president is aboard, in an opening ceremony as it landed in Maryland.

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Bush's family was greeted by a special honor guard that performed a 21-gun salute and the Air Force band performed "My Country 'Tis of Thee" as Bush's casket was transported to Capitol Hill where another arrival ceremony, involving the House and Senate.

Trump declared Wednesday a national day of mourning. All federal buildings will be closed.

"I call on the American people to assemble on that day in their respective places of worship, there to pay homage to the memory of President George H.W. Bush. I invite the people of the world who share our grief to join us in this solemn observance," Trump said.

On Wednesday, family and friends of the 41st president will gather at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., for a memorial service. Bush's remains will then be flown from Andrews back to Ellington Field and transported to St. Martin's Episcopal Church, where he will lie in repose from Wednesday night to early Thursday.

A second memorial service will be held at the church at 11 a.m. Thursday.

Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney will deliver a eulogy at Bush's funeral, saying he was asked to speak a long time ago, Global News Canada reported.

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"President Bush had become one of those statesmen about whom history's judgment rises every year. It was my privilege to have worked with him on an array of world-changing policy achievements," Mulroney said.

Bush will ultimately be laid to rest at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, following an arrival ceremony at 4:45 p.m. and the interment at 5:15 p.m.

Former first lady Barbara Bush -- who died at the age of 92 in April, and the couple's daughter, Robin Bush, who died of leukemia -- are also buried at the library.

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