As the longest serving Republican in the Senate, Stevens served as President pro tempore of the United States Senate from January 3, 2003, to January 3, 2007. Stevens chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee from 1997 to 2005, except for the 18 months when Democrats controlled the chamber. The chairmanship gave Stevens considerable influence among fellow Senators, who relied on him for home-state project funds.
Stevens has had a six-decade career of public service, beginning with his service in World War II. In the 1950s, he held senior positions in the Eisenhower Interior and Justice departments. He has served continuously in the Senate since 1968.
Ted Stevens was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1923. During World War II, he was an Army Air Forces C-47 pilot in the China-Burma-India theater with the "Flying Tigers" of the Fourteenth Air Force from 1943 to 1946, holding the rank of First Lieutenant. There he received two Distinguished Flying Crosses and two Air Medals, as well as the Yuan Hai medal awarded by the Republic of China.
In Fairbanks, Stevens practiced law, and he was appointed U.S. Attorney for Fairbanks in 1953.
In 1956, Stevens was transferred to Washington, D.C., where he worked as legislative counsel and assistant to Secretary of the Interior Fred Seaton. He also pushed for the statehood of Alaska and Hawaii, which occurred in 1959. In 1960, then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower promoted Stevens to solicitor of the Department of the Interior.
After returning to Alaska, Stevens practiced law in Anchorage. He was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives in 1964, and became House majority leader in his second term.
In December 1968, Governor Walter Joseph Hickel appointed Stevens to the U.S. Senate after the death of Democrat Bob Bartlett. In 1970, Stevens was elected to finish the term in a special election, and has been reelected six times since, in 1972, 1978, 1984, 1990, 1996 and 2002. His current term will expire in 2009.
Stevens served as the Assistant Republican Whip from 1977 to 1985. In 1994, Stevens was appointed Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee. Stevens became the Senate's president pro tempore when Republicans regained control of the chamber as a result of the 2002 mid-term elections, during which the previous most senior republican senator and former president pro tempore Strom Thurmond retired. He is a former Chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee and the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. In the past, Stevens also has served as Chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, the Arms Control Observer Group, and the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress.
His campaign political action committee is called the "Northern Lights PAC."
Ted Stevens was criticized when he attempted to earmark the "Bridge to Nowhere," a bridge in Alaska which would have connected the town of Ketchikan (population 8,900) with its airport on the Island of Gravina (population 50) at a cost to federal taxpayers of $320 million, by way of three separate earmarks in a highway bill. A ferry service ran to the island, but some in the town complained about its wait (15 to 30 minutes) and fee ($6 per car). The Heritage Foundation maintained that "the Gravina Island bridge project is an embarrassment to the people of Alaska and the U.S. Congress...fiscally responsible Members of Congress should be eager to zero out its funding."
- United States Senator Ted Stevens official Senate site
- On the Issues - Ted Stevens issue positions and quotes