'The lions of the Senate are gone,' but they don't have to be

The Capitol building at dusk.
The Capitol building at dusk.

Much of the coverage of Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) passing has focused on the end of an era. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) stressed this point in an interview with the New York Times. The headline on the article read, "John McCain, a Last Lion of the Senate."

[McCain's] impact on the Senate, his influence on his colleagues, and the force of his will won't be forgotten."The lions are gone," Ms. Collins said. "The lions of the Senate are gone. It is very sad."

It's a fair observation, to be sure. Ted Kennedy was considered a lion of the Senate, and he died on Aug. 25, 2009. McCain was also seen as a lion, and he died exactly nine years to the day later.

The whole idea of Senate "lions" is to recognize iconic members of the World's Most Deliberative Body -- those who devote years of their lives to the institution, and who, in the process, become celebrated political heroes, venerated for their impact and their contributions.

But Collins' assessment of the Senate's loss is, to a very real degree, incomplete.

Have the chamber's most legendary members cast their last votes? Perhaps. But something Bill Scher said this morning rang true: "If there are no more lions of the Senate, it's because certain senators choose not to be."

There's nothing stopping current senators from following in Kennedy's and McCain's footsteps. The "lion" mantle is simply waiting for someone to pick it up and be worthy of the title.