Bush, Biden joke and praise Cheney at his bust unveiling

Story highlights

  • Republican leaders attended Dick Cheney bust unveiling
  • Cheney's wife Lynne and grandchildren unveiled the bust

Washington (CNN)At a ceremony that took on the air of a Republican family reunion complete with laughs, hugs and selfies, Dick Cheney was hailed Thursday as his bust was unveiled at the U.S. Capitol.

Former President George W. Bush repeatedly highlighted Cheney's accomplishments in his administration and said he was especially grateful that Cheney decided to be his vice president -- after initially heading the vice presidential search committee.
"For eight years, Dick stood by my side and always did what was right for our nation. I could not ask for a better vice president than Dick Cheney," Bush said. "He's a good man who loves his country and really loves his family."
    Before leaving Texas, Bush told his father, former President George H.W. Bush, that he was attending Cheney's bust unveiling.
    "Dad perked up and he said, 'Send my best regards to old iron ass'," Bush said in a reference to how the former president had referred to Cheney in a recently published book. "Dick that is indeed a badge of honor."
    Bush also cracked up the crowd of several hundred when he said, "I must confess I'm somewhat reluctant to come back to Washington. The last time I showed up here I was hanged in the White House. This time I've returned only to find my vice president getting busted in the capital."
    Cheney's wife, Lynne, and grandchildren did the honors of unveiling the bust in the Capitol Visitor Center's Emancipation Hall. The tradition of busts of former vice presidents being placed in the Capitol dates back to the 1800's. Cheney's bust was sculpted by William Behrends, according to the Architect of the Capitol.
    Vice President Joe Biden was also in attendance -- and drew laughs with his comments about Cheney.
    "As I look around this room and up on the platform, I want to say thank you for letting me crash your family reunion," Biden said. "I'm afraid I've blown his cover. I actually like Dick Cheney."
    Sen. Roy Blunt praised Cheney as a highly influential voice long before he presided over the Senate, where vice presidents can also cast a tie-breaking vote.
    "Dick Cheney is the only minority whip who never lost a vote, because the president's father asked him to be Secretary of Defense before he could ever whip a vote," the Missouri Republican said.
    House Speaker Paul Ryan praised Cheney for developing strong relationships among Republicans of all stripes over the years.
    "The list of people who he knew and people who he befriended is like a who's who of the conservative movement," he said. "He moved among giants in American politics. He is one himself."
    In return, Cheney touted Ryan as the best selection to lead the House before making a quip about Ryan, who ran unsuccessfully for vice president.
    "He's lately become a reminder to me that we don't always get exactly what we want in politics," Cheney said. "You got the job with actual power and authority. And I got a very nice marble bust."
    In his remarks, Cheney also had warm words for George W. Bush.
    "I worked for someone I respected and liked without reservation. He's a man of great strength and also gentleness," he said. "There is none I prize more than to have my name alongside George W. Bush."