"I have no doubt he will be remembered as one of the best," McConnell said.
McConnell also paid homage to Lugar's genial personality.
"He's done it with perfectly smooth elbows," McConnell said. "Walk into any office on Capitol Hill, and you won't find a single person who will say a bad word about Dick Lugar."
After representing Indiana for 36 years, Lugar is retiring in early 2013. Earlier this year, he lost a Republican primary to Richard Mourdock while seeking a seventh term. Mourdock went on to lose to incoming Sen. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat.
McConnell said Lugar represented the best of the Senate as an institution. Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, echoed that view calling Lugar an important voice. His "perspective on the world has been so important for decades," Durbin said.
"There aren't many with the vision of Dick Lugar," Durbin said.
Lugar is leaving the Senate for a job in academia. He will serve as a distinguished professor at the University of Indianapolis.