Capitol Report: Here’s how departing members of Congress would change Washington

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — They’re either defeated or quitting, but departing members of Congress have no shortage of solutions to fix Washington.

In his farewell speech last week, Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor from Arkansas addressed what we considered to be the most serious problem facing America—“the dysfunction in our political system in Washington.”

“As great an institution as the Senate is, the Senate is broken, and the American people know it,” Pryor said during his farewell address. “People around our nation look at Washington, and they shake their heads.

“This isn’t a Barack Obama problem, this isn’t a George Bush problem… This is an all-of-us problem. The political environment today grinds the trust and confidence out of our system. And let me tell you, that’s not good for anybody.”

Pryor’s sentiments have been said before, and by many. He called on the newly elected Republican-run Congress to get to work and get work done.

“They’ve convinced the voters that they’re the party that can govern,” he said. “Now it’s time for them to turn off the rhetoric and turn on the governing.”

Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, a Republican, also offered some reflective criticisms to his colleagues during his farewell address. He made clear his disapproval of the notion to think of their state first. After reading aloud the oath senators take when entering office he said, “your state isn’t mentioned in that oath one time.

“Your goal is to protect the United States of America, its constitution and its liberties,” said Coburn, who has a reputation for bumping heads. “It’s not to provide benefits for your state.”

While some headed for the door make it a point to call attention to what’s wrong with Washington and how things could be fixed, Democratic Sen. from Iowa Tom Harkin decided to leave all criticisms at the door.

“It has been said that the Senate is broken,” Harkin said in his final speech on the Senate floor. “No, it’s not broken. Oh, a few dents here and there. Some scrapes. Banged up a little. But, there is still no other place in America where one person can do big things – for good or for ill – for our people and our nation.”

Harkin included four issues in his speech he said he hopes the Senate will address in the coming session—economic inequality in America, renewable energy, under employment of people with disabilities and finally ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. Harkin’s brother is deaf.

Sen. Carl Levin, Democrat, from Michigan recognizes the negative view of Congress, whose approval rating has averaged 15% on the year, but Levin is holding out hope.

“Many foresee a continuation of polarization and partisanship in the Senate, and say it is naïve to suggest that the next Congress might come together, break out of gridlock and accomplish great things,” Levin said during his farewell address.

“But I know the Senate can do better—because I have seen it happen with my own eyes.”

Levin urged the incoming Congress to revisit changing the Senate rules, which he believes is one of the contentious issues the Senate faces.

“I believe the excessive use of the filibuster to obstruct confirmation of President Obama’s nominees was damaging to the Senate and the nation,” he said. “Any president should have the ability to choose his or her team. But the Senate majority eliminated obstructions to presidential nominations through use of the nuclear option.”

Whatever the criticisms of the current Congress, or hopes and dreams for the 114th Congress, the common trend in Senate and House member’s farewells is the satisfaction of service.

Rep. Tim Bishop, a Democrat from New York, said he considers himself fortune for the 12 years he served.

“I’m sure I’ve made mistakes,” Bishop said, “but there’s no one thing that stands out that I wish I had done differently.

“I feel as if I both voted my district and my conscious. And I feel I devoted every waking hour to serving my district, as did my staff.”

Departing senator State and party affiliation
Mark Begich Democrat from Alaska
Kay Hagan Democrat from North Carolina
Mark Pryor Democrat from Arkansas
Mark Udall Democrat from Colorado
Saxby Chambliss Republican from Georgia
Tom Harkin Democrat from Iowa
Mike Johanns Republican from Nebraska
Tim Johnson Democrat from South Dakota
Jay Rockefeller Democrat from West Virginia
John Walsh Democrat from Montana
Tom Coburn Republican from Oklahoma – Top Stories

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