Both chambers of Congress have adjourned until Jan. 5. Originally scheduled to end Dec. 17, the session was extended until Dec. 22. Although some congressmen were unhappy about it, saying it was “un-Christian” to work in the week before Christmas (like the vast majority of Americans do), a lot got done in the final few days that everyone should be happy about.
With the end of the session, however, comes the departure of many congressmen. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just some who have caught my eye over the past year. First, the senators:
- Evan Bayh of Indiana chose not to run again and hasn’t announced what he’ll do next. He was replaced by Dan Coats, who held Bayh’s seat before Bayh decided to run in 1998. The only reason I’m sad to see him leave the Senate is because Republicans picked up his seat. He was too conservative for me and never seemed to take a strong stand on anything.
- Russ Feingold, a progressive hero from Wisconsin, was defeated in November. I will miss his fierce and passionate support of liberal causes. I hope he stays involved in the national Democratic party.
- Arlen Specter, of Pennsylvania, switched parties in the hopes he would be able to keep his seat this year. It didn’t work. He lost a primary challenge to Joe Sestak, who later lost to Pat Toomey in the general election. I didn’t think much of Specter’s switch because it seemed motivated by desperation. Here’s a story on his final Senate speech.
- Blanche Lincoln is another Democrat I’m not sorry to see go. Elected from Arkansas, she opposed many of the national party’s causes while still expecting them to help her win re-election. This month she missed the vote on DADT because she was at the dentist.
- Jim Bunning was my senator for three years, and he made so little an impression on me all I can tell you is he used to play baseball. He’ll be replaced by Rand Paul, who came across as more than a little crazy as reporters dug into his past. I’m still disappointed Jack Conway didn’t win the seat, but I have high hopes for him, and I’m sure he’ll keep working on behalf of the people of Kentucky.
- Roland Burris is most famous for the way he was appointed to fill Barack Obama’s former Senate seat from Illinois. I think the best thing that can be said about him is he kept his head down after the scandal involving former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
- Chris Dodd of Connecticut seems like a good guy but as chairman of the banking committee, he was very resistant to Wall Street reform. He insisted Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were financially sound shortly before the government took them over. Not surprisingly, he is the No. 1 recipient in Congress of campaign funds from both groups. So maybe it’s for the best Dodd no longer has any influence over national banking standards.
- Sam Brownback of Kansas has been a strident anti-abortion crusader. He successfully ran for governor of Kansas instead of seeking another Senate term. Kansas’ abortion laws are already strict, and I’m afraid what further laws will be passed under his administration.
A few of those leaving the House of Representatives:
- Alan Grayson, of Florida, espouses liberal values but he was also antagonistic. I wish more Democrats would stand up for their beliefs, but Grayson went too far sometimes. He also refused to support net neutrality. It will be interesting to see if he runs for office again.
- Kendrick Meek, another Floridian, wasn’t familiar to me until this cycle, but he has a strong background of supporting liberal causes. He left the House to run for the Senate and lost. I hope he continues to be involved in progressive politics.
- Steve Buyer, of Indiana, didn’t seek re-election because of his wife’s health. We have opposite views on every issue, which was annoying when he was my congressman. I’m sorry for his wife’s illness but I’m not sorry that he’s retiring.
- Bart Stupak, of Michigan, was much in the news this year because of health care reform. He was co-author of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment that made it harder for women to access abortion. I’m quite happy to see him lose his job for taking such a public anti-woman stance.
- Bob Inglis is a conservative from South Carolina who lost his seat for not being conservative enough. I’m sure we disagree on a lot of things, but he was one of the few sane Republicans left in Congress. He refused to buy into smear campaigns against President Obama by saying he’s a Muslim who wasn’t born in this country. So for telling the truth and being reasonable, he was voted out of office.
What about you? Are you happy to see any senators or representatives gone? Are you looking forward to their replacements?