Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

Senator Kaufman's Farewell Address on the Senate Floor

September 29, 2010

Mr. President, I love the Senate.  It’s not always a beautiful thing and surely is not the picture of a well-oiled machine.  But years ago I found a home here. 

As my colleagues know, I first came to the Senate in 1973 as an aide to a young man who had won a stunning and improbable election against a respected incumbent.  At that campaign victory party 38 years ago, I thought to myself that I would never again believe that anything was impossible.  When I started working for Joe Biden that year, I told the DuPont Company I would be taking a one-year leave of absence.  I stayed 22 years. 

I will soon be leaving the Senate. I am grateful beyond words to have gone through much of Joe Biden’s Senate career as his Chief of Staff and observed it firsthand.  If my Senate career had ended then – if I had not been called here to serve as his successor – that experience helping to represent Delawareans and fight for the values Senator Biden and I shared would have been more than fulfilling enough. 

I want to thank my leader, Harry Reid, who is most responsible for this historic, productive Congress. 

I especially want to thank my senior Delaware colleague, Senator Carper, for whom I have the greatest respect and who has helped me tremendously during the past two years in all manner of issues.

After almost four decades, I’m used to the Senate’s unpredictable rhythms.  In the short time since I was sworn in last January, the Senate has seen heated debate over a basic principle under which this body functions – the filibuster.  All members are frustrated with the slower pace — and they are right to be frustrated — when good bills, important bills that promise to help millions of Americans, are blocked for the wrong reasons.  But rules changes should be considered in light of the fact that the Senate is not the House of Representatives.  It serves a very different constitutional purpose, and the existence of the filibuster remains important to ensuring the balanced government the Framers envisioned.

Indeed, the history of the Senate is that of a struggle between compromise and intransigence.  During that long struggle, certain traditions have been adhered to by members on both sides of the aisle.  Whenever anyone moves to change one of those traditions, in a way that might diminish the comity on which this body must function, I believe they should do so very carefully if at all.  Regardless, I continue to have faith that, out of the debates of this Senate – out of the frustrations of some and the intransigence of others – we will eventually find our way toward the next great compromises we need to solve many of our problems, compromises that will keep America great.  

I am incredibly proud of the opportunity I have had to work on important issues during my brief service in the United States Senate.  I feel especially privileged to have served in this historic Congress, when there were so many great challenges facing this country.  During my first month in office more than 700,000 Americans lost their jobs on the heels of the economic collapse in late 2008.  Action by the federal government to stop further decline was critical.  And we acted.  I was proud of my vote for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. 

I believe that ARRA worked to arrest the financial free fall and to jump-start the economic recovery.  All across Delaware I have seen the benefits of this law -- the investments in infrastructure and education and new technologies for our future, and I have met with the people whose jobs were saved, or who found new employment that flowed from these investments.

We succeeded in passing many other initiatives to foster growth and to bring much needed help to those who have been hit the hardest by the recession.  We actually did a great many things that I firmly believe make us a stronger country. 

As you grow older, you realize that life is not about what you accomplish or about winning.  It’s about having tried, and I feel good that I have tried my best.

I was so pleased to work with Senators Leahy and Grassley on the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, to chair oversight hearings in the Judiciary Committee on law enforcement efforts to pursue financial fraud associated with the financial crisis, and to sit with my friend Senator Levin as he and the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations held hearings on financial fraud.  I was honored to have been a part of two Supreme Court confirmation hearings, for Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. 

I had the distinct honor of serving on the Foreign Relations Committee with Chairman John Kerry and Ranking Member Dick Lugar, as well as on the Armed Services Committee with Chairman Levin and Senator John McCain.  I made two trips to Israel and the Middle East, three trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and four trips to Iraq.  We must build our civilian capability for engaging in counterinsurgency, and this Congress we passed legislation to enhance civilian-military unity of effort through joint training at Camp Atterbury. 

Along with Senator Brownback, I co-founded the Senate Caucus on Global Internet Freedom to promote greater access to freedom of expression and freedom of the press online.  I also highlighted the importance of U.S. public diplomacy efforts, especially international broadcasting.  I have sought to raise awareness of limitations on press freedom in countries such as China and Iran through the passage of resolutions, and have co-authored legislation funding the development of Internet censorship circumvention technology in Iran .

I have also had the privilege of working to promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, education during my time in the Senate.  As a former engineer, I know first-hand the importance of STEM education. 

I spent much of my career in government service, and I decided early in my term to come to the Senate floor each week to recognize the contribution made to this country by our federal employees.  I honored one hundred great federal employees from this desk, sharing their stories and accomplishments with my colleagues and the American people.  

Last but not least, I have tried my hardest to be a voice for the average investor and to work for financial accountability and stability so that our economy can thrive.  I authored legislation with my friend Senator Johnny Isakson to curb abusive short-selling.  I gave seven major speeches from this floor calling upon the Securities and Exchange Commission to conduct a comprehensive review of equity market structure and high frequency trading and to advance reforms that promote clear and transparent markets.  As I have said on this floor dozens of times, it is critical that we preserve the credibility of our markets, one of our nation’s crown jewels, if our grandchildren are to live in the most economically powerful country in the world. 

Finally, I repeatedly highlighted from the Senate floor the importance of the problem of “too big to fail” in the financial reform debate, working with Senator Sherrod Brown to offer the Brown-Kaufman amendment.  While our amendment did not pass, I will forever be proud of the opportunity to work with Senator Chris Dodd and participate in the Senate debate on financial reform.

Mr. President, I could not have achieved anything during my term without the help and hard work of my excellent staff.  I spoke earlier this week about the great Senate staff; they are vital to our work here.  I want the American people to understand that one of the reasons I love the Senate is because it is filled with intelligent, hard-working people who are passionate about serving this country.  This goes for staff and members alike. 

The Senate is a magnet for those who feel called to public service.  It is the destination for countless improbable journeys.  Our constitutional Framers would have been relieved to see their noble experiment working – to know that in the Senate today serve a farmer from Big Sandy and a realtor from Cobb County, a Mayor from Lincoln and a former Army Ranger from Cranston, a social worker from Baltimore and a doctor from Casper. 

All of them are here for the same reason – because they love this country and their communities dearly and want to give back.  Their paths of public service may have been different in their first steps, but they converged here, and this is what continues to sustain my faith in the United States Senate.

Here, this leg of my own improbable journey comes to an end.  Though I leave the Senate as a member, I will not be leaving the Senate behind.  I will continue to teach about the institution to my students and encourage them to pursue their own paths in public service.  I will continue to speak out on issues that I worked on here, because that important work – as always – goes on.

Mr. President, I love the Senate, and I will always cherish the unlikely opportunity I had to serve Delaware as its Senator. 

With deep gratitude to those who have worked with me and stood by me through this journey – to my staff, my colleagues, my wife, Lynne, and our children and grandchildren – with appreciation to former Governor Minner and the people of Delaware for the responsibility they gave me, and with optimism and faith in the future of the United States Senate and this great nation of ours, for the last time - I yield the floor. 

Print this Page E-mail this Page