Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., bid farewell to his colleagues Wednesday and scolded them at the same time for failures of governance that have delayed resolutions to obvious problems.
I hesitate to describe our current state as the most partisan ever, Lugar said on the Senate floor. But I do believe that as an institution we have not lived up to the expectations of our constituents to make excellence in governance our top priority.
Lugar will leave the Senate at month’s end, wrapping up a 36-year career on Capital Hill after his loss in the Republican primary election last spring. No other Hoosier has been in the Senate for more than 18 years.
His parting speech touched on a broad range of issues – national security and terrorist threats, global food and energy deficiencies, the expanding power of China and India, and the need for a comprehensive U.S. immigration policy and spending restraints for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
But Lugar, 80, said progress on all fronts is hindered by partisan politics. Democrats control the Senate and White House, while Republicans run the House.
Too often in recent years, members of Congress have locked themselves into a slate of inflexible positions, many of which have no hope of being implemented in a divided government, Lugar said. Some of these positions have been further calcified by pledges signed for political purposes – an apparent reference to vows taken by GOP congressmen to vote against tax increases.
Too often we have failed to listen to one another and question whether the orthodox views being promulgated by our parties make strategic sense for America’s future, Lugar said. The result has been intractably negative public perceptions of Congress.
He called for President Obama and Congress to establish a closer working relationship, especially on national security – noting prospects for severe crises, such as a possible war with Iran.
Currently, the national security dialogue between the president and Congress is one of the least constructive that I have every witnessed, Lugar said.
But a couple of times during his remarks, he commended colleagues for their commitment to public service.
I am optimistic about our country’s future, he concluded. I believe that both internal divisions and external threats can be overcome.
Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., followed Lugar’s speech with one of his own. Coats said Lugar, a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been one of the most influential minds on foreign policy in the United States Senate’s history, and he cited Lugar’s success in dismantling thousands of nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union under the 1991 Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program.
All who work in this chamber can learn from his passion for public service, sincere desire to reach out across the aisle to find common ground and unique talent for forging coalitions and bringing people together to accomplish big things, Coats said.
Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, said later in a statement: Senator Lugar’s unparalleled understanding of agriculture policy has been a tremendous asset to our state. As an unwavering leader in reducing the threat of weapons of mass destruction, his work has greatly reinforced the security of Americans at home and abroad.
Lugar is an extraordinary man who has dedicated his life to our country, Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, said in a telephone interview. People from all over the world are sending him plaudits in regard to his service because he’s done such a great job for our country.
Donnelly will take Lugar’s seat in January after defeating state Treasurer Richard Mourdock in the Nov. 6 general election. Mourdock beat Lugar in the May 8 Republican primary election, his campaign condemning the six-term incumbent for his bipartisan ways.
Also Wednesday, Lugar announced he has introduced legislation designed to increase U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas to European allies that buy the fuel from Russia and Iran.
Lugar’s proposal would amend the Natural Gas Act to extend to NATO members the automatic licensing for gas purchases that America’s free-trade partners receive.
After he leaves the Senate, Lugar will launch a Washington internship academy for the University of Indianapolis and lecture at the school. Lugar was mayor of Indianapolis before joining the Senate.
I look forward to announcing additional endeavors of service in coming weeks, he said in his floor speech.