Today’s political discourse has overshadowed the simple truths that “public service is a most honorable pursuit, and so is bipartisanship,” Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, writes in an Op-Ed in The Washington Post
Snowe, who has been in public service for nearly 40 years, took to the pages of the Post to explain her decision to step down after 17 years in the Senate.
“Some people were surprised by my conclusion, yet I have spoken on the floor of the Senate for years about the dysfunction and political polarization in the institution. Simply put, the Senate is not living up to what the Founding Fathers envisioned,” she wrote.
She argues that the Founding Fathers intended the Senate to serve as an institutional check that ensures all voices are heard and is committed to minority rights.
“Yet more than 200 years later, the greatest deliberative body in human history is not living up to its billing,” she said. “The Senate of today routinely jettisons regular order, as evidenced by the body’s failure to pass a budget for more than 1,000 days; serially legislates by political brinkmanship, as demonstrated by the debt-ceiling debacle of August that should have been addressed the previous January; and habitually eschews full debate and an open amendment process in favor of competing, up-or-down, take-it-or-leave-it proposals.”
Snowe lays part of the blame for the Senate dysfunction on the increasingly partisan nature of its members, now sharply divided along blue-state, red- state lines that remove incentives for senators to work across the aisle.
“The great challenge is to create a system that gives our elected officials reasons to look past their differences and find common ground if their initial party positions fail to garner sufficient support,” she said. “In a politically diverse nation, only by finding that common ground can we achieve results for the common good. That is not happening today and, frankly, I do not see it happening in the near future.”
In conclusion, she said there was a “critical need to engender public support for the political center, for our democracy to flourish and to find solutions that unite rather than divide us.”
Snowe continued: “I do not believe that, in the near term, the Senate can correct itself from within. … I am convinced that, if the people of our nation raise their collective voices, we can effect a renewal of the art of legislating — and restore the luster of a Senate that still has the potential of achieving monumental solutions to our nation’s most urgent challenges. I look forward to helping the country raise those voices to support the Senate returning to its deserved status and stature — but from outside the institution.”
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