WASHINGTON, D.C. – As she concludes her 40 years of service in elective office to the people of Maine and the nation, U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) delivered her final speech on the floor of the United States Senate on Thursday. During her remarks, Snowe, the third longest serving woman in the history of the United States Congress, discussed her remarkable life story, her rise from the corridors of the Maine Statehouse to the halls of Congress, and her impressive list of legislative accomplishments, always borne from her trademark consensus-building and bipartisan approach.
In her remarks, Snowe – who has won the most Federal elections in post-war Maine history – thanked the people of her state for the “greatest privilege” in allowing her “to be their voice, their vote, and their champion” over the last three-and-a-half decades in Washington. And she reminded her colleagues of the “heights the Senate is capable of reaching when it adheres to its founding precepts” by shunning partisanship and division for compromise and conciliation.
These are key passages from the Senator’s remarks:
ON RESTORING THE SENATE’S ROLE IN AMERICAN GOVERNMENT:
“I worry we are losing the art of legislating. And when the history of this chapter in the Senate is written, we don’t want it to conclude it was here that it became an antiquated practice. So as I depart the Senate that I love, I urge all of my colleagues to follow the Founding Fathers’ blueprint, in order to return the institution to its highest calling of governing through consensus. For it is only then that the United States Senate can ascend to fulfill the demands of our times, the promise of our nation, and the rightful expectations of the American people.
ON RETIRING FROM THE U.S. SENATE:
“It has been difficult to envision this day when I would be saying farewell to the Senate, just as it was impossible to imagine I would one day become a United States Senator as I was growing up in Maine. But such is the miracle of America that a young girl of a Greek immigrant and a first-generation American, who was orphaned at the age of nine, could, in time, be elected to serve in the greatest deliberative body the world has ever known and become the third longest serving woman in the history of the United States Congress.”
ON THE PRIVILEGE OF SERVING THE PEOPLE OF MAINE:
“I first and foremost want to thank the people of Maine for allowing me to be their voice, their vote, and their champion for 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, and for three terms in the United States Senate. One of the definitions of the word ‘trust’ is ‘a charge or duty imposed in faith or confidence.’ And to have had the trust of Maine people, who have placed their faith and confidence in me, is an honor of indescribable magnitude. Indeed, serving my magnificent state over the past 34 years in the halls of Congress has been the greatest privilege of my life.”
ON WHY SHE’S LEAVING THE SENATE:
“Throughout my tenure, I’ve borne witness to government’s incredible potential as an instrument for that common good. I have also experienced its capacity for serial dysfunction. Indeed, as I stated in announcing I would not seek a fourth term in the United States Senate, it is regrettable that excessive political polarization in Washington today is preventing us from tackling our problems at a time of monumental consequence for our nation.
“But as I prepare to conclude my service in elective office, let me be abundantly clear. I’m not leaving the Senate because I’ve ceased believing in its potential, or I no longer love the institution — but precisely because I do. I’m simply taking my commitment to the Senate in a different direction. I intend to work from the outside, to help build support for those in this institution who will be working to re-establish the Senate’s roots as a place of refuge from the passions of politics, as a forum where the political fires are tempered, not stoked – as our Founding Fathers intended. Because the Senate in particular is our essential legislative mechanism for distilling the vast diversity of ideologies and opinions in America, so that we might arrive at solutions to the challenges we face.
“Here in this chamber, I’ve spoken to many of you who came here to get things done; to solve problems and achieve great things for our nation. I’ve heard you lament the inability to accomplish more in today’s polarized atmosphere. And as I’ve traveled throughout Maine and America – even overseas, people ask me, has it always been this way?
“And I tell them, I’m so passionate about changing the tenor in Congress because I’ve seen that it can be different. It hasn’t always been this way. And it absolutely does not have to be this way.”
ON EMPLOYING BIPARTISANSHIP TO SOLVE PROBLEMS:
“Arriving at compromise wasn’t always easy by any means. It never is. But the point is, we can undertake the difficult work, if we choose to do so.
“I was able to make a difference even as a member of the minority throughout my entire tenure in the House, by reaching across the political aisle. And in 1995, when the voters of Maine entrusted me to be their voice and their vote in the United States Senate and I became a member of the majority for the very first time, I believed this kind of cooperative disposition would remain an indispensable commodity in meeting the challenges of the times.
“And it is precisely this kind of approach that is crucial. Because it is only when we minimize the political barriers that we can maximize the Senate – allowing it to become an unparalleled incubator for results that truly matter to the American people.
“We’ve witnessed the heights the Senate is capable of reaching when it adheres to its founding precepts. Just think about how we came together in the aftermath of 9-11, to secure our country and help heal our nation. Just think about the major debates of the 20th century on such watershed issues as the establishment of Social Security, Medicare, or the Civil Rights Act. None of these profound advancements would be as woven into the fabric of our society today if they had been passed simply on party-line votes, rather than the solidly bipartisan basis on which each of them was enacted. Our grandest accomplishments in the Congress were also a reflection of the particular compromises and level of urgency required by the times in which they were forged.”
ON POTENTIAL RULE CHANGES IN THE UNITED STATES SENATE:
“As this body contemplates changes to its rules in the next Congress, I would urge all of my colleagues who will return next year to follow the Gang of 14 template and exercise a similar level of caution and balance. Because what makes the Senate unique – what situates this institution better than any other to secure the continued greatness of our nation – is that balance between accommodation of the minority and primacy of the majority. And regardless of who is in the minority, any suppression of the ability to debate and shape legislation is tantamount to silencing millions of voices and ideas – which are critical to developing the best possible solutions.
Governor LePage Issues Statement on Senator Snowe’s Senate Farewell Address
AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage issued the following statement Thursday regarding Senator Olympia J. Snowe’s U.S. Farewell Address:
“Senator Snowe has served the people of Maine tirelessly throughout her career in public service for more than three decades. She has been an outstanding advocate for the people of Maine, and a fearless leader in Washington D.C.
She has had a remarkable career, and I am proud to have worked with her, on behalf of the great State of Maine, during her last term as a United States Senator.
I wish Senator Snowe the best in all of her future endeavors, and I have no doubt she will continue to be a wonderful public servant for the people of Maine and for our nation.”