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Inside the Beltway

Washington politics and government with a New Mexico flavor

Wyden on Bingaman: Senate “Less Thoughtful and Less Informed” Without N.M. Senator

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, chats with a witness before his final Senate hearing on energy policy. Michael Coleman/Journal
Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, chats with a witness before his final Senate hearing on energy policy. Michael Coleman/Journal
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Sen. Jeff Bingaman chaired a Senate committee hearing for the final time this morning, prompting Sen. Ron Wyden to lament that the upper chamber of Congress will be “less thoughtful and less informed” in the New Mexico Democrat’s absence.

Bingaman, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is retiring after a 30-year Senate career. Today, he presided over his last hearing, an analysis of tax and energy policy in the Senate Finance Committee. Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who is expected to take over from Bingaman as chairman of the Senate energy committee, said the Senate would miss his steady, low-key legislative style.

“There is not a whole lot certain about what goes on here in the United States Senate, including when, in fact, the Senate session may wrap up for this year,” Wyden said to Bingaman. “But I just want to note there is one certainty for everybody who works in the energy field, and that is these debates are going to be less thoughtful and less informed because you won’t be a part of those debates.

“I think people will understand that when voices get raised and voices get shrill, just how valuable those particular attributes are and the fact that you always brought us back to policy and certain realities,” Wyden continued. “I just want to note that while this may be the last energy hearing for the year…there are a lot of us who will make sure the cell phone connections from Washington, D.C. to New Mexico are operating so we can continue to have your wise counsel and your thoughtful approach on the issues.”

Bingaman isn’t typically thought of as funny, but his response was classic Bingaman – dry and self-deprecating.

“Thanks for your very kind words and I’m sure as soon as I get out of town you can solve all these problems,” Bingaman said with a smile. “I’m trying to hasten that day but thank you very much for your kind comments.”

The remarks drew chuckles from the audience full of policy wonks and Senate staffers, who also gave Bingamanr a hearty round of applause at Wyden’s urging.

Sen. John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, said he was proud to participate in Bingaman’s final hearing.

“Your leadership is going to be missed around here,” Thune told Bingaman.

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