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Udall says he leaves D.C. a ‘troubled optimist’

Retiring Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., speaks on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Source: Senate Television)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Outgoing U.S. Sen. Tom Udall in his farewell speech on the Senate floor Tuesday said he is departing as a “troubled optimist” as he reflected on where he gained insight on how to govern.

That would be Mario’s chair inside the Senate barbershop, he said.

“To be honest, that’s the best place to learn the wisdom of the Senate – sitting in Mario’s chair,” Udall said.

After serving New Mexico as an elected official for more than 30 years, including 12 years in the Senate, Udall is leaving Washington, D.C., on Jan. 3. He did not seek reelection this year and his seat will be filled by U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M.

Udall, in his address, discussed what he considers his best legislative achievements and he remarked on his longtime friendships with colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

“As any good senator will tell you, friendships are what get you over the finish line,” he said.

He acknowledged that he is leaving the Senate at a critical moment for the country, but he said he remains a “troubled optimist” that solutions can be reached.

“Our planet is in crisis, facing mass extinction and climate change,” he said. “Our people are in crisis, ravaged by a pandemic that has laid bare the inequities of our society. And our democracy is in crisis as the people’s faith in their government is shaken.”

He also cautioned that the Senate has become too polarized and is in need of several reforms, noting he has made regular efforts to reform the filibuster during his tenure.

He thanked several lawmakers who worked with him on environmental conservation, climate change issues and delivering support to Indian Country. Environmental conservation has been a hallmark of the careers of many members of the Udall family, which has produced generations of politicians from several western states.

“So, as I return home to the West, I am clear-eyed about – even troubled by – how far away our destination is,” he said. “But I am optimistic that we will get there. Like we always have before.”

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