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Bipartisan N.M. teamwork praised

Bingaman and Domenici headline discussion at New Mexico First forum

Former Sen. Jeff Bingaman was recognized for his 30-year career in the U.S. Senate on Friday in a forum that focused on the future of key national issues rather than the longtime Democratic senator’s legislative highlights.

Sponsored by the independent political think tank New Mexico First, the forum was headlined by an open discussion between Bingaman and his longtime colleague, Republican former Sen. Pete Domenici, outlining what comes next in national energy, education and economic policy. The former senators also addressed their shared concerns about the diminishing spirit of bipartisanship in Congress.

The two longtime New Mexico senators co-founded New Mexico First in 1986 to be an advocate for government bipartisanship.

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During the policy discussion, Bingaman and Domenici’s record of teamwork in the Senate without regard for party affiliation drew the praise of longtime ABC newsman Sam Donaldson, who moderated the forum.

“I have never seen two senators from the same state, opposite parties who worked together so closely and harmoniously for the good of the state and the country as the two of you,” Donaldson said to applause.

To end congressional gridlock, Bingaman said Congress should begin with an effort to stop “extreme gerrymandering” of U.S. House districts.

“People are elected to the House from districts that are so unrepresentative of the overall country that they can care less what happens to the overall country. They’re basically catering to their own particular constituents who have a very extreme perspective on things,” he said.

Bingaman also repeated concern about the practice of members of Congress taking pledges that promise to stick to a single position, such as never raising taxes, preventing good-faith negotiations.

Bingaman retired from his Senate seat earlier this year after being elected six times. He was replaced by Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich. Domenici left the Senate in 2009 after 36 years.

Also Friday, New Mexico First recognized several other state leaders for their bipartisan approach to leadership, including former Gov. Garrey Carruthers, now president of New Mexico State University, who was given a lifetime achievement award.

Also recognized were Senate President Pro-Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces; Rep. Larry LarraƱaga, R-Albuquerque; Sen. Phil Griego, D-San Jose; CNM President Kathie Winograd; and Fred Nathan, director of Think New Mexico.

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