Sunday, May 19, 2013
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Retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, accompanied by her husband, former Maine Gov. John "Jock" McKernan Jr., talks on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday after giving her farewell speech in the Senate chamber. Snowe said she remains hopeful that the Senate can overcome "excessive political polarization" to work together to reach consensus on important issues facing the nation.
The Associated Press
This video image provided by Senate Television shows Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, giving her farewell speech Thursday in the Senate chamber.
Congressional leaders have been negotiating with the White House to avert the so-called fiscal cliff by Dec. 31, but progress on a compromise has been slow.
Snowe urged her colleagues to work together to find an alternative to the tax increases and deep spending cuts that economists fear could push the economy back into recession.
"For the sake of the country, we must demonstrate to the American people that we are, in fact, capable of making the big decisions by putting in place an agreement and a framework to avoid the fiscal cliff before we adjourn this year," Snowe said.
She called on the next Senate to proceed cautiously with Democratic-led plans to change the filibuster, the rule that requires a minimum of 60 votes to proceed.
Snowe offered a long list of major or politically divisive issues -- including Medicare, Social Security and the Civil Rights Act -- that were resolved through bipartisanship and cooperation.
But she seemed to agree with a recent study that said the Senate is more polarized now than at any time since immediately after the Civil War. "I worry we are losing the art of legislating," she said.
"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," Snowe said.
McKernan served two terms in the U.S. House alongside his future wife before being elected twice as Maine's governor.
Standing outside the Senate chamber after her speech, he said Snowe characteristically spent considerable time writing it.
"It's a message that's so important," he said, "and one that she can deliver better than anyone because she lives it."
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Snowe smiles while taking photographs with members of her staff after delivering her farewell speech to the Senate on Thursday.
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Snowe and McKernan chat after the senator gave her farewell speech in the Senate chamber Thursday.