ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf Reports from Capitol Hill: The agony of defeat or I served 40 years and I don’t even get a farewell speech?
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell came to the Senate floor Wednesday evening to say goodbye to three of the four Republican Senators back for the lame duck, but defeated by Democrats on November 4th and who won’t be returning as Senators for the new Congress in January.
It’s a long and painful list for Republicans, whose caucus shrank with retirements and lost races from 49 Senators during the 110th Congress to between 40 and 42 come January.
Four Republicans running for reelection were defeated by Democrats November 4th. Two more Republican Senators may not get any farewell at all; in Minneapolis there is a recount in the race between Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democratic Comedian Al Franken. A runoff is scheduled for next month to determine the fate of Sen. Saxby Chambliss in Oregon.
But today, McConnell talked about Elizabeth Dole, R-NC, who he said was the first viable female candidate for President when she ran in 2000. Then he talked about Sen. Gordon Smith, R-OR, one of a dying breed of moderate Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Chris Dodd, D-CT, both also said nice things about Smith.
McConnell teared up a little bit in wishing Sen. John Sununu well. Sununu, the Republican from New Hampshire, lost his rematch race to former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen. Sununu has gone Al Gore since losing, grown a goatee and shaved his head. On the floor, Sununu explained the shaved head was a gesture of solidarity with Sen. Arlen Specter the Pennsylvania Republican who has been undergoing chemotherapy. Sununu returned to the Senate floor less than an hour later, cleanshaven, to speak out against a bailout for auto manufacturers.
But McConnell did not, either because he did not want to draw attention to give a farewell speech to the ranking Republican Senator. Sen. Ted Stevens, the seventh-longest serving Senator of either party, who conceded his race for reelection just today and once he leaves the Senate will focus full time on his appeal of 7 felony convictions for hiding $250,000 in gifts. McConnell’s office said the oversight was nothing personal and pointed out McConnell did not give a farewell speech for retiring Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska either.
But the it must feel like a snub for Stevens, who will leave office serving just shy of 40 years, fighting to stay out of jail. Republican Senators held off on a vote to expel Stevens from conferencing with them pending the outcome of his reelection bid.
There is still time for a Stevens send-off. Senators are likely to be in session several more days this week.