The shockwaves of Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe's announcement of her retirement have reverberated throughout the Senate side of the Capitol today, with senators saying it should serve as a "wake-up call" to all legislators that one of their own would leave Congress over the polarized state of politics.
"I think she lost hope," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. "You know, all of us need to believe there's a light at the end of the tunnel. And if you lose that belief, why do you spend seven years of your life - and in her case that's what would have been the commitment - to do something [for which] there seems no hope? "
Graham said he had not lost hope for Congress yet.
"I very much respect her decision, but somewhere in all this mess there's a pony," he said. "And we just need to find that pony. But this ought to be a wake-up call to the Congress."
"It's dysfunctional and the political paralysis has overtaken the environment to the detriment of the good of this country," Snowe, R-Maine, told Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC today, in explaining her decision to leave Congress after 33 years of service. "It's very, very difficult to resolve major issues."
Sen. Joe Lieberman, I- Conn., can understand Snowe's frustration.
"I feel Olympia's pain," Lieberman said. "I was very surprised and disappointed by her announcement yesterday, because Sen. Snowe has been a very principled, independent member of the Senate. She's been there on critical occasions over the years to form the kind of bipartisan majorities that used to make things happen for the American people from Congress. And it's happening less and less."
Lieberman said that Snowe's parting words, in announcing Tuesday she would not run for re-election, were a "poignant" moment that should spur action in members of Congress.
"I hope everybody hears that," Lieberman said. "People are sort of pulled apart by this process and end up in … warring camps, a kind of perpetual partisan tug-of-war that forgets the people who were good enough to send us here and the country that we pledged ourselves to when we took our oath. So, you know, I hope people will listen to the words that Olympia Snowe spoke yesterday and that, particularly, members of the Senate respond."
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said Snowe, as a moderate Republican, was a "voice of reason," in the Senate - something that she will miss as political battles are waged going forward. Boxer asked that all legislators take a moment to think about the reasons for Snowe's departure.
"Let's listen to what she said," said Boxer. "She said this place has become so polarized. We can't move forward."