Exiting lawmakers yield the floor, but not before saying farewell

JUDY WOODRUFF: At 11:25 p.m. Eastern time last night, the gavel came down on the U.S. Senate, ending the 113th Congress, the least productive in terms of bills passed in the modern era.

Tonight, we look at the many longtime members of Congress who have just left office in their own words.

Politics editor Lisa Desjardins brings us what we can learn when politicians say farewell.

LISA DESJARDINS: The building that is seen by many as a symbol of dysfunction, but, in the past month, those leaving the Capitol behind have made final arguments for its strength.

WOMAN: Madam President, it is with great honor and gratitude.

MAN: It has been a true honor.

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS, (R) Georgia: To represent almost 10 million Georgians, who are the most wonderful people God ever put on this earth.

SEN. TOM HARKIN, (D) Iowa: Now, now the leaving becomes hard, and wrenching, and emotional. And that's because I love the United States Senate.

MAN: I love the intensity of the work, the gravity of the issues. I love fighting for West Virginia here.

LISA DESJARDINS: Many, most, in fact, defended the institution.

SEN. CARL LEVIN, (D) Michigan: Now, I have been asked many times if I am leaving the Senate out of frustration with gridlock. The answer is no.

SEN. TOM HARKIN: The Senate's not broken, oh, maybe a few dents, a couple scraps here and there.

LISA DESJARDINS: But a few went out railing against one thing: the influence of money.

MAN: The cruelty of perpetual campaigns destroys our ability to fulfill our oath of office.

SEN. TIM JOHNSON, (D) South Dakota: Days after the 2014 election, you could walk into the call center for either party and find members dialing for dollars for 2016. Tonight, there will be fund-raisers across D.C. where members will discuss policy not with their constituents, but with organizations that contribute to their campaigns.

Mr. President, we have lost our way.

SEN. MARK PRYOR, (D) Arkansas: The Republicans have a great opportunity in 2015 and 2016. They convinced the voters that they are the party that can govern. Now it's time for them to turn off the rhetoric and turn on the governing.

LISA DESJARDINS: Not just farewells, but think of these words as perhaps the most unfiltered look at each lawmaker's top priorities.

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU, (D) Louisiana: There has never been a time when America has been closer to energy independence, and what that means to our country is just beyond description.

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS: It is imperative that the issue of the debt of this country be addressed. Just last week, our total debt surpassed $18 trillion. Hard and tough votes will have to be taken, but that's why we get elected to the United States Senate.

SEN. CARL LEVIN: This growing gulf between a fortunate few and a struggling many is a threat to the dream that has animated this nation since its founding.

REP. HOWARD "BUCK" MCKEON, (R) California: Remember the great sacrifice that our troops and their families and loved ones at home are making around the world.

SEN. TOM COBURN, (R) Oklahoma: Your whole goal is to protect the United States of America, its Constitution and its liberties. It is not to provide benefits for your state. That is where we differ. That is where my conflict with my colleagues has come.

LISA DESJARDINS: One bipartisan theme, gratitude.

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU: I'm not the least bit sad and I'm not the least bit afraid, because it's just been a remarkable opportunity to serve with all of you.

REP. MIKE ROGERS, (R) Michigan: This is my chance to really say thank you. And I had a heck of a good ride.

MAN: I think, first and foremost, of course, God.


People say, boy, we love you, your Christmas card.

SEN. TOM COBURN: A great thank you to the wonderful staff I have had.

SEN. CARL LEVIN: My mentor, my big brother, Sandy. Congress is keeping the better half of team Levin.

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU: Senator Ted Stevens, who was as grumpy as can be, but really did take me under his wing.

WOMAN: God bless you. God bless our fabulous country. Thank you, Madam President. I yield the floor.

MAN: President, I yield the floor.

MAN: Thank you, Madam President, I yield the floor.

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS: Mr. President, I yield the floor.

SEN. TOM COBURN: Yield the floor.

SEN. TOM HARKIN: For the last time, I yield the floor.


LISA DESJARDINS: Lisa Desjardins, "PBS NewsHour."

JUDY WOODRUFF: Some words worth listening to and worth remembering from departing members.