Saying farewell: Lawmakers pack up to end 111th Congress

Whether they were voted out or chose 
to leave Capitol Hill of their own volition, several lawmakers who are packing 
up their offices and saying their 
goodbyes before the 111th Congress ends say — believe it or not — 
that they’ll miss the place. 

The Hill asked several departing members of Congress three questions: (a) What will you miss most about Congress? 
(b) What will you miss least? and 
(c) What are your plans? Many 
lawmakers said they would most miss the people — colleagues, aides and 
Washington-based friends — but 
they offered a wider range of replies 
on what they will miss the least and 
where you might see them next.

This is what they said.

Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah)

(a) The people, the personal relationships, the friendships.

(b) There are a lot of meetings I won’t miss attending.

(c) I’ll be starting a consulting practice. I’ll be working with the University of Utah, joining the political science department. And I’ll probably be affiliating with a major law firm.

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.)

(a) The people, and the Senate itself, which is the most extraordinary repository of democracy in the world.

(b) Votes late on Thursday

(c) I haven’t decided what I’m doing yet. I’ll do whatever my wife tells me to.

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.)

(a) I will miss most the friends I have worked with. This has always been a privilege. For over 30 years I have worked with the brightest, most dedicated people.

(b) I’ve served in statewide elected office since I was 26. You do live in kind of a bubble. … I won’t miss living in that bubble. I’m excited to start the next chapter of my life. I won’t miss living in that glass house of politics.

(c) You can’t really start the next chapter until you finish this one, but I’m looking into doing a number of things. I’ve signed a contract to write two more books. I’m going to be doing some teaching. I’ll continue to do some work with American Indians. The centerpiece that I’ll be working on, I haven’t settled on yet.

Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.)

(a) I’m going to miss the Senate and my colleagues.

(b) That’s the toughest question.

(c) I have no plans at this point. I’ll be looking at my legal business, my consulting business, and trying to stop them from getting me to run for mayor of Chicago.

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.)

(a) My colleagues. There are a lot of wonderful people who are dedicated to public service, and I admire them.

(b) The constant ideological and partisan gridlock. It’s ironic that we have such dedicated public servants who aren’t able to get much done because of the gridlock.

(c) I don’t know, and I can’t answer that until I finish here in Congress. The only thing I know for sure is that my wife has told me that hanging around the house after Jan. 3 is not a prescription for my happiness or for hers.

Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.)

(a) Camaraderie and friendship, and the opportunity to work on important things.

(b) Having to respond to bells at all hours of the night and having someone else control my schedule.

(c) I plan to spend my time fighting for Missouri and national priorities wherever and however possible to create jobs.

Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.)

(a) I’ll just miss the people at night I spoke with when I did special orders. I built a lot of relationships with the floor staff. I’ll miss some of my colleagues, too.

(b) Waiting in the long line to become chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, because that was a long line. I’d sometimes wonder what I’d look like when I’d get two or three slots from the chairman and if I’d still be able to walk then.

(c) I’m hoping to pick up a paper route at one of the daily publications — one that will help me make my mortgage.

Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.)

(a) The staff. They’ve given me new faith in work ethic.

(b) Calling people and asking them for money.

(c) I’ve still got leaves on the ground that need to be picked up. I plan on walking my dogs every day. As far as employment, I don’t know.

Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.)

(a) The colleagues I have a good relationship with.

(b) How ideological the House has become.

(c) I’m going to be a lawyer here in D.C. focusing on white-collar criminal defense.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.)

(a) You must miss the colleagues. You’ve made some great friends here with the people you see on a daily basis.

(b) I won’t miss the schedule — having someone be in control of my schedule.

(c) I expect I’ll be doing some policy work and combine my policy experience and business experience to do some business consulting and be on some corporate boards.

Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.)

(a) The colleagues that I came to like on a personal level and respect on a professional level.

(b) I won’t miss those long flights back to Las Vegas.

(c) I’m going to be teaching in the spring. I’m just on leave from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and I’m going to be keeping my options open. Things look pretty good in Nevada.

Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick 

(a) My friends, the people. It’s like an extended family. We have special bonds.

(b) The institution itself — how the institution has been maligned.

(c) I can’t say yet. But I’m excited. I’ll be between D.C. and Michigan.

Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.)

(a) I’ll miss the work and the importance of the work here that I’ve done, and the work that still needs to be done.

(b) Being away from my family. I’ll be happy to be back with my family, my wife and my four young children.

(c) Go practice law, and I will see what the future holds for me in terms of returning to public service.

Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.)

(a) I’ll miss the camaraderie with my colleagues.

(b) The weekly commute.

(c) I’m going to focus on the White Rose Institute, an NGO [non-governmental organization] to help the freedom fighters in Cuba. It was founded by my father, Rafael Diaz-Balart, in 1959. We’re going to make sure that we keep it updated.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.)

(a) The members.

(b) Travel.

(c) I don’t know yet.

Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.)

(a) I’d say the people in general and the camaraderie of the members of Congress, staff, constituents. Your days are just filled with people, and I’ll miss that.

(b) The difficulty of scheduling and the logistics. I go back and forth to Delaware most nights and mornings, and sometimes you just don’t know. They’ll say you’ll get out at 4, and you won’t get out until 10, for instance, and I find that exasperating. That was my greatest frustration.

(c) I have no idea... I’ve had a few discussions, nothing in terms of offers... I hope to play right field for the Phillies.

Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Pa.)

(a) Thursday prayer breakfast and women’s softball. In terms of the actual job-job, my committee work. I really had hoped to have been a part of the farm bill, because I’m the only registered dietitian who’s been in Congress, and I had hoped to make a contribution there.

(b) Call time — raising money. It’s hard for everyone.

(c) I’m keeping my options open. I’m going to see my family, grandkids, travel a little. I have a passion for the childhood obesity issue, so I may look for something in that.

Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H)

(a) The smart people with good hearts who want to move the country forward. 

(b) The constant fundraising. 

(c) I’ve been having some discussions about where I might go from here, but nothing’s been settled.

Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.)

(a) Public life gives you entrée into meeting people in the course of their lives and their work that you just wouldn’t otherwise get to. Also, the honor we’ve had as members of Congress to bestow medals on our veterans is a very special privilege. And to have had the chance to visit our servicemen and -women on the front lines and get a perspective that rarely anybody had outside of the military. I’m on [the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies] that handles [the National Institutes of Health], so for years I’ve gotten to know the best and brightest in our medical research community throughout the country, and that’s been really exciting. 

(b) I’ll miss least having no personal life, because now I can have one again. 

(c) We’re really not able to double-down on stuff until after we leave, but I’m going to be an advocate for greater research in neuroscience, especially for our soldiers suffering from brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) 

(a) The people, the friends. I intend to stay in touch with folks, but there’s nothing like the day-to-day camaraderie and idea-sharing that happens among members of Congress. 

(b) The repetitious things that happen necessarily as part of the process here. 

(c) My immediate plans are packing up the office and finishing the work of this Congress. 

Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas)

(a) The friends and the friendships that I’ve developed up here. 

(b) The rancorous situation. It’s unfortunate, but it’s gotten very rancorous. I feel like I delivered for the district and made a lot of things happen, so no regrets. 

(c) I’m going to take it slow.

Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.)

(a) The memories like the day after [Hurricane] Katrina when I got to the one working satellite phone and got the chief of naval operations on the phone, and saying, “Hey, our National Guard is in Iraq, and our first responders are working their butts off and they need some help.” And the answer coming back immediately, “Yes, we will do that.” As horrible as that situation was, it was a rewarding time in that I knew that what I had learned, who I had met and the credibility I had established all came together to make that happen.

Another thing was getting letters from military dads and moms saying that their kid was alive because you put that bill through in the budget. That I’ll miss. 

(b) The hate mail.

(c) No immediate plans.

Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.)

(a) The friendship of a widely diverse group of people who truly represent the people of this country, and almost any idea that can be debated is going to be represented here. Some people will oppose it and some will support it. But you get a really good sense for how the nation feels about things when you talk to your colleagues and you listen to the debates. I’ll miss that. I enjoyed every bit of it. 

(b) I’m not a complainer. But obviously I’d like to be with my family more. I’d like to run this place [the House], but I know that’s not going to happen. Eggheads aren’t that highly regarded here. 

(c) My dream is to build my own airplane and fly it, so I’d love to do that. I don’t know if I have enough years left to do it. Beyond that I expect I’ll be lecturing, teaching and I just got a call to serve on the board of a school. 

Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.)

(a) The people that I’ve worked with in this unbelievably historical place, and also just the awe of being here. That’s one of the best things. 

(b) I won’t miss the partisanship. I found it from time to time distasteful — speeches on the floor. And I found it sad that some people would say things that were not accurate. That’s disappointing. And that’s not what this place is about. 

(c) My wife and I will travel some. It’s going to be hard for me to wind down, though, because for the last 45 years I’ve been running wide open, whether it’s been building a business or being in local government as a mayor.