Retiring Sen. Snowe: Washington suffering from 'political paralysis'

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who surprised the GOP this week by announcing she will not seek reelection to the Senate, on Wednesday unleashed a harsh critique on her colleagues for the “political paralysis [that] has taken over Washington.”

“We’re not working out issues anymore, we’re working in a parallel universe,” Snowe told MSNBC in her first interview after the announcement.

Snowe said that she is leaving the Senate out of frustration with the gridlock and because she feels she can better be a voice for building consensus outside of the chamber.

“I’m going to be giving my voice to what should change here in the United States Senate, and in Congress, to get things done for the American people,” she said. “People are deeply frustrated. Yes, they’re facing personal financial pains and hardship, but more about the fact that we are not getting things done here in Congress, so that they can look to their political leaders and institutions to solve the problems that they’re facing in their daily lives at this unprecedented moment in American history.”

Snowe said the “very difficult decision” not to run again was made over the weeklong recess last week, prompted by her turning 65, a “milestone birthday.”

“This is a new chapter in my life; I decided if I was going to do something different it had to be at this moment in time,” she said.

“I made the decision not to run for reelection in the United States Senate and to pursue other opportunities outside the Senate, where perhaps I could give voice to the frustrations that exist with the political system here in Washington, where it’s dysfunction and the political paralysis has overtaken the environment to the detriment of this country,” Snowe continued, blaming both parties for the “dysfunction.”

Snowe added that the Republican Party most needs “an understanding that you have to have tolerance for all philosophical views.”

“Ultimately, whether it’s within our party or across the aisle, ultimately, here in the Senate, we have to work together. Within [the Republican] party, hopefully we can move forward in a united fashion. We’re stronger united than we are divided, that’s for sure,” she said.

“The United States Senate is predicated and based on the essence of consensus-building … if we abandon that approach we do it at the expense of the country and the issues that we need to address to put us on track,” she added.