Tearful lawmakers say goodbye
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Tears flowed in the House and Senate this week as outgoing lawmakers took turns saying goodbye to colleagues and reminiscing about political battles won and lost.

While lawmakers who are retiring or lost their reelection races said they were glad to be leaving Congress’s bitter partisanship behind, they acknowledged a part of them would miss being at the center of the action.

"It's mixed emotions. It's always hard to transition," said Rep. Phil GingreyJohn (Phil) Phillip GingreyEx-Tea Party lawmakers turn heads on K Street 2017's top health care stories, from ObamaCare to opioids Beating the drum on healthcare MORE (R-Ga.), who lost in the Georgia Senate GOP primary and didn't seek reelection to his House seat.


Many lawmakers struggled to hold back tears or openly wept as they delivered farewell addresses on their respective chamber floors.

Retiring House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), bidding Congress farewell after 22 years, choked up as he thanked his staff and implored the next Congress to avert sequestration cuts to the military.

McKeon joked he has a similar "problem" as Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerPrinciples to unify America Feehery: A possible House Speaker conundrum for Democrats Obama on bipartisanship: 'There is a way to reach out and not be a sap' MORE (R-Ohio), who frequently cries in public.

"I did not want to give this speech, not because I have any regrets, but I just have this problem. Thankfully, the Speaker has it a lot worse than I do, and he gets all the attention, but I have the same problem," McKeon said.

Sen. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska Senate race sees cash surge in final stretch Alaska group backing independent candidate appears linked to Democrats Sullivan wins Alaska Senate GOP primary MORE (D-Alaska), who lost a tough reelection race, joked that he wanted to use his farewell speech as "confession time."

Begich admitted to bringing his son onto the Senate floor late at night, sneaking treats from the Senate's "candy desk" and snapping pictures. Photography is prohibited on the Senate floor.


"Yes, I broke the rules, and I will cherish that forever," Begich said.

But when it came time to thank his wife, Deborah, at the end of his address, Begich became emotional and had to pull out a handkerchief.

"She has been incredible. She has allowed me to do my public service, to fly those 20 hours every weekend to and from Alaska. She has taken care of Jacob when I couldn’t. I love her dearly. Thank you," Begich said. "There's no place like serving in this body and doing what I could to make a difference."

For some lawmakers who have served in Congress for decades, the shock of leaving didn't hit until the end.

Sen. Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers A pandemic election should move America to address caregivers' struggles The Memo: Trump attacks on Harris risk backfiring MORE (D-Iowa), who has served 30 years in the Senate and 10 years in the House, said it would feel strange to no longer be part of the hustle and bustle of life on Capitol Hill.

"Now, seeing my office at 731 Hart building stripped almost bare and the shelves cleaned, now when I will soon cast my last vote, now when I will no longer be engaged in legislative battle, when I will no longer be summoned by the Senate bells, now when I will soon just be number 1,763 of all the senators who ever served in the United States Senate, now, now the leaving becomes hard and wrenching and emotional. And that's because I love the United States Senate," Harkin said.

Lawmakers scheduled a litany of floor tributes for their colleagues throughout the final days of the 113th Congress. On the House's final day in session Thursday, members gave a standing ovation for the last vote of retiring Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who departs as the longest-serving member of Congress in history.

BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerPrinciples to unify America Feehery: A possible House Speaker conundrum for Democrats Obama on bipartisanship: 'There is a way to reach out and not be a sap' MORE said that Dingell, who first entered the House in 1955, "has carried more institutional history than anyone here."

Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) said that even after two decades, he never lost a sense of reverence for the "incredible institution" of Congress. He said it was important that lawmakers always feel awed by the sight of the Capitol dome and what it symbolizes.

"I will honestly say to any member listening, if you ever get to the point when you walk across the street and don't look up at that dome and get that chill up your spine about something much bigger than you are, you probably should go home," Latham said during a House floor tribute colleagues organized for him. "Now, I still get that chill, but I think it is time for me and my family to go a different course."

Amid the sadness and nostalgia, some departing members of Congress expressed nervousness about the next chapter of their lives.

Gingrey, a former doctor, said he isn't sure what he’ll do next. But he expressed interest in staying in Washington, where and his wife have a home near Capitol Hill, and working on healthcare policy for a trade association or lobbying firm.

"It was hard to transition from practicing medicine for 26 years to come up here. But I was excited, very excited about coming here. Now it's a transition from up here and going into the unknown is a little scary in a way, even for somebody at my stage of life," Gingrey said.

Other outgoing members, frustrated by partisan warfare, indicated they couldn’t get out of the Capitol fast enough.

Rep. Jim MoranJames (Jim) Patrick MoranLawmakers toast Greta Van Susteren's new show Star-studded cast to perform play based on Mueller report DC theatre to host 11-hour reading of the Mueller report MORE (D-Va.) didn't mince words as he left a House Democratic caucus meeting Thursday night, where liberal opposition nearly sank a government funding bill that had been carefully negotiated by leaders of both parties.

"I think that this particular experience, as many others, have validated my decision to leave," Moran said.

Still, for some lawmakers, they simply felt their time had come. 

"I'm ready to leave. It's been 40 years. I'm proud of my legislative accomplishments," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who authored major legislation over four decades including the 2010 healthcare overhaul, the Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Act.

Waxman said incoming members of Congress should keep faith in the institution, even when times get tough.

"Ignore those people who say government can't do anything right," Waxman said.