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December 13, 2012

In exit, Lugar calls on Senate to focus on governance

WASHINGTON — Longtime Sen. Richard Lugar said Wednesday that the chamber he’s served in for 36 years needs to focus on the unique role it can play in good governance and avoid the political posturing and partisanship he’s seen in recent years.

“Too often in recent years, members of Congress have locked themselves into a slate of inflexible positions, many of which have no hope of being implemented in a divided government,” the Indiana Republican said in a farewell address on the Senate floor. “Some of these positions have been further calcified by pledges signed for political purposes.”

He added, “We do our country a disservice if we mistake the act of taking positions for governance.”

Lugar is leaving the Senate in January after losing a Republican primary earlier this year as he sought a seventh term. In that contest, Richard Mourdock ran as a conservative alternative, portraying Lugar as too willing to compromise with Democrats. Mourdock went on to lose to incoming Sen. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat.

While Lugar lamented the Senate’s polarization, he also spoke proudly of its history and its inhabitants. He said one irony of the Senate’s current state is that he can attest most lawmakers he’s worked with “are hardworking, genuinely interested in public service and eager to contribute to the welfare of our country.”

“Often the public does not believe that,” Lugar said. “It is easier to assume that congressional failings arise from incompetence or even some malfeasance.”

Lugar said he still had faith the Senate could achieve important tasks. But he said that would happen only if his colleagues devote more energy to governance and less to political pursuits. He said that in a perfect world, the Senate would not only govern but “execute a coherent strategy.”

“That is a very high bar for any legislative body to clear,” Lugar said. “But we must aspire to it in cooperation with the president because we are facing fundamental changes in the world order that will deeply affect America’s security and standard of living.”

After he leaves the Senate, Lugar is taking a job in academia. He will serve as a distinguished professor at the University of Indianapolis.

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