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Wednesday, Sep. 17, 2014

Leaving Senate doesn't mean retirement

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I received many nice calls, letters, and e-mails after I announced plans not to seek a third term in the U.S. Senate, but just because I'm leaving the Senate doesn't mean I'm retiring. Oh, sure, after I finish my term next year my schedule will once again be my own and I plan to catch up on a lot of missed hunting, fishing and time with my wife, Diane, children, and grand children. But I also intend to stay engaged in issues that concern Nebraskans.

Since I made my announcement to I've been asked a lot of questions by fellow Nebraskans which I will attempt to answer here.

Fondest Memories?

I've been involved in everything from responding to the terrorism of 9/11 to building up our rural communities, from promoting job creation to keeping taxes low, from improving education to the development of renewable energy, much of which comes from Nebraska.

I'm proud to have led the way to a new headquarters for STRATCOM, a new VA hospital, and a veterans' cemetery in eastern Nebraska. My thoughts have always been that we need to spend as much time taking care of our veterans as we do creating veterans.

Biggest Disappointment?

If there was one disappointment I've had in the Senate it is the bitter partisanship that has made it difficult to accomplish worthwhile legislation on behalf of the American people. When I was governor, I established what we called ONE Nebraska that recognized while we are all Nebraskans we have varied interests, so it was important to bring people together to find common ground and move the state forward.

Why Did It Take So Long to Decide?

It wasn't an easy decision to not seek a third term. I'm a linear person and figured pluses and minuses on paper, then talked with family, friends and advisors. At the age of 70, my schedule isn't my own and there are many things I'd like to do that I have not been able to do with the constant demands of the Senate.

Some of my colleagues had decided earlier to be a candidate or an announced non-candidate, which I did not want to do, feeling it would interfere with my representation of the state during 2011. It didn't.

Did My Health Care Vote Prompt My Decision?

The answer is a clear "no." I supported health reform because it will improve health care for Nebraskans. Initially, because of partisan criticism and millions of dollars of ads run against me, I lost ground in some approval ratings. But as more people understand how the law actually works, minds are changing. Those include parents of children with pre-existing conditions who can now be insured, seniors who are seeing the prescription drug doughnut hole closing, and young adults who can stay on their parent's insurance plans until the age of 26, which is helpful in the current job market.

Unfortunately, some have made up their minds and no set of facts will change that.

Advice For My Replacement?

He or she should not be a partisan lapdog. Think independently. Be a senator for everyone. Be a statesman. Go to Washington for public service, not partisanship or personal gain.

Know at times protecting the rights of individuals can and will anger the majority. In such cases, sacrifice popularity for doing what you believe to be right. Represent all Nebraskans and not just those who vote for you. If that happens, the state and country will be in good hands.


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