I sat in the Senate gallery yesterday as Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) gave his farewell speech. Most of the Democratic conference was there. Joe Manchin, the new senator from West Virginia, stared intently at Dodd while resting his chin on his hand; after the speech, he spent the longest time of any senator talking to Dodd. Only four Republicans watched the speech from the chamber -- Richard Lugar, Susan Collins, Thad Cochran, and Mitch McConnell. And McConnell choked up at points, as when Dodd said this.
I am not naïve. I am aware of the conventional wisdom that predicts gridlock in the Congress.
But I know both the Democratic and Republican Leaders. I know the sitting members of the Senate. And my confidence is unshaken.
Why? Because we have been here before. The country has recovered from economic turmoil. Americans have come together to heal deep divides. And the Senate has led by finding its way through seemingly intractable political division. We have proven time and time again that this Senate is capable of meeting the test of history. We have evidenced the wisdom of the Framers who created its unique rules and set its high standards.
After all, no other legislative body grants so much power to each member, nor does any other legislative body ask so much of each member.
Just as the Senate’s rules empower each member to act like a statesman, they also require statesmanship from each member.
But these rules are merely requiring from us the kind of leadership that our constituents need from us, that history calls on us to provide in difficult times such as these.
Maturity in a time of pettiness, calm in a time of anger, and leadership in a time of uncertainty – that is what the nation asks of the Senate, and that is what this office demands of us.
McConnell was the second senator to praise Dodd after the speech, calling this "one of the most important speeches in the history of the Senate." He left the chamber and continued to put together this letter from all 42 Republican senators.
Our constituents have repeatedly asked us to focus on creating an environment for private-sector job growth; it is time that our constituents’ priorities become the Senate’s priorities.
For that reason, we write to inform you that we will not agree to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers. With little time left in this Congressional session, legislative scheduling should be focused on these critical priorities. While there are other items that might ultimately be worthy of the Senate's attention, we cannot agree to prioritize any matters above the critical issues of funding the government and preventing a job-killing tax hike.
So a speech is just a speech, even if it's the most important one you've ever heard.