Although she officially leaves in January, Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill gave a farewell speech on the Senate floor on Thursday that carried a pointed message for her peers. "I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was worried about this place," McCaskill told her colleagues. "It just doesn’t work as well as it used to."
"The Senate has been so enjoyable for me that I must admit it puts the fun in dysfunction," McCaskill went on to say. "Peter Morgan, an author, said no family is complete without an embarrassing uncle. We have too many embarrassing uncles in the United States Senate. Lots of embarrassing stuff." Here's the C-SPAN clip of McCaskill addressing the Senate.
The Missouri Democrat ran an unsuccessful reelection campaign in November against Josh Hawley, who is currently the state's attorney general.
In her farewell speech, McCaskill talked about joining the Senate for the first time when she was elected in 2007, and how the chamber had become fractured over time. "Something is broken," she said, "and if we don’t have the strength to look in the mirror and fix it, the American people will grow more and more cynical, and they might do something crazy like elect a reality TV star president."
McCaskill's speech comes a day after she told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that while she had no plans to run for election again, she certainly was not abandoning politics altogether.
"I am not going to disappear," McCaskill said on Wednesday. "I am going to help and I think I can help in terms of the party recruiting good candidates, being prepared. I envision trying to help teach candidates some of the basics."
Of her hectic routine, McCaskill told the publication, "One of the problems was I was so busy running I didn't have time to work with some of the candidates out there. There were some close [legislative races] we lost that I think we can win in 2020."
McCaskill told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that there was one thing she was looking forward to not doing anymore: asking for money via phone calls.
In her farewell speech on Thursday, McCaskill thanked her staffers. "They have been my rock," McCaskill said. "My compass. My inspiration. My coach. The best and the brightest. Looking not for money or fame but just to make a difference … I respect each of you immensely."
She added that when she joined the Senate in 2007, the frequency of voting on amendments was much, much higher. The number that year was 306, she said. In 2018, she said there were only 36.
"The United States Senate is no longer the world’s greatest deliberative body and everybody needs to quit saying it until we recover from this period of polarization and the fear of political consequences of tough folks," McCaskill said.
Senate norms had changed, she noted. "Writing legislation behind closed doors," she said, "giant omnibus bills that most don’t know what’s in them, [and] K Street lobbyists knowing about the tax bill managers’ package before even Senators. That’s today’s Senate and no amendments."
Wrapping her address up, McCaskill said that there needed to be more accountability, checks and balances, and efforts to reclaim the power of Senate members and committees. Tough suggestions aside, McCaskill wanted the Senate to finally know, "I love this place and you. Almost all of you."