Saying goodbye to Capitol Hill, North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp gave a farewell speech on the U.S. Senate floor on Tuesday. The Mantador native recalled her time in the Senate since she was elected and began serving in 2013, and said that her "work isn't done," according to Grand Forks Herald.
Heitkamp lost her bid for reelection in November after being defeated by her Republican opponent, Rep. Kevin Cramer. It followed a reelection campaign made harder after the Democrat from the red state voted against the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for Supreme Court justice in October.
In Heitkamp's farewell speech, which lasted some 30 minutes, per the Billings Gazette, she said that "gridlock and partisanship does not have to rule the day." She called on her peers to have "more political courage" and to "rise above partisanship and rancor." According to the publication, Heitkamp said polls should not be used to make political decisions but that such measures should be informed by "facts and judgment."
The Grand Forks Herald also reported that Heitkamp said, "I will continue to do this work from a different vantage point." She did not specify how in her Tuesday speech, but she told the Bismark Tribune recently that she's returning to her home state.
"I want to make sure that the legacy we lead is a legacy of service," Heitkamp said on Tuesday as she wiped her tears. The Democrat also recalled how, during her unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in 2000, she was diagnosed with — and ultimately survived — breast cancer. "The fact I got to serve in the Senate is part of a great American story," Heitkamp said, according to the Billings Gazette.
The Grand Forks Herald reported that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle praised Heitkamp on the Senate floor, too. Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar said: "Every single moment, she [overcame] those challenges because Heidi Heitkamp is a leader."
In October, Heitkamp explained why she voted against Kavanaugh's nomination on Twitter. In her statement, she said, "I voted for Justice [Neil] Gorsuch because I felt his legal ability and temperament qualified him to serve on the Supreme Court. Judge Kavanaugh is different. When considering a lifetime appointment to Supreme Court, we must evaluate the totality of the circumstances and record before us."
On Tuesday, Heitkamp spoke with KFYR TV and explained why she took certain political decisions during her time as a senator. "These positions that I've taken here isn't because it was politically expedient; it's because they are things I believe in," the Democrat said. "I always approached this job from the standpoint of not 'Will this make me popular?' but, 'How would I look at this decision 20 years from now?'"
Before she ended her farewell speech, she called on senators to make the right decision, no matter how difficult. "We need members of Congress who are willing to take tough votes because it's the right thing to do," Heitkamp said, "even if it puts their reelection in jeopardy."