Claire McCaskill

Farewell speech in the U.S. Senate – Dec. 13, 2018

Claire McCaskill
December 13, 2018— Washington, D.C.
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It probably won't surprise my colleagues to know that I don't like much the idea of a farewell speech. I haven't spent a great deal of time contemplating it over the years I have been here. I'm not a big fan of the concept, but I want to respect the tradition especially since I've witnessed so many Senate traditions crumble over the last 12 years. So I will do my best to get through this without breaking up.

A traditional farewell speech in the United States Senate is full of accomplishments and thanks. I'm going to skip half of that.

I'm extremely proud of my body of work over 34 years of public service, but it is for others to judge and I won't dwell on it today other than to say it is a long list and a tangible demonstration of the value of hard work.

The wonderful Barbara Bush said, “Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people—your family, your friends, and co-workers, and even strangers you meet along the way.”

So rather than talk about what I've done, I'm going to speak a few moments about my family, and I have three different families I want to talk about today. My actual family, my family I like to call Missouri—or “Missoura,” we argue about it a lot—and my family here in the Senate.

First, my actual family because they are the most important. In the words of author André Maurois, “Without a family, man, alone in the world, trembles with the cold.” I have been very warm my whole life. I have not trembled in the cold, because I've always had my family. My parents taught me that caring about the community around us was noble and good, and that holding public office was an honorable endeavor. Even though my parents were largely spectators and supporters and not candidates or office holders, they just cared and they wanted me to care, too.

And at the risk of going down too many family stories, it may explain a lot that my dad fell in love with my mom when he saw her smoking a cigar and belting out, “Won't you come home, Bill Bailey,” at a party. And that my mother said I must say, “Trick or treat and vote for JFK,” when I was seven. And then my father insisted that I not only learn the rules of football but that I also learned to tell a good joke and to learn to laugh at myself.

My siblings—my two sisters, my brother—they simply have been the port in every storm.

My children—we have a large blended family of many children and grandchildren that is close and loving—I adore them, all but I need to specifically mention my three children—Austen, Maddie, and Lily—because they were there from the beginning, infants and car seats going to political events, toddlers sitting sometimes not so quietly as I gave a speech and then amazing troopers in the almost decade of my career when I was a single working mom hauling them all over the state on campaigns. They now have forgiven me for the missed recitals and the missed field trips, and the fact that I couldn't be the homeroom mom. Today they have grown into amazing strong adults who make me very proud.

And, ye howdy, those grandchildren. I have eleven going on twelve. I can't wait until they're all old enough to yell at them what my mom used to say to us when we were dawdling and too slow in getting to the car—Last one in is a Republican!

And my husband Joseph. How lucky I am to have him as my best friend. We were married 16 years ago after I was well into my political career and after he had achieved great success in business. He is proud and supportive of me always. But he certainly didn't bargain for the incredibly unfair treatment we got at his expense because of his business success. Let the record of the Senate now say what my Republican colleagues did not during my campaigns. Thank you, Joseph, for your integrity, your honesty, your generosity and your heart, which has always directed you to do good as you do well.

And then there's my Missouri family. I love my state. All of it. Every corner of it. Even the parts that aren’t very crazy about me. My honor to work for Missourians has been immense and I'm incredibly grateful to them for the opportunity I've had to get up every day and work my heart out in an interesting, challenging career of public service. And so lucky to have made many, many good friends along the way. I'm excited that I will have now have more time for them.

David Stiers said, “Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten,” and that's how I feel about Missouri. That's why my office has tried very hard to help every individual who has come to us for help—every veteran who has needed assistance, every senior caught in Social Security red tape. No matter who they were or where they lived or what their politics were.

And my staff family. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that my staff’s names be entered into the record.

My staff here and in Missouri, in this job, my previous jobs and many, many campaigns. Richard Bach said it best: “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood but of respect and joy in each other's life.” They have been my rock, my compass, my inspiration and my coach. The best and the brightest, looking not for money or fame but just to make a difference.

To my Senate staff here today and watching and all the staffs of my offices—of the prosecutor's office, the auditor's office, county legislature, state legislature: I respect each of you immensely. As you go forth in the world, remember the McCaskill office motto—they could cite it for you right now if I ask them. If you work hard, you can do well—but if you're having fun, you'll do great. We were happy and it made a difference. George Bernard Shaw said a happy family is but an earlier heaven. Working with my staff was heaven.

And finally, to all my fellow senators and all the many people who work here in the Senate. I'd be lying if I didn't say I was worried about this place. It just doesn't work as well as it used to. The Senate has been so enjoyable for me but I must admit it puts the fun in dysfunction. 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. 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 the political consequences of tough votes. Writing legislation behind closed doors. Giant omnibus bills that most don't know what's in them. K Street lobbyists knowing about the tax bill managers package before even senators. That's today's Senate. And no amendments.

Solving the toughest problems will not happen without tough votes. We can talk about the toughest problems, we can visit about them, we can argue about them we can campaign on them, but we're not gonna solve them without tough votes. It will not happen.

My first year in the Senate was 2007. We voted on 306 amendments in 2007. This year, as of yesterday, we voted on 36. That's a remarkable difference. Something is broken and if we don't have the strength to look in the mirror and fix it, the American people are going to grow more and more cynical and they might do something crazy, like elect a reality TV star president. I'm not kidding. That's one of the reasons this has happened.

Power has been dangerously centralized in the Senate. We like to say, “Oh, we can't change the rules. We’d be just like the House.” We kind of are like the House, guys. We kind of are. A few people are writing the legislation, a few people are making the decisions. We have to throw off the shackles of careful, open the doors of debate, reclaim the power of members and committees, and most of all realize that looking the other way and hoping that everything will work out later is a foolish idea. And for gosh sakes, debate and vote on amendments.

But all the problems I've outlined, know that I love this place and you. Almost all of you. You have filled my life with interesting work and unforgettable memories. We have argued, we have sang, we have fought, we have cried, and we have laughed, together—just like family. You are family and I will miss you terribly.

Desmond Tutu, a very wise man, said, “God's dream is that you and I and all of us will realize that we are family, that we are made for togetherness, for goodness and for compassion.”

Thank you very much. I yield the floor.