WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2012 – What might have been a run-of-the-mill exit speech turned into a gritty fiscal policy talk today, as Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., bid farewell to his colleagues on the Senate floor.

The 64 year-old politician was first elected to the Senate in 1986. Since then, he has served on the Senate Agriculture, Finance, and Budget Committees. Conrad has been an on-and-off chairman of the Budget Committee since 2001.

Conrad took the time to offer some perspective from his long career. “I have detected, over the 26 years I’ve been here, a change,” the senator said, “We spend too much of our time seeking partisan advantage.”

The solution to the current political “fiscal cliff” impasse, the senator proposed, is a bipartisan approach to the issue, one that takes both revenue hikes and spending cuts into account. Aided by a number of large and colorful charts and graphs, Conrad suggested that Congress may be able fix the deficit by cutting healthcare and defense spending while simultaneously raising unearned income tax rates on the most wealthy. “You’ve got to work both sides of the equation,” he concluded.

Conrad cited by his work with the Sen. John Hoeven, the junior senator from North Dakota, as an example of an effective across-the-aisle relationship that gets things done. Hoeven has served with Conrad on the Agriculture Committee since the junior senator was elected to office in 2010.

“Our country needs a plan, a plan to get us back on track…to get the country moving again,” Conrad said. “And we can do it. We’ve done much tougher things in the past.”

“Today, [Sen. Conrad] has done what he has always done for us…provided vision, common sense, and a lot of numbers,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., joked in a speech that followed Conrad’s. “And [the numbers] make sense, and they add up.”

“What we heard today is a real giant of the Senate speaking,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in his own remarks. “I hope that all Americans will listen to the message he gave us.”

Conrad’s response to the outpouring of good will was a typical one for the 26-year senator, who has made of a career of guiding his party in fiscal matters. “I started these remarks in the 12th hour of the 12th day of 12th month of 2012,” he said, grinning at the coincidence. “And I leave here forever grateful for this opportunity to serve.”


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