Skip to main content

This afternoon, Chris Coons was sworn in as a member of the United States Senate.  I have met him several times -- Chris is a good man (and a fellow alum of my alma mater), and he will do the First State and the Nation proud.

But we cannot let this moment pass without acknowledging the man he is replacing.  When Ted Kaufman was named on November 24, 2008 to fill the vacancy created by Joe Biden's election to Vice President, the first word of David Waldman's front-page story said it all: Who?  

We knew that he was Biden's own chief of staff and that he lectured at Duke Law, but that was about it.  To say I was skeptical is an understatement:

I hate placeholders

What's the incentive for Kaufman to vote in his state's best interests for the next two years?  What recourse is there if he's plum loco?  If he never shows up but just draws a salary?

The lesson here is that sometimes I should shut the hell up and learn a little something before spouting my fool mouth off.

Because, as it turns out, Ted Kaufman was a hell of a Senator for the brief time alloted.  I should have recognized this from his first floor speech, on the stimulus bill:

Job creation and job preservation must be our goal. Jobs, jobs, jobs. Every job lost is another blow to our economy, losing productive work, spending power, and the revenue that supports the education, health care, roads, water, police, and fire protection provided by our State and local governments. Every job lost is truly a human tragedy, for the man and woman who loses the dignity of work, and the families thrown into turmoil.

Turns out, he really liked that floor -- according to C-SPAN, the only Senators who spoke up more than him the past two years were party leaders.

More than anything, Kaufman decided to use his short time in the Senate to push for the toughest financial regulation possible.  As a March 2009 piece in Politico noted,

Back in his Senate days, the vice president had such a cozy relationship with Delaware’s banking interests that his critics called him Sen. Joe Biden (D-MBNA).

It would be hard to slap that slur on Sen. Ted Kaufman.

Kaufman may have been Biden’s handpicked replacement, but he’s taking a very different tack than his predecessor did when it comes to dealing with big-time financial firms.

As in threatening their execs with incarceration.

It was Kaufman, with Sen. Sherrod Brown, who led the fight to break up the big banks.  Kaufman pushed early and often for Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, fought to end abusive short-selling and time and time again returned to the Senate floor to demand structural change to Wall Street.

The best thing I can do from here is excerpt Kaufman's own farewell speech:

The Senate is a magnet for those who feel called to public service.  It is the destination for countless improbable journeys.  Our constitutional Framers would have been relieved to see their noble experiment working – to know that in the Senate today serve a farmer from Big Sandy and a realtor from Cobb County, a Mayor from Lincoln and a former Army Ranger from Cranston, a social worker from Baltimore and a doctor from Casper.

All of them are here for the same reason – because they love this country and their communities dearly and want to give back.  Their paths of public service may have been different in their first steps, but they converged here, and this is what continues to sustain my faith in the United States Senate.

Here, this leg of my own improbable journey comes to an end.  Though I leave the Senate as a member, I will not be leaving the Senate behind.  I will continue to teach about the institution to my students and encourage them to pursue their own paths in public service.  I will continue to speak out on issues that I worked on here, because that important work – as always – goes on.

We need more Senators like Ted Kaufman, who didn't have to spend one hour of his Senate tenure worried about his next fundraising call, and could devote all his efforts to figuring out what Delaware and the nation needed, and fighting like hell for it.  

[For what it's worth, Kaufman will continue to chair the Congressional Oversight Panel for TARP, a position previously held by Elizabeth Warren.]

Also scheduled to be sworn in today are Joe Manchin (D-WV) to the United States Senate, replacing appointed Sen. Carte Goodwin, and Martin Stutzman (R, IN-03) and Tom Reed (R, NY-29) to the House, filling the vacancies created by the resignations of Reps. Mark Souder and Eric Massa, respectively.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 05:30 PM PST.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site