Feb. 12, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Kaufman: Democrats Muffled Their Message

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Sen. Ted Kaufman, who is leaving office in November, says his time in the chamber has been “a great ride” as Congress passed health care and financial services regulatory reforms.

As he prepares to leave the Senate in the middle of November, Sen. Ted Kaufman sounds like the public relations man for the 111th Congress.

The Delaware Democrat says it will go down as one of the most productive in recent history. And he’s ready to dispute any complaints about his party’s accomplishments by those on the left.

“You can say, ‘Well, we didn’t do the right thing. We didn’t do that.’ But this stuff about a dysfunctional Congress? A dysfunctional Senate? What are you talking about dysfunctional? One of the measures of a legislative body is, do they actually get things done,” he said in an interview Wednesday with Roll Call.

Kaufman — who has worked in the Senate on and off for more than three decades, mostly as an aide to then-Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) — took over the remainder of his former boss’s term when Biden was sworn in as vice president.

His two years as a Senator have been noteworthy for someone who was a lame duck on day one. Kaufman, a short-term caretaker of the seat, has been blunt that he has no political aspirations.

But as a member of the Judiciary Committee, he was involved in the confirmation hearings of two Supreme Court justices — Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. He has participated in Congressional fact-finding trips to Iraq and Afghanistan and was a major figure in the financial regulatory reform fight. Like any good Senator, Kaufman has also developed his own odd quirks, most notably his often quixotic tributes to federal workers that have become a staple of the chamber’s floor speeches.

And he attended a presidential signing ceremony when President Barack Obama approved his Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act in May 2009, four months after being sworn in as a Senator.

“I’ve always said that if you ever want to be in the Senate, this was the time to be here,” Kaufman said. “It was a great ride. It was a great opportunity to do things.”

He can tick off a list of legislative accomplishments — health care and financial reform, tobacco legislation, the Lilly Ledbetter fair employment bill and small-business legislation, among others — that he views as proof that this Congress has been extraordinarily productive.

And it is because of that list that the normally affable Kaufman bristles when discussing criticism that this Congress has been broken.

“I’ve been around this place since 1973. There has never been a Congress in my experience that has been [as active],” he said. “If you passed health care in a Congress, that would be the Congress.”

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