CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming’s low-key senior U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi said goodbye to colleagues Wednesday by urging them to focus more on where they agree and not so much on their differences.
“There’s a lot of vitriol in our politics and our world right now, but you can stay true to what you believe in without treating others badly,” the Republican said in his farewell address to the Senate.
“Nothing gets done when we’re just telling each other how wrong we are,” Enzi continued. “Just ask yourself, has anyone ever really changed your opinion by getting in your face and yelling at you or saying to you how wrong you are? Usually that doesn’t change hearts or minds.”
Enzi, 76, is retiring after four terms. The former Eagle Scout, shoe store owner, mayor and state legislator will be succeeded by former U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, a Republican who won the Senate seat with 73% of the vote.
Enzi isn’t among the handful of Republicans who have criticized Donald Trump, even though the political styles of Enzi and the confrontational president could hardly differ more.
Enzi made a final pitch from the Senate floor for his “80-20 rule” of focusing on the 80% of an issue where legislators tend to agree and discarding the 20% where they don’t.
“Following the 80% tool will not get you notoriety. It won’t get you fame, it won’t get you headlines,” he said. “Most media coverage requires blood in the water. However, the ability to work among your peers using this method can and will move us forward and get things done.”
The approach got bills passed while he co-chaired the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee with Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy over a decade ago, Enzi said.
Journalists who’ve interviewed Enzi over the years rarely left without hearing about the 80-20 rule. Fellow senators also know his aphorism well.
“I’ll never forget the days when Ted Kennedy would come to the floor and talk about the compromise and the bargain he’d struck with you,” Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said in a speech praising Enzi. “A political odd couple, the two of you did some remarkable things.”
Durbin urged the Senate to keep the 80-20 rule in mind with legislation involving the pandemic.
“Serving with Mike on the HELP Committee, I have seen him employ this rule over and over again to bring about real progress,” added Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who entered the chamber at the same time as Enzi and just won a fifth term.
Enzi’s accomplishments included advancing legislation to enable sales taxes to be collected on internet sales crossing state lines. He played a significant role in reforming the No Child Left Behind law that set performance standards for elementary, middle and high school students.
Enzi sought to encourage business innovation by hosting an annual inventors conference. He also backed bills involving the U.S. Mint but his proposal to do away with the penny was unsuccessful.
Enzi called serving in the Senate “the honor of a lifetime” and choked up in thanking his wife, Diana, for her long support.
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