Senator William “Mo” Cowan’s farewell: Congress is working

WASHINGTON _ US Senator William “Mo” Cowan on Wednesday thanked his staff and the residents of Massachusetts for entrusting him to represent them for five months, and said it was honor to serve in the upper legislative body as one of only eight African-Americans in the nation’s history.

The Bay State Democrat was picked by Governor Deval Patrick to temporarily fill the seat vacated by John F. Kerry and will make way next month for Senator-elect Edward J. Markey, who won election to the seat on Tuesday.

Cowan, in what was billed as his final floor speech, praised the United States Senate, which he insisted is working well. And Americans who think Congress is broken are wrong, he said.

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“If I have been asked any question more frequently than “what are you going to do next, Mo” it has been, “Is our system of government broken? Is Congress broken?” he said. “And I have answered truthfully: No. Our system of government is the greatest ever known and the best example of democracy in human history.”

He then recounted a series of examples during his brief stint of how well it does work.

“In April, I experienced the very best of this body’s character in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings,” he said, “when members from every corner of this nation extended their sympathies, their prayers, and pledged their assistance and support to the City of Boston, and to all those affected by that tragedy. In the aftermath, we all came together as Americans to honor those killed and to support the wounded in their time of recovery.”

He also cited similar efforts “in the wake of the terrible tornadoes that swept through Oklahoma” and credited bipartisan cooperation for progress on a series of weighty issues—though most he mentioned are still a work in progress, at best.

“Thanks to bipartisan work in the Agriculture Committee and on the Senate floor, we were able to send a Farm Bill to the House,” he said.

The farm bill, which usually passes with little resistance, died in the House.

He continued: “Through the joint leadership of the Gang of 8 we are debating a workable approach to Comprehensive Immigration Reform. We confirmed five cabinet secretaries.”

He also voted—a lot.

“And in what will remain the most memorable all-nighter of my Senate career, through a marathon session and more votes in one night than most interim Senators take in the entirety of their tenure, the Senate passed a budget and now anxiously await the urgent opportunity to conference with House,” he recalled.

On a more personal note, he highlighted the many relationships he has built with colleagues in both parties, from Kentucky Republican and Tea Party darling Rand Paul, who he said he swapped stories with about Duke University, to South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, with whom he “discussed the comedic genius of Will Ferrell.”

The back slapping was returned by some of his fellow lawmakers.

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada took the floor after him to recount what a great send-off Cowan received in a meeting of Democratic senators on Tuesday.

“He got two standing ovations,” Reid said. “That’s rare.”

Massachusetts’s senior Senator, Elizabeth Warren, who served with Cowan for four of his five months in the Senate, then offered her praise.

“He worked tirelessly to ensure the interests of the people of Massachusetts are represented,” she said.

Now it’s Markey’s turn.

“After 37 distinguished years in the House,” Cowan said, “Senator-Elect Markey now has the opportunity to offer his voice, wisdom, accumulated experiences, humor, esprit de corps, and tireless commitment to justice and equality to the United States Senate.”