By Monica Scott
Outgoing U.S. Sen. Ted KAUFMAN (D-Del.) visited with Coastal Point this week, reflecting on his two years in the Senate as he prepares to leave office. KAUFMAN has spent 37 years in and around Washington, 19 of which he spent as now-Vice President Joe Biden's chief of staff when Biden was a senator. He was appointed to complete Biden's Senate term in January of 2009 and now sits on four major Senate committees: Foreign Relations, Judiciary, Armed Services and Homeland Security.
While proud of his many accomplishments these past two years, and adding that he saw more accomplished that he thought he would, KAUFMAN admitted this week that there is more work to do, especially in light of the times.
During his tenure in the Senate, KAUFMAN introduced legislation designed to strengthen tools and increase resources available to federal investigators to combat financial fraud following the financial "meltdown." That legislation was signed into laws.
While the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act (FERA) did not go as far as KAUFMAN would have liked -- for instance, it delegates to regulatory agencies the limitations on size, leverages and activities of concentrated financial institutions -- and he remains concerned about the issues involved, he applauded the law's provisions to "establish a Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and reform over-the-counter derivatives markets."
Despite reports that Congress is often gridlocked on legislation, KAUFMAN said that he got to be a part of a lot change and progress.
"No Congress in 50 years has passed as much as this Congress did," he emphasized. "With health care, credit cards, tobacco There were two wars, two supreme court justices We did an incredible amount of things in a short period."
Asked why it seems that Congress is so much at odds with each other, KAUFMAN said it is an accurate reflection of the democracy that makes up the United States of America and it would be inefficient otherwise.
"Congress reflects the American people. And the American people are at odds. It should represent the people," KAUFMAN asserted.
Speaking about the importance of the current senate race to replace him, KAUFMAN asked that people reflect on the financial situation the country is in and the history behind it.
"My hope is people spend some time thinking about who got us to where we are," said KAUFMAN. "Why are we in this fix? And how are we going to get out of this? People have a tendency to just get angry and strike out.
"Was Mike Castle really the problem? Is he the guy that got us where we are? I don't think so," KAUFMAN said.
But, he added, when people are losing jobs, houses and health care, it makes for a "strange" election season.
KAUFMAN said jobs often lag behind the economy by about 10 months or a year, but the present situation "is different." He said businesses are being very leery about hiring again after layoffs and are dealing with issues such as banks that are less likely to lend money, which in turn makes everything still volatile.
Speaking about people who were opposed to the stimulus bill, he said they would say the answer is to leave it to the private sector. And his answer to that is this: "OK, private sector -- do your thing!"
The private sector is failing to invest," he said. "They are sitting on the sidelines watching," he added, even with cash on hand.
"Either the economy comes back or we need another stimulus," KAUFMAN cautioned. "We really need for businesses to step up. Just think where we would be if we didn't pass the stimulus."
Regarding health care reform, KAUFMAN said the process went on too long and they ended up alienating people on both sides of the issue. But, he said, in the end, it was "good we passed something."
"If we hadn't passed it, we wouldn't touch health care again until the whole system broke down," he said, adding that the first thing to do with health care reform is to control health care costs, and the reform law passed during his time in the Senate is the "first step in doing that."
KAUFMAN also expressed hope and confidence that both Delaware Democrats running for Congress and the Senate -- John Carney and Chris Coons -- would win their respective races and ultimately represent coastal Delaware in a bipartisan way.
"These are issues, when it comes to taking care of Delaware -- it's a bipartisan effort.