By Jessica Eisenbrey
After two years of representing Delawareans in Washington, Sen. Ed ward E. " Ted" KAUFMAN, 71, will attend his last session as a U.S. senator next month.
Sen. KAUFMAN, a Democrat, was appointed to the seat formerly held by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. by then-Gov. Ruth Ann Minner in November 2008.
He will serve in the U.S. Senate until a new senator is elected next month.
The senator said he didn't go into the role with high ambitions or grand plans.
"The main thing was just to try as hard as I could," Sen. KAUFMAN said. "I've been pleased with what I've done."
Although he has only served for roughly two years, the list of pieces of legislation Sen. KAUFMAN has either sponsored or co sponsored spans multiple pages.
He says one of his biggest accomplishments cannot be found in print, however.
"When you look at the legislative accomplishments, I don't think that's really what was the heart of what I did for two years," Sen. KAUFMAN said. "My main goal was to bring as many jobs, as much business economy, to Delaware."
In order to boost Delaware's economy, Sen. KAUFMAN worked with Gov. Jack A. Markell and U.S. Sen. Thomas R. Carper, D-Del, to bring more funding to the state through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.
"Under the stimulus bill, there's a lot of money Delaware would've gotten no matter what," he said. "What my office and I did was to try to do as much as we could to get the discretionary money to come in."
Becoming a U.S. senator is not something Sen. KAUFMAN thought he would ever do, but, even with only two years of service, he has had notable experiences.
"I never in my wildest dreams ever thought that in two years I'd actually be at a bill signing with the president of the United States," he said. "That doesn't happen in their first two years especially someone who's only serving for two years."
Financial reform and improving the nation's economy were two important issues Sen. KAUFMAN hoped to address while in office.
The senator said he worries about a potential future economic crisis and believes the U.S. needs to focus on improving its stock markets. Once these markets regain their worldwide credibility, he said, the American economy will begin to improve.
"The two things that made America great were democracy and our markets, and I'm worried about the credibility of our markets because people are doing things in the markets that they shouldn't be doing," he said. "Our investors are getting hurt, but more important, people will start investing overseas if they don't think our markets are credible."
In addition to restoring the credibility of our markets, other items also need to be addressed in order to fix the American economy, Sen. KAUFMAN said.
First, the U.S. needs to stop providing incentives to businesses who move their operations overseas.
"This is crazy," he said. "In a time like this, for China to have all these rules and the United States to be wide open to anything China wants to do, it just flat out doesn't make any sense."
Secondly, he said, fixing the housing market needs to become a top priority for Congress.
"I don't think the economy will turn around until we stabilize the housing market," Sen. KAUFMAN said. "I wish efforts to do that would happen."
In terms of green energy and protecting the environment, Sen. KAUFMAN said the United States has to increase its use of alternative energy sources.
"We're at the end of the line, internationally," he said. The fact that, as a nation, we have not actively embraced alternative energy is a shame, Sen. KAUFMAN said.
"How much money do we spend sending troops to the Middle East because we don't have energy independence?" he said. "It's bizarre."
As manufacturing jobs across the country continue to be lost, Sen. KAUFMAN said Delaware and the U.S. need to shift its focus if signifi cant job growth is to occur.
"In the last 10 years, our jobs have come from housing, consumer spending and finance," he said. "That's not where jobs are coming from in the future."
There are two key areas where jobs are going to come from, Sen. KAUFMAN said. These are alternative energy and the biomedical field.
Sen. KAUFMAN said right now, the U.S. is "not in the race" in terms of our efforts in clean energy.
"When you look at the top five or 10 companies in the world in this, they're not in the United States," he said.
And although Delaware does have a good start in the biomedical field, Sen. KAUFMAN said the nation still has far to go in preparing its citizens for jobs in this area.
"That's why I've been so big on this Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) education," he said.
Another issue that Sen. KAUFMAN spearheaded as a member of the Senate was the need for civilians to have an increased role in counterinsurgency efforts.
Sen. KAUFMAN wrote two amendments addressing this issue and said the role civilians can play in a war zone is something that the U.S. military needs to seriously consider.
"We need a lot more planning for that," he said. "We need a lot more of the capability to have a lot more civilians in the federal government ready to go there and to do that part of the job."
As the first Delaware senator to serve on the Armed Services committee, Sen. KAUFMAN said he now has even more respect for the U.S. military and those who serve in it.
"I just think our military is absolutely incredible," he said. While serving in the Senate, recognizing the work federal employees do also became a top priority for Sen. KAUFMAN.
"Federal employees are great," he said. "They're really impressive in terms of what they're doing."
Sen. KAUFMAN said being able to recognize these workers was, "one of the great things about being a senator," and allowed him to "scratch an itch" that he'd had for 30 years.
"Hit the ground running'
The seat that Sen. KAUFMAN is currently holding will be immediately filled by whichever candidate -- Democrat Chris Coons or Republican Christine O'Donnell -- wins the senatorial race on Nov. 2.
When asked if he ever considered running a campaign to try and remain in the seat, Sen. KAUFMAN said he knew from the start that this would not be his intention.
"For two years I was able to be a U.S. senator, and I think, because of my background having worked in the Senate for 22 years and having taught about it for 20 years, that I hit the ground running," he said. "If I had been running for office, I would have had to spend 40, 50, 60 percent of my time in these two years running for office."
Sen. KAUFMAN said he knew what the job of senator entailed, and his goal was always to work hard while in the office and leave at the time he originally said he would.
"My approach was to just go as hard as I could for two years. I never once, not for one second, said, "You know, I wish I could keep doing this,'" he said.
"I've made some good decisions and bad decisions in my life, and the decision to take these two years and try to do the best I can, and not get involved in an election campaign, was one of the best decisions I ever made."
As for what he'll miss the most about serving in the U.S. Senate, Sen. KAUFMAN said his colleagues will always have his respect and admiration.
"The other senators are great," he said. "I wish Americans could get to know them all."
Sen. KAUFMAN said he'll even miss those senators whose policies he argued against on the Senate floor.
"Some of the people I'm going to miss the most are people I didn't agree with at all," he said. "I'm talking about a number of them that I don't think we voted the same way on a single bill."
Sen. KAUFMAN said he's looking forward to spending more time with his seven grandchildren and will continue teaching classes at Duke University Law School.
He said he enjoys teaching about democracy and politics as much as he's enjoyed being a direct part of it.
"Democracy is ugly, but it's so much better than anything else," Sen. KAUFMAN said. "The founders were absolutely right when they set up this system of government."
Along with teaching, Sen. KAUFMAN said he'll also remain active in American politics for at least the next six months, as he has been appointed to the Congressional Oversight Panel which oversees the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
As for retirement, however, the senator said he has no such plans.
"I don't ever want to retire," he said.