Byron Dorgan explains his decision not to run for reelection in 2010. This is really a shame since Byron Dorgan has been one of our better Senators
January 7, 2010

Byron Dorgan explains his decision not to run for reelection in 2010. This is really a shame since Byron Dorgan has been one of our better Senators with standing up for the middle class.

It was reported that both Dorgan and North Dakota House Minority Leader Merle Boucher reached out to Ed Schultz about running for Dorgan's seat, but from what Think Progress is reporting, it looks like Ed would not be eligible to run even if he wanted to:

As Schultz pointed out on his show last night, North Dakota requires that candidates maintain residency in the state for five years prior to running for the Senate, and he has lived in Minnesota for the past two years -- meaning he is not eligible for the position.

Too bad. It doesn't sound like Ed wants to run with his television career just taking off, but I think that campaign would have been fun to watch if he had taken them up on it.

ED SCHULTZ: And Senator Dorgan joins us exclusively tonight from the Capitol in Washington. Senator, great to have you with us tonight. Congratulations on a fabulous career. You have done a lot for a lot of Americans and been a man who has spoken truth to power time and time again. And the case could be made, Byron, that the Democrats need you now more than ever, no matter what the political winds are.

Why are you going to do this? Why are you going to step away from the Senate?

SEN. BYRON DORGAN: Well, that's the big question, Ed. This has been a rare and great privilege for me to serve in the United States Senate. I have served, as you said, starting at age 26.

Forty years of state-wide elective office. It's been along, wonderful career. But you know, I just came to the conclusion that rather than make a commitment for seven more years, this year plus another six, I wanted to do some other things in life, outside of public service and I made that decision and I feel good about it. But again, it's no reflection on my party. It's no reflection on our government. Great hopes for this country and I'm an eternal optimist about our country's future.

SCHULTZ: Well, I think a lot of people are assuming that the Democrats are in trouble in 2010. We all know the wind blows in North Dakota. The political wind may be a little bit tough right now. Is the political climate weighing heavy on your decision at all? I mean, it's a tough climate out there right now.

DORGAN: It really has not, Ed. I've run statewide in 11 elections, been very successful and would have been successful this year had I run for election, no question in my mind about that. But the question for me is, when is it time to move on to do some other things? I'd much, much rather have them ask the question, why did he leave so soon rather than why did he stay so long? As I said to you, it's a great privilege.

I love the United States Senate. But there are other things in life I'd like to do and frankly this gives me the opportunity to do that.

SCHULTZ: Senator, does the political climate in this country, the political climate in Washington, you saw it on the road as well at the tea party things. You told me at one point you had never seen anything like it in your political career, some of the town hall meetings that you went to and what we've seen in the last year in this country. Does that leave a bad taste on your mouth and also weigh on your decision?

DORGAN: No, you know what, I don't leave this with regrets or concerns. That's not my point. I'm enormously proud to have served. I do know that in this country, there's a lot of unsettled folks that we're in a deep recession, coming out of it, I believe. But a lot of people are unemployed, they are concerned about the future. And so I understand that. And whenever this happens, this is the deepest recession since the Great Depression, there's always going to be a lot of angst and a lot of people agitating for this and that.

I understand that. But you know what, I talked to the president this morning at some length. We are going to come out of this. We're going to set this country back on track and put people back to work.

This is a great place. We've got to work together. We've got to have hope and we've got to decide that it requires all of us to come together to fix what's wrong in this country. And I have great optimism that will happen.

SCHULTZ: Are you putting yourself ahead -- and I hate to ask this, because you've served for 40 years, but are you putting yourself ahead of what you really could do for this country? I mean, 60 votes is important to get things done. We've seen how the Republicans act right now. They don't want to work with President Obama. Obviously his re-election is going to be a big thing, your position in the Senate or head of the Democratic Policy Committee. Senator, I have to ask you to hang in there because there's a lot of blog traffic out there that they don't want you to do this. Can you hang in there? We want you to hang in there.

DORGAN: Well, you know, I had a reporter ask me today, are you betraying your constituency and betraying your state? I said, after 40 years, I don't think so. I mean, I'm enormously proud of my service.

I'm going to work all year very hard with this president to try to set things right in this country and we're going to do that. This is a great country. But Ed, I do think that there are times to leave and times to move on and I'm going to write a couple more books. I've written two. I'm going to do some other things with energy when this Congress is over at the end of this year.

SCHULTZ: Senator, you've been fighting hard for the prescription drug reimportation amendment. You had 30 Democrats vote against you on this recently. President Obama, when he was in the Senate, he was a co-sponsor of that with you. When he got to the White House, they were silent. In fact, there was a lot of talk that they were talking to Democratic senators not to vote for it. Does that leave a bad taste in your mouth and is that something that you would remember on the way out?

DORGAN: Well, try as you might, I'm not going to tell you I've got a bad taste in my mouth. You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to get that amendment passed. That's $100 billion in savings to the American people. We're going to get that passed this year. And I tell you, it didn't get passed in health care for a lot of reasons and a lot of strange bedfellows but I'm going to get it passed this year in the United States Senate and save the American people $100 billion on their pharmaceutical bill because we shouldn't be paying the highest prices in the world for brand name prescription drugs. That's outrageous, in my judgment.

SCHULTZ: Senator, you have also had a record, well-documented of having great political foresight and I want to take you back to November 4th, 1999. This is what you said on the Senate floor about deregulation.


DORGAN: We are almost certainly moving towards substantial new concentration and mergers in the financial services industry. I think we will in 10 years time look back and say, we should not have done that because we forgot the lessons of the past.


SCHULTZ: You voted against deregulation. How do you feel about it today? You were correct.

DORGAN: Yes, that was one of the biggest mistakes in the history of this country, Ed. It steered the country into the ditch. It's cost us trillions and trillions of dollars. And once again, this was some of the biggest financial players in the country trying to get the laws changed, repeal the laws that were put in place to protect us after the Great Depression.

They succeeded. I was one of eight people, and I led the fight on the floor of the Senate against it -- one of only eight people to vote no. But you know the spoils of that system at this point have been so costly to this country. And now we need to put it back together.

If you're too big to fail, you're too big in my judgment. And the fact is, we ought to separate investment banks from the FIDC insured banks. We ought not let this continue this way.

SCHULTZ: Senator, you also voted against the Wall Street bailout. What do you have to say about that now? What should the Senate do about this climate on Wall Street right now in the wake of all the bonuses and the toxic assets that have been purchased with taxpayer money? And we really don't even know what the Fed is doing when it comes to financial operations in the interconnected, interconnectivity of Wall Street.

What's your advice?

DORGAN: Well, this is going to be on the big issues right at the start of this session is financial reform and Wall Street is right back in the same old swamp doing the same things. And with respect to the Federal Reserve Board, for the first time in history, they said to the big investment banks, you can come and get direct lending from the Federal Reserve Board. We're trying to find out from the Fed, who did you give the money to? How much money did you give? And my point is, what did you do with our money? And the Federal Reserve Board says none of your business. Well I'll tell you what, it is our business, and I'm not going to let the Bernanke nomination to head the Fed for another term go through until he tells us what did they do with our money, the American people's money?

So we've got a lot of things to work on here. And I said before, if you're too big to fail on Wall Street, then you're too big in my judgment, because that's no-fault capitalism and we shouldn't continue with it.

SCHULTZ: Would you consider a seat on the Cabinet of the United States administration with President Obama if that opportunity ever came up?

DORGAN: Well, it hasn't been offered, yet, Ed.

SCHULTZ: Well I know it hasn't been offered but we've got a long way to go if Barack Obama is going to be around for eight years. It's going to be a brutal re-election in 2012. And the fact is, you would be offering some tremendous experience. You've got a clean record.

There's never been anything wrong with anything you have done. There's no hanky panky anywhere or any of that kind of stuff. I mean, you're clean. The Democrats need to. I'll try one more time, but would you consider a seat on the Cabinet if it were ever offered to you?

DORGAN: Well, sure. Do I look like I'm slow witted? I mean, if the president called and said would you serve in my cabinet, of course I would consider that because that would be a great honor. But that's not part of this master plan at all. But thanks for giving me that clean bill of health, by the way.

SCHULTZ: Well, you've done a lot of things. What do you say to the people of North Dakota who have elected you 11 times? And I know that this has been an emotional decision for you. And there have been some polls out there showing that the probable opponent that you would be facing might have an edge on you and it might be a tough re-election.

Has that weighed on your mind at all in this decision? What do you have to say to the people of the state?

DORGAN: You know what, in 11 election contests, there have always been people with edges, but it never quite worked out for them. In my judgment, the people of North Dakota have given me the rare gift of being able to serve here in the Congress and I'm eternally grateful to them. I think had I run again this year, I would have been elected to another term. The question for me is, is that what makes sense for the next seven years of my life? And I decided that there are many other things I want to do and now intend to do. But you know, I won't be far from public service and if called again, I may well show up again, Ed, as you ask.

SCHULTZ: What is your response to Congressman Earl Pomeroy, announcing today that he's going to run for the House and not seek your Senate seat?

DORGAN: Well, it's very hard for anybody to give anybody else a public life advice. He's an extraordinary congressman. He's a terrific guy sand I believe he'll be re-elected and good for him.

SCHULTZ: Senator, I can't let you go this easy. You know, I remember how furious you were about the way the Bush administration was running this country and the conversations we had back in 2002 and 2004 and I know how you felt when Tom Daschle was defeated in the Senate and how close you were to Ted Kennedy and this progressive surge that has taken place in 2006 and 2008. How much is your departure and the departure of Chris Dodd going to hurt the Democrats going into this 2010 election midterm?

DORGAN: The honest answer is I don't know. But obviously, whatever Chris's decision was and my decision, wasn't about trying to hurt anybody or intending to hurt anybody. We've got a great bench. We've got a lot of Democrats out in this country that are willing to serve and anxious to serve. I belong to a great political party. We have two good parties in this country, but I belong to a great political party that has always led the fight for the right things, women's rights, civil rights, you name it.

You name the fights that have made this a better country and this party that I'm a part of has been at the front edge of it and often paid a significant price for it. But we've done the right things for our country and that will be true today, tomorrow and forward. We're going to find great candidates. And I think we're going to have good times ahead. The key is to put this country back on track and give the American people confidence about the future. It's a great place and we can do that and I hope we make some progress this year.

SCHULTZ: Senator Byron Dorgan, I'm honored to have you as a friend and the Democrats of North Dakota and the Democrats of this country have been very well served for the last 30 years in the United States Senate and the U.S. house and 10 years on the state level starting at the age of 26. People should be very proud to have a career like you've had.

DORGAN: Well Ed, thanks very much, god bless you and I look forward to spending more time with you this year as we work through the United States Senate on some of these significant challenges.

SCHULTZ: Thank you, senator, appreciate your time tonight.

DORGAN: Good to be with you, thanks.

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