Olympia Snowe Says Good-Bye to US Senate 

Olympia Snowe said good-bye to the US Senate on Thursday.”I feel blessed that I was able, through all of my time, to accomplish what I did, because it’s just infinitely harder now.”Sitting in her partially-packed-up Washington office, Olympia Snowe reflects on her decades of public service, eight terms in the House and three in the Senate, but she always returns to the issue that prompted her to call it quits last year: partisan gridlock.”We should individually and collectively be embarrassed by what’s occuring here.”Snowe has grown frustrated with the way she says the president and congressional leaders box out rank-and-file lawmakers like herself, rendering them practically useless.She says the political heavyweights are more interested in taking jabs at each other through press releases and floor speeches than they are in coming together and doing even the most basic legislative work.”My concern is it’s going to create generation upon generation of lawmakers who think this is the only way in which you conduct yourself, but there is another way and there are some of us who still remember it.”Snowe says compromise helped her achieve what she lists as her greatest accomplishments: creating a low-income fuel assistance program, fighting for the men and women who work at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and Bath Iron Works, and helping to bring technology into Maine classrooms.Her biggest disappointment?Not being able to enact a balanced budget amendment.”We would not be in the position we are in today as a nation if we were forced to have a balanced budget.”Maine’s outgoing Senior Senator blames Congress for a lot of the nation’s problems.”I mean, there’s no reason we should be in the economic doldrums we’re experiencing today, but we have wasted precious time over the last few years by engaging in this political combativeness for the purpose of gaining political leverage in the next election.”The next election is not an issue for Olympia Snowe.She’ll be working to fix washington as a private citizen.”I don’t want to be part of the problem. I want to be part of the solution and I just didn’t see it changing right from the inside.”Snowe’s US Senate term ended Thursday at noon.She’s started up the group Olympia’s List to support politicians she views as consensus-builder.She’s also writing a book and plans to lecture.