Sen. Mike Johanns says good-bye to the United States Senate and 32 years of public service as his term in office closes out.
Johanns leaves a bit frustrated with Washington, which he says is too prone to giving up.
“I can’t get my way, so I’m just going to say no. I don’t think that serves the country in the long term,” Johanns tells Nebraska Radio Network in a sit-down interview. “I think we need a good battle and I think you need to fight to the best result you can get and then you need to heal quickly and get back in the ring.”
Johanns has been through the battles at every level of government.
Johanns, a Republican, began as a Lancaster County Commissioner, moved on to the Lincoln City Council, became Lincoln mayor, served as Governor until appointed by President George W. Bush as Secretary of Agriculture, and then finished his public career as United States Senator.
He leaves after this term. Senator-elect Ben Sasse, a fellow Republican, will succeed Johanns.
Though Johanns has been expressing frustration with Washington for the past couple of years, he says his decision to leave public office hinged more on the weariness of 32 years on the campaign trail than any disenchantment with the nation’s capital.
In his farewell speech on the Senate floor, Johanns told stories of ordinary Nebraska residents who rose to the challenge when faced with unexpected crises and answered with extraordinary acts of courage.
Johanns says the not-so-subtle message he wanted to deliver to colleagues was that if ordinary people when called upon can do extraordinary things, elective officials in Washington can work together to resolve the problems facing the nation.
Those stories make Johanns optimistic about the future of the country.
“So, I’m optimistic about our future. I’ve seen the best and it is these rather remarkable people living their lives, when called upon, they do extraordinary things,” Johanns says. “We do that in Washington our problems will get solved.”
Johanns leaves the Senate with several problems remaining unresolved. He had high hopes for the deficit reduction plan promoted by the so-called Gang of Eight he worked with to implement fiscal discipline. The plan went nowhere. Johanns predicts the nation will continue to face $1 trillion annual budget deficits.
Deficit reduction remains a major issue facing the country, according to Johanns, who adds immigration reform, tax reform, entitlement reform, and energy policies are the top issues facing Congress. The rise of the Islamic State also has awakened Washington to the fact that the war on terror remains the biggest issue facing the nation, according to Johanns.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1 min.]