On Wednesday, Sen. Richard Burr delivered his farewell address on the floor of the U.S. Senate after nearly 30 years representing North Carolina in Washington, D.C. He was elected to the Senate in 2004, after first being elected to the U.S. House in 1994 from the 5th Congressional District.
“I hope that my time here has had purpose and meaning, and I know that I have done my best to contribute and to help build a more perfect union,” Burr said, thanking his family, staff, and members of the Capitol Police. “I also want to thank the people of North Carolina for honoring me with trust and respect. I’m humbled that they sent me here to Congress eight different times, and I appreciate their support.”
Burr chaired the high-profile Senate Intelligence Committee from 2015 to 2020 but stepped down from the committee in 2020 after the FBI investigated allegations of insider trading, seizing his cell phone. A Securities and Exchange Commission filing accused Burr of dumping $1.6 million in stock in February 2020, just before the government closures of businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic. Ultimately, he was not charged.
In a statement released in January this year, Burr wrote, “Tonight, the Department of Justice informed me that it has concluded its review of my personal financial transactions conducted early last year. The case is now closed. I’m glad to hear it. My focus has been and will continue to be working for the people of North Carolina during this difficult time for our nation.”
Burr announced during his 2016 re-election campaign that he would not run for a fourth Senate term this year. His retirement announcement cleared the path for the election of Republican Congressman Ted Budd to replace Burr this coming January.
Burr’s speech Wednesday reflected his faith in Americans’ ability to overcome and innovate, and that the role of government is to stay out of their way.
“Government should not be a roadblock to innovation and new ideas,” he said. “Rather, it should encourage new ideas, new innovation, and new possibilities to realize the untapped potential of our citizens. I’ve often expressed my belief that America’s best days are still ahead, and lately I’ve been chided for thinking that’s true. But my optimism is rooted in reality. Our citizens have an unlocked potential and unbound determination to overcome any division and any problem. Yes, there is much work to be done, but Americans have never been afraid to roll up their sleeves and work hard to succeed.”
Burr is one of three long-term congressional representatives from North Carolina to retire this month.
Rep.David Price, D-4th District, will also retire, as will Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-1st District. The two Democrats have been in Congress for a combined 50 years, but announced their retirements last year amid economic freefall, plummeting approval numbers for President Biden, and growing public frustration with entrenched members of Congress.
Price has represented North Carolina’s 4th Congressional District since 1987, but lost the seat briefly from 1995 to 1997. He announced his retirement in October 2021. In November’s midterms, Democrat Valerie Foushee was elected to replace him. Butterfield has represented North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District since 2004. He announced his retirement in November 2021. Democrat state Sen. Don Davis was elected in November to replace Butterfield.
Following the midterm elections, Republicans will control the U.S. House, with 222 seats to Democrats’ 213, when they reconvene in the next session. In the Senate, Democrats will retain control with 48 seats plus 2 independents who caucus with Democrats. Republicans have 49 seats. Democrat-turned-independent Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema has stated that she will not caucus with either party.
In his speech on Tuesday, Burr spoke of the history of the nation and encouraged members to work together in the coming years.
“Think of the challenges we’ve overcome since our country was founded,” Burr said. “The Civil War, the Great Depression, two world wars, racial division, the Cold War, terrorist attacks, presidential impeachments, disputed elections, an international pandemic, and more. Yet, none of these have destroyed the fabric of our nation or its people, and I refuse to believe that any challenge is too great to tackle when we come together.”
New members of Congress will be sworn in on Jan. 3.