California Democrat Barbara Boxer will retire from the Senate next year at the end of her term, after serving 26 years as senator and 10 years as a representative in the House.
As part of our coverage this week from California, Senator Boxer tells Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson about her biggest accomplishments and failures in Washington, why Hillary Clinton will get the Democratic nomination over Bernie Sanders and how a slogan from her first campaign still gives her "the shakes" after all these years.
Interview Highlights: Sen. Barbara Boxer
On her decision not to run for Senate at the end of this term
“In my life, I’ve been very blessed knowing what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it. And I’ve been in public life, at the end of this term, it will be 40 years in elected life. It’s been, you know, 11, 12 elections and I’ve loved it, but I have some other things I want to do, believe it or not, and I will continue my work for the environment, for infrastructure, for kids, for a strong economy, for immigration reform from another venue and not the same way.”
"Running for the Senate was such a long shot and I gave up a safe House seat, a really safe House seat... But I just knew I wanted to do more."
What does that mean – another venue?
“Well, it could be a lot of different things. Could be in the classroom, could be on the radio, it could be… I was a journalist once, I could speechify about it, organize. I intend to keep my pack and go toe-to-toe with Karl Rove on his pack. So I’m going to be very active and very involved, and maybe even in some ways, more effective because of the situation in the Senate now, which is you don’t get much done without a Herculean effort.”
Did the dysfunction of the Senate play into your decision not to run again?
“No. It didn’t, because - call it dysfunction, call it difficulties - that’s just part of it and it makes it, in a way, more challenging. I just knew it was time, just like you may know when it’s time for you to do something else, which may never come, you know, but I’ve just been blessed with that since I’ve started in my lifetime. You know, I started out as a stock broker. I knew right away after about three years this wasn’t for me, I didn’t see the good I was really doing. And so every step I’ve made has just been clear to me that it was the right move and it’s been good. Running for the Senate was such a long shot and I gave up a safe House seat, a really safe House seat. I’d been in the House of Representatives for 10 years, but I just knew I wanted to do more.”
What’s one of your votes that you’re most proud of?
“Oh, I knew you’d ask that. I have a few. You know, it’s like saying which one of my children do I love the best. I could tell you that saving a million acres of beautiful land, pristine land in California and turning it into wilderness to get that protection. Saving tens of thousands of dolphins because of my tuna labeling bill and saving dozens of environmental rollbacks, and protecting drinking water for children, and the first federal after school law, but I mean I could just go on and on. But those are just a few of them.”
"You can’t stand in a corner and point out all the problems – you have to solve them."
What about a vote that you regret?
“Gosh, I think welfare reform because I think it turned out OK. I was very scared about it. And I also regret not voting for Ben Bernanke, because he was really, really the one who helped us save this economy ... I just thought he was part of the problem because he had been serving, you know, there for so long during the crisis and never spoke up when the bubble happened. So I cast that vote not knowing that he, as a student of the depression, knew that we really needed strong fiscal action, so he was really good. So I guess that’s the one I regret the most.”
Who’s the Republican that you’ve worked best with?
“I have to say, on infrastructure, it’s Jim Inhofe, and you know, when it comes to the environment, we’re the Mars and Venus because he says it’s a hoax, I say it’s the greatest threat facing the planet. So we don’t see eye-to-eye and we battle just hand-to-hand combat on that. But when it comes to rebuilding our roads, our highways, our bridges; when it comes to moving freight; when it comes to making sure that we have good water systems and flood protection – we are just kind of joined at the hip and it makes everyone laugh because he’s considered one of the most conservative members and I’m considered one of the most liberal. But I would say he was, and is my partner on that.”
On supporting Hillary Clinton
"‘Barbara Boxer Gives a Damn, Ronald Reagan Doesn’t.’ When I look back on it, I get the shakes."
“I don’t think I’m more like Bernie than Hillary. I’m more like Hillary because Hillary really understands you’ve got to unify. You can’t stand in a corner and point out all the problems – you have to solve them. And I don’t see that much of a difference between the two of them. It’s really more as to who is more a practical progressive and I think that fits her and I think he is someone who does an excellent job of calling attention to problems.”
Do you think Hillary Clinton should use your slogan from your first campaign – ‘Barbara Boxer Gives a Damn’?
“No. I don’t think anyone should ever use that one. It’s a miracle I survived it because you don’t even know the rest of the slogan. It was 'Ronald Reagan doesn’t.' So it was ‘Barbara Boxer Gives a Damn, Ronald Reagan Doesn’t.’ When I look back on it, I get the shakes thinking ‘Oh my God, how did I ever have the nerve to do that?’ But it worked in my district for sure.”
This segment aired on October 28, 2015.