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'Time For New Blood': Rep. Tsongas Looks Back At 10 Years In U.S. House

Outgoing Rep. Niki Tsongas first won election in 2007. "It's been a real honor, but I also felt it was time for new blood," Tsongas says. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Outgoing Rep. Niki Tsongas first won election in 2007. "It's been a real honor, but I also felt it was time for new blood," Tsongas says. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
This article is more than 4 years old.

Eleven years after she first won election to the U.S. House of Representatives, Massachusetts Rep. Niki Tsongas is saying goodbye to Washington, D.C.

The five-term 3rd district Democrat is bidding Congress goodbye as she retires from that job.

Tsongas joined WBUR to talk about her time in office and how she sees the political landscape moving forward.

Interview Highlights

On retiring:

It's bittersweet. I have to say that when I first sought this seat in 2007, I could not have imagined the times that I've been in office, how they would unfold. But I've never doubted that serving in the House of Representatives is an extraordinary opportunity for anybody who's fortunate to win. It's been a real honor, but I also felt it was time for new blood.

On believing Congress needs "the voices of those who are the product of more recent times":

It crystallized when I watched the [U.S. Senate] hearing with Mark Zuckerberg. As hard as everybody tried, we saw a lot of our United States senators who've been there a good number of years really having a hard time wrapping their hands around all that Facebook represents. And it really crystallized in my head that we need people who've grown up with social media, who understand it intuitively, who understand its benefits and its risks and who can engage in aggressive and reasonable oversight because they do. And it was just one of those many instances in which I felt, you know, a newer generation will certainly be able to do that.

On her signature issue of fighting military sexual assault:

I could not have imagined it when I first arrived in Congress ... we had a hearing where there were four or five generals who were testifying on their work to deal with sexual assault in the military. And I was rather surprised that it was such an issue that generals were coming forward to talk about their efforts to prevent it.

Coincidentally, maybe a month later, I went to a Wounded Warrior luncheon in the Capitol. ... [I]n the room there were a couple of women, they were standing along the wall. I was the only female member of the House in the room. I made my way to them, and in the course of our conversation I said, "You know, we just had this hearing on sexual assault in the military" ... and one of the women — a nurse, she had been deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan a total of four times — she said, "Ma'am, I'm more afraid of my own soldiers than I am of the enemy." And to protect herself, she always carried a knife in her waistband. I have to say that really made this issue quite real for me, and from there after we began to look at it.

On advice to Democrats if the U.S. House votes to impeach President Trump:

I'm hesitant to give advice. One thing I've learned in Washington is that every member of Congress fills the role in their own way. I know that this will certainly be a very very challenging issue. My hope is that — and I think we broadly recognize — that it cannot be a partisan issue. As the Mueller investigation goes forward and we see what the final outcome of that is, if what they're able to document is something very egregious, one would hope that both sides of the aisle would recognize they had a duty to move forward to protect our great democracy.

This segment aired on December 17, 2018.


Bob Oakes Senior Correspondent
Bob Oakes was a senior correspondent in the WBUR newsroom, a role he took on in 2021 after nearly three decades hosting WBUR's Morning Edition.


Bob Shaffer Producer
Bob Shaffer was a producer in WBUR’s newscast unit.



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