Retiring Sen. Chris Dodd thanked his colleagues, supporters and friends as he delivered his final speech on the Senate floor Tuesday, saying he will miss both the people and his work, and he urged Congress to find paths to bipartisanship.
Dodd, whose personable style won him friends in both parties, noted that it is common for retiring senators to say they will miss the people, but not the work.
"You won't hear that from me," the Connecticut Democrat said. "Most assuredly I will miss the people of the Senate. But I will miss the work, as well."
Dodd he drew hugs, a few tears and praise from colleagues on the crowded Senate floor, a departure from the chamber's usual formality, as his wife and two young daughters looked on from the gallery.
He also thanked the people of Connecticut for his three decades in the Senate. He is the state's longest serving senator.
Speaking as the lame duck session of Congress wraps up, Dodd bemoaned the corrosive power of big money in Congress.
"Our electoral system is a mess," he said. "Powerful financial interests, free to throw money about with little transparency, have corrupted the basic principles underlying our representative democracy. And, as a result, our political system at the federal level is completely dysfunctional."
Dodd, 66, announced in January that he would not seek a sixth term. At the time, he was trailing former Republican Congressman Rob Simmons in the polls.
His political stock fell in recent years with a controversy involving mortgages he received under a VIP program, charges that he was too cozy with Wall Street interests and his failed 2008 presidential bid, which did not play well in his home state.
He serves as chairman of the Senate Banking panel and has been front and center in some of the biggest fights on Capitol Hill in recent years, including a sweeping package of Wall Street reforms and the landmark health care overhaul.
Dodd has said that losing a sister and his longtime close friend, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, who passed away in 2009 after battling brain cancer, factored into his decision to retire. Dodd himself was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009.
Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut's longtime Democratic attorney general, takes over the seat next year.
Dodd has not said what he plans to do once he leaves the Senate. The New York Times has reported that he is among the candidates being considered to head the Motion Picture Association of America.