RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Wrapping up a nearly 30-year career in Congress, Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr told colleagues that the chamber needs “more statesmen and fewer politicians” and that he remains optimistic about America’s future.
Delivering a farewell address Wednesday, North Carolina’s senior senator thanked family and a generation of staff who helped him serve in the House for 10 years before getting elected to the Senate in 2004, news outlets reported.
“America’s full of bright and intelligent men and women of all ages who are creative at finding solutions and forging new paths,” Burr said. “We need these folks in the United States Senate and I’m glad that I’ve had the chance to serve with some who will now continue to carry on the great efforts for years to come.”
Burr didn’t seek reelection this fall, making that decision public several years ago. Current Republican Rep. Ted Budd won last month’s election to succeed him over Democrat Cheri Beasley.
As a Winston-Salem businessman, Burr ran for Congress in 1992 as a first-time candidate and lost. He won two years later. Burr moved to the Senate after defeating Democrat Erskine Bowles, a former White House chief of staff and University of North Carolina System president whom Burr now calls a close friend.
Burr’s legislative career included the chairmanship of the Senate Intelligence Committee for five years until 2020. He also helped pass laws to reform the Food and Drug Administration, prepare for pandemics, help people with disabilities set aside tax-favored funds to pay for expenses and end the government-backed tobacco quota system for growers.
Burr, 67, became increasingly frustrated with gridlock on Capitol Hill in recent years and took heat among state Republicans in early 2021 for voting to convict former President Donald Trump of inciting an insurrection at the Capitol. The state Republican Party voted to censure Burr in the days after that vote.
Burr cautioned members of both parties Wednesday from using impeachment for purely political motives.
“Nobody wins in impeachments,” said Burr, who also served in Congress during Trump’s first impeachment trial in 2020 and President Bill Clinton’s impeachment proceedings in the late 1990s. “Congress should resist the temptation to treat impeachment as just the newest form of political opposition.”
Burr’s retirement marks one of three veteran members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation who aren’t returning in the new year. Democratic U.S. Reps. David Price of Chapel Hill and G.K. Butterfield of Wilson announced last year that they wouldn’t seek reelection.
Butterfield, 75, joined Congress in 2004 and was once chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. Price, 82, served in Congress for all but two years since 1987.