The Washington Post
Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar

  Moynihan to Leave Senate in 2000

Senator Daniel Moynihan
Sen. Daniel Moynihan (D-N.Y.) listens to the induction proceedings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor in New York on Friday, the day he announced he will not seek reelection in 2000. (AP Photo)
By Helen Dewar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 7, 1998; Page A2

Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), a scholar-politician who has left a mark on everything from Social Security and welfare policy to Washington's renovated Pennsylvania Avenue, said yesterday he will retire from the Senate when his fourth term expires in 2000.

"I surely will miss it, but there are other things to do in life and there comes a time," Moynihan said in New York after word of his plans leaked out.

Moynihan, 71, former chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and now its ranking Democrat, is the first senator facing reelection in two years to signal plans to retire. He had been regarded as a virtual shoo-in for reelection.

President Clinton, with whom Moynihan sometimes clashed, expressed regret and said, "We will miss him. So will the Congress. So will America."

Although Moynihan's retirement came as no great surprise, he spoke for the first time of his plans just three days after New York jettisoned its other long-serving senator, Alfonse M. D'Amato (R), for Rep. Charles E. Schumer (D).

For nearly two decades, Moynihan and D'Amato had been the odd couple of New York politics: The intellectual Moynihan focused on a wide range of complicated policy issues, while D'Amato earned his nickname "Senator Pothole" by funneling federal projects and money into his home state.

Moynihan's departure could trigger another frenzied New York senatorial campaign. Among those viewed as possible candidates are Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew M. Cuomo, son of former New York governor Mario M. Cuomo (D); state Comptroller H. Carl McCall; Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala; and Robert T. Kennedy Jr., son of the former New York senator. Republican possibilities include New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Rep. Rick Lazio and maybe even D'Amato.

Moynihan had one of the most compelling rags-to-riches stories in the Senate, rising out of poverty in Manhattan's tough Hell's Kitchen neighborhood to the heights of academia and government before coming to the Senate 22 years ago. His father had left the family when he was 6; his mother ran a saloon near Times Square. His life story serves as an antidote to cynicism about politics, Clinton said.

He became a Harvard professor and then entered government, serving in probably more positions than any other member of Congress and under four presidents, from John F. Kennedy to Gerald R. Ford. In addition to sub-Cabinet positions under Democratic presidents, he also was domestic adviser to President Richard M. Nixon and ambassador to the United Nations under Ford.

In the Senate, he earned a reputation for erudite and sometimes esoteric oratory, quirky crusades, occasionally haughty relations with colleagues and a piercing understanding of difficult issues. He was a liberal on social welfare policy but not on everything.

He helped Clinton win approval of one of his most difficult initiatives, a $500 billion deficit reduction initiative that passed the Senate by only one vote -- which Moynihan helped deliver -- in 1993. But he also was among Clinton's sharpest Democratic critics, quarreling with his administration over pushing health care ahead of welfare reform and voting against Clinton's welfare compromise with the Republicans.

He has been a relentless advocate of preserving and strengthening Social Security and also left a mark on transportation policy with legislation in the early 1990s that pumped money into transit systems and roads.

But there was one strip of pavement for which Moynihan would do just about anything: Washington's once-shabby Pennsylvania Avenue, whose rehabilitation he doggedly pursued until it was achieved. And he was so pleased with the results he moved there.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

Back to the top

Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar