The first time I came to work in the United States Senate was not as a United States Senator but as an intern.
A college sophomore, I believed the Senate was a place to turn activism into action. I went to work as a summer intern for my homestate Senator, California’s Alan Cranston, in the very same office I returned to more than 30 years later.
Serving as your Senator has been an honor.
The past four years have tested us as a nation. Even before I was sworn in we knew that foreign adversaries had interfered in the 2016 election. Soon thereafter, families were being separated at the border, and our work to combat climate change was being dismantled. Since then, three Supreme Court nominees have come before the Senate Judiciary committee on which I have sat. Wildfires have ravaged our state, racial injustice continues to plague our nation, and COVID-19 plagues the world.
This month, we witnessed something I thought I would never see in the United States: A mob breached the U.S. Capitol, trying to thwart the certification of the 2020 election results. The violence made clear that we have two systems of justice — one that failed to restrain the rioters on January 6 and another that released tear gas on non-violent demonstrators last summer.
These have not been easy times by any stretch.
I am proud that, through it all, my office has maintained its focus, working tirelessly for the people of California.
We have taken on critical issues facing Californians and all Americans: rising rent costs, devastating hunger, unjust cash bail, economic insecurity, maternal healthcare, among others. Senators Cory Booker, Tim Scott, and I passed anti-lynching legislation through the Senate. And just last December, with Senators Mark Warner and Cory Booker, we passed legislation that will provide much-needed capital to communities of color and low-income communities during the pandemic.
From helping seniors navigate the Medicare system to helping veterans get the benefits they are owed, from securing funding for families to rebuild after the wildfires to working to get small businesses what they need to stay afloat — my team heard you, we saw you, and we fought for you. Thank you, California, for that privilege. Know that Alex Padilla will carry on this work.
And this is not goodbye.
Today, as I resign from the Senate, I am preparing to take an oath that would have me preside over it.
As Senator-turned-Vice-President Walter Mondale once pointed out, the vice presidency is the only office in our government that “belongs to both the executive branch and the legislative branch.” A responsibility made greater with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate.
Since our nation’s founding, only 268 tie-breaking votes have been cast by a Vice President. I intend to work tirelessly as your Vice President, including, if necessary, fulfilling this Constitutional duty. At the same time, it is my hope that rather than come to the point of a tie, the Senate will instead find common ground and do the work of the American people.
Just a year before I interned in the Senate, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was made a federal holiday. The legislation did not sail through Congress by any means. There was a heated debate and a fair amount of grandstanding. In the end, the Democratic-led House passed the bill, the Republican-controlled Senate did the same, and the Republican president signed it into law.
Now, we have the pastor from the very church Dr. King preached in — the eleventh Black Senator since Reconstruction, out of nearly 2,000 Senators total — about to be sworn in. And with him, the first Jewish Senator from the Deep South since the 19th century.
Change is possible. For that, I am grateful and ready to get to work.
Thus, as I leave the United States Senate, this is not goodbye. This is hello.
Click here to read the full op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle.