Once the Nov. 6 election is over, Congress will return to an unprecedented pile of work that needs to get done during a lame-duck session, retiring U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl said on Wednesday.
Already stuck in gridlock and now full of members who are locked in re-election mode, the Congress faces looming sequestration, Bush tax cuts set to expire and the debt ceiling, among other pressing issues.
"There are so many pieces of unfinished business that we can't do any of them well," said Kyl, a Republican who is in the final months of his 18-year career in the U.S. Senate. "It's really not a way to make good public policy."
• On the tax cuts, Kyl said the best thing to hope for is an extension of current policy for perhaps one year to give Congress time to overhaul the tax code.
• On sequestration - the $1.2 trillion in cuts over a seven-year period that will automatically kick in starting in January if Congress doesn't agree on a better plan - Kyl said it shouldn't be too hard to come up with $100 billion in savings needed to prevent sequestration. Sequestration would include about $500 billion in defense cuts.
Kyl was in Tucson on Wednesday to announce that he is donating materials from his 26 years in Congress to the University of Arizona library.
The collection includes official documents from his service in the U.S. House and Senate but also from the campaign trail. For instance, he'll be donating documents he used to prepare for a campaign debate.
The first part of the collection will arrive in December and include documents that already have been made public. The second part will arrive sometime in the future and feature more sensitive information.
"It's my hope that it will be useful to be people studying public policy or particular issues, such as immigration reform," Kyl said. "My records might provide some piece of the puzzle."
Kyl and his wife, who are both graduates of the UA, wanted the collection to go there in gratitude for the education they received. Kyl has both a bachelor's and a law degree from the UA.
In combing through his old documents, Kyl said he's been surprised about how much he had forgotten. Though he's winced at reading some of his early speeches and writings, and said he may have cast some votes differently knowing what he knows now, he said there's not much he would have done differently in his career.
"I really don't have very many regrets at all," Kyl said.
Kyl, 70, said he decided to retire several years ago, barring an unforeseen event. He said he'll miss the job greatly and that there's nothing about being a U.S. senator he doesn't like - even the fundraising.
"I just felt that after 26 years, it's probably enough. It's time to let somebody else take over," he said. "And if I'm ever going to get back in the private sector, I need to do it now."
Before joining Congress, Kyl was a lawyer in Phoenix. He said he plans to continue splitting time between Arizona and Washington, D.C., while working in the private sector in politics, maybe the media and academics. But he will not run again for public office.
He's backing Republican Jeff Flake over Democrat Richard Carmona in the race to replace him in the Senate. He said Flake is a conservative, while saying Carmona is not a good fit for a state that leans center-right.
Kyl said he hasn't thought much about his legacy as the 10th U.S. senator in Arizona history, but he said he hopes to be remembered as somebody who worked hard, was honest and straightforward, and advocated for good public policy for the state and nation.
During his tenure in Congress, Kyl said he learned to be less sure of himself and to reserve judgment until evaluating all aspects of an issue.
"If you don't know much about something, you can come in thinking there is no question that you are right," Kyl said. "The more you learn, the more you realize that there are a lot of different ways to look at issues. Things are complicated. … In other words, having a little humility is probably a good thing."
Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @BradyMcCombs.