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July 27, 2021

Statement of Victoria Reggie Kennedy on the Passing of Senator Mike Enzi

Senator Mike Enzi was a very good and decent man who has been taken from us too soon. The news of his loss after suffering a tragic biking accident last weekend is heartbreaking for his family and for those of us who knew and cared about him. We will miss him greatly.

I was fortunate to get to know Mike when he served in the United States Senate with my late husband Senator Edward M. Kennedy. From 2005 to Ted’s death in 2009, Mike Enzi, conservative Republican from Wyoming, and Ted Kennedy, liberal Democrat from Massachusetts, traded positions as either ranking member or chair of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee, depending on which party had majority control of the Senate at the time. But when it came to Mike and Ted’s work together, majority control did not factor into the equation – mutual respect did. And as a result, the committee followed regular order to report out more than two dozen pieces of legislation that passed the full Senate with broad bipartisan support. At least 17 of those bills ultimately became law.

Enzi later explained the reason for their legislative success: the 80/20 rule. At the beginning of each legislative session, Enzi and Kennedy would list the 80 percent of the issues they agreed on and try to work within that framework. Neither of them got 100 percent of what they wanted, but they made important progress for the benefit of the American people. That progress included, among other pieces of legislation that became law, a Health IT bill that allows individuals to own their own medical records; the renewal of the Ryan White CARE Act for AIDS; and reauthorizations of the Higher Education Act, Head Start, and the Workforce Investment Act. While never compromising his principles, Mike Enzi always looked for ways to find common ground.

Mike Enzi’s 80/20 rule is one we all should strive to live by. The Senate would certainly be a more productive place. And most important, our interactions with each other would be more civil. I can’t think of a better legacy than that. Thank you, Mike, for showing us the way. Godspeed.

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