Days remaining in his final term, John Yarmuth looks back on 16 years in Congress

“Not ready to leave but not prepared to stay” is how John Yarmuth describes leaving Congress after serving eight terms.
Published: Dec. 27, 2022 at 4:11 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - “Not ready to leave but not prepared to stay” is how John Yarmuth describes leaving Congress after serving eight terms.

Kentucky’s only Democrat in Congress did not run for re-election and delivered his final speech on the House floor on Dec. 14, saying he would “miss many, but not all” of his colleagues.

With just days remaining on his final term in office, Yarmuth spoke on the legislators he will not miss in Washington.

“You got people like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert and Madison Cawthorn, and some of these people who are really not serious legislators,” Yarmuth said. “They are there for performance art and political theater. And they’re not there to govern. They inflame people. They do it deliberately. And we have a couple of those on the Democratic side as well. But when you come to Congress, you have to be interested in governing and too many people aren’t.”

Yarmuth’s departure comes at a time of rigid partisan division.

“Before this last Congress, I would have said that I was getting much more cynical,” Yarmuth said. “But we have actually accomplished so much during the last two years.”

Kentucky’s only Democrat in Congress listed recent accomplishments including gun safety legislation, the American Rescue Plan and billions passed to address climate change. He mentioned successful collaborations with state Republicans on horse racing legislation and bourbon tariffs.

“We found a way, the other members of the delegation, to work together win Kentucky’s interest were clearly at stake,” Yarmuth said. “And when there wasn’t really a philosophical battle going on.”

However, Yarmuth said some of his cross-the-aisle relationships became strained in the aftermath of the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“Members of the Kentucky delegation have not been particularly outspoken and pushing back against some of the more extreme elements that have supported Donald Trump and supported Republicans that tried to excuse January 6,” he said.

Yarmuth said the violent images of that day have a “residual effect” that affects him emotionally.

“Clearly one of the darkest days in American history in my life for sure,” Yarmuth said.

But as he looks back, he counts a long list of positive experiences.

“Flying on Air Force One, meeting with President Biden in the Oval Office,” Yarmuth said. “Playing golf with Barack Obama. The first day walking into the capital and thinking, wow this is an institution that Abraham Lincoln served in and John Kennedy and John Lewis and so many amazing Americans so there are a lot of positive memories I take, mostly positive for sure.”