Jim Webb 'Steps Out' Of U.S. Senate | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Jim Webb 'Steps Out' Of U.S. Senate

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Virginia is saying goodbye this week to Sen. Jim Webb as his short, yet significant, career in the U.S. Senate comes to a close. 

In the Capitol, the bell that calls lawmakers to the Senate floor to vote also alerts the press corps. Many lawmakers use this moment to embrace the gauntlet of microphones and notebooks -- but not Senator Webb. 

Webb, a former Navy secretary and journalist himself, was accustomed to brushing aside the press in what he dubbed "ambush alley." Unlike many show horses in Congress, Webb was never sucked into the day-to-day political games on Capitol Hill. 

That doesn't mean he wasn't stung by the politics, though. In one bill he worked on, Webb got a broad coalition of groups to endorse setting up a commission to explore prison reform. The effort was filibustered and fell just three votes short. 

"In a larger sense this was a win that we have impacted the national debate on criminal justice reform," Webb said. "Although it was really silly not to pass this simple piece of legislation that was designed to get the best minds of America at the table and give good advice."

But in his one term in the Senate, Webb was able to maneuver through the gridlock. His work updating the G.I. Bill so Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans can attend college for on the government's dime is widely seen as his signature achievement. It's an effort lauded by his colleagues, including Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.).

"Getting the sort of G.I. Bill of Rights II was one of his earliest accomplishments and a remarkable feat for a freshman member in his first or second year here," Connolly said.

Webb hasn't decided what he'll do next — he's written several books, so another author's credit isn't out of the question — but the Senate isn't for him right now, he says.

"It's been healthy for me in my own career to step out after a while and kind of regain my philosophical independence, rethink issues on my own and that's a part of leaving the Senate right now," he says. 

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