R Street Institute was saddened to learn of former Sen. Michael Enzi’s (R-Wyo.) passing. He was a thoughtful, kind and humble man who did not seek the limelight, but toiled at the solemn, difficult work of legislating in order to achieve sustainable solutions to the problems facing his constituents in Wyoming and others across the country.
Enzi’s famous “80 Percent” rule—focusing on the 80 percent of an issue where there is agreement and discarding the rest—would serve the lawmakers of the 117th Congress well. As he explained in his farewell address  to the Senate on Dec. 2, 2020:
What we are really talking about is working together. That is what the heart of the 80-percent tool is. Oftentimes, people say what we need is more bipartisanship, and there is a very practical reason for that. In the Senate, you can’t get anything done without working with the other side unless one party has 60 votes or more, which is rare. And even with 60 votes from one party, the bills that party passes when they have a supermajority often are flawed. It turns out that when we work together, we can create a better bill than when we just try to do it alone or force others to accept our ideas. That is why success is not really about compromise. It is really about what you leave out–or finding a way to accomplish it doing a mutually agreeable new way.
This way of working also ensures that we can disagree without being disagreeable. There is a lot of vitriol in our politics and our world right now, but you can stay true to what you believe in without treating others badly. Nothing gets done when we are just telling each other how wrong we are. Just ask yourself, has anyone ever really changed your opinion by getting in your face and yelling at you or saying how wrong you are? Usually, that doesn’t change hearts or minds. That might make the attacker feel better in the moment, but it doesn’t do much for getting anything accomplished. Following the 80-percent tool will not get you notoriety. It won’t get you fame. It won’t get you headlines. Most media coverage requires “blood in the water.” However, the ability to work among your peers using this method can, and will, move us forward and get things done.
The senator will also be remembered for his deep and abiding love for his wife of 52 years, Diana, his family and fly-fishing.
We encourage everyone to take the time to watch the entirety of Sen. Enzi’s farewell speech. In today’s toxic and ineffective political environment, it is clear that his brand of statesmanship is in short supply. Voters would perhaps be wise to elect more accountants.
- “farewell address”: https://www.congress.gov/congressional-record/2020/12/02/senate-section/article/S7157-5