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Kaufman on ‘Daily Show’: Senate Works as Designed

Sen. Ted Kaufman found himself in the position of sticking up for the Senate again on his Tuesday evening appearance on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.”

The Delaware Democrat was appointed in 2009 to fill the Senate seat of Joseph Biden, who stepped down to become vice president. Kaufman will leave Congress in the middle of November, after his successor is chosen in a special election to fill the remaining four years of the six-year term Biden won in 2008.

Stewart equated Kaufman’s status with that of a foreign exchange student, who can give an outsider’s perspective of the inside. But when the host asked Kaufman why the Senate is slow to pass legislation, he replied that the body reflects “what our founders set it out to be.”

“It was designed to stop everything, and that’s about what it does,” said Kaufman, who served as an aide to Biden from 1973 to 1995, mostly as chief of staff. His defense of the Senate echoed remarks he made in a September interview with Roll Call.

The Senator said the 111th Congress has been perhaps the most productive since the days of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Kaufman added that the biggest change he would make would be to strengthen this year’s financial regulatory overhaul to do more to “rein in Wall Street.”

On the issue of polarity in the Capitol, Kaufman said ideology divides the whole country, not just lawmakers under the Dome. “It’s not about the guys,” he said. “The Senators are good people.”

Kaufman also downplayed the influence of money on lawmaking. “It’s not that money corrupts things, it’s just that you have to spend so much time” fundraising, he said.

Stewart joked at the end of the interview, “So if I may sum up, the system is corrupt and broken — exactly as it’s designed to be.”

“The Daily Show,” which is normally filmed in New York, has brought its production to Washington this week. Austan Goolsbee, chairman of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, appeared on the show Monday night, and Obama will be Stewart’s guest Wednesday.

Stewart and Comedy Central colleague Stephen Colbert of “The Colbert Report” will headline a free rally on the National Mall from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday. Stewart’s portion is billed as the Rally to Restore Sanity, while Colbert’s is called the March to Keep Fear Alive.

The episode with Kaufman’s interview will air at 11 p.m. Tuesday on Comedy Central.

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