SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — A former Republican Capitol Hill lawmaker from South Dakota is looking forward to a new Democratic administration entering the White House in less than two weeks. Larry Pressler, of Humboldt, served on the Foreign Relations Committee with President-elect Joe Biden when both were members of the U.S. Senate. Pressler describes Biden as a “policy guy,” the kind of person, he says is needed right now in Washington. But Pressler does have one concern about Biden as he prepares to take office.
Politics is personal to Larry Pressler, when it comes to President-elect Joe Biden.
“And I know him well personally and he will be a good, honest strong leader for our nation,” Pressler said.
Pressler’s and Biden’s political careers overlapped in Washington. Both served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Pressler says the two were able to set aside political differences to work together in Washington, in a spirit of cooperation that’s rare among politicians today.
“Biden had his office right next to us and I’d walk to my votes with him frequently, he’s a very polite man, very good man, he cares a lot about our country. But he knows more about policy. He’s a policy guy, and that’s what we need,” Pressler said.
Pressler, a three-term senator, last ran for office as an independent in an unsuccessful bid to return to the Senate in 2014. By that time, Pressler had left the Republican Party because he says the GOP lurched too far to the right, leaving no place for centrists like himself. He supported Joe Biden’s run for the White House against President Trump.
“I like a more traditional, stable approach to government. And Trump is too much of a bucking bronco to me,” Pressler said.
But critics, including Trump, made Biden’s age an issue during the campaign. And the 78-year-old Pressler has his own reservations.
“I worry about his age a little bit. His age is exactly the same as mine and I’m a little bit worried as he moves into his eighties, how that’s going to work out. I hope well, but a lot of us who get close to eighty, we find out we’ve got some glitches,” Pressler said.
Pressler, himself, is dealing with one of those so-called glitches. In November, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
“Yes, I’m going to beat it, I’m doing my best,” Pressler said.
But pancreatic cancer has a very low survival rate. Pressler spent the holidays being treated at the Johns Hopkins Cancer Center in Baltimore.
“I don’t know if they’re going to do chemotherapy, or not. The treatment is good, anti-cancer food and lots of rest, I guess. But there really isn’t any treatment. Pancreatic cancer is a mystery to everybody,” Pressler said.
It’s a medical mystery that Pressler hopes more research can solve. In the meantime, Pressler looks back on his career in Washington with pride. He was the first Vietnam veteran to serve in the U.S. Senate. Plus, everyone with an electronic device, like the cell phone we used to conduct our interview, is connected in a way to Pressler’s time on Capitol Hill.
“The Telecommunications Act of 1996, which was my legislation, brought us the internet. So that’s part of my legacy. Also, I did a lot of work in agricultural matters, air safety, everything I worked on for my state,” Pressler said.
2021 will be a year of uncertainty for Pressler as he deals with his cancer. But regardless of the health challenges he may face in the months ahead, Pressler remains grateful for all the support he’s received from his home state.
“I’m so thankful that the people of South Dakota allowed me to serve in the House of Representatives for four years and the United States Senate for 18 years, and I’m just very grateful to the people of South Dakota,” Pressler said.
Pressler, who lives in Washington, says he hopes to one day move back to South Dakota, but his health won’t allow him to do that, right now.