Jesse Francis "Jeff" Bingaman, Jr. (born October 3, 1943) is the senior United States Senator from New Mexico and a member of the Democratic Party. He serves as Chairman of Committee Outreach for the Senate Democratic Caucus.
Previously, Bingaman was Attorney General of New Mexico.
On February 18, 2011, Bingaman announced that he would not seek re-election in 2012.
Bingaman was born in El Paso, Texas, the son of Frances Bethia (n e Ball) and Jesse Francis Bingaman. He grew up in Silver City, New Mexico. His father taught at Western New Mexico University and his mother taught in the public schools system. At age 15, he earned the rank of Eagle Scout. The Boy Scouts of America later presented Bingaman with their Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.
After graduating from Silver High School, Bingaman went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in government from Harvard University in 1965. He then entered Stanford Law School, graduating in 1968. He met his wife Anne Kovacovich while attending law classes. They have one son.
After his admission to the bar, Bingaman commenced work as a private practice attorney alongside his wife. He also served as counsel to the New Mexico Constitutional Convention of 1969. From 1968 to 1974, Bingaman was a member of the U.S. Army Reserve.
State Attorney General
Bingaman had worked briefly in the state attorney general's office. He ran for the leadership position of this office in 1978 and was elected. Environmental and antitrust issues were some of his biggest concerns while in this position.
In 1982, Bingaman unseated the one term incumbent, Harrison Schmitt to win his first term in the Senate. Bingaman is Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a member of the Finance Committee; Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee; and Joint Committee on the Economy.
Generally, Bingaman keeps a lower national profile than conventional wisdom would suggest for a five-term Senator. However, he is very popular in New Mexico; he has only faced substantive opposition once, in 1994.
Bingaman and his Senate colleague Pete Domenici were the longest serving duo among senators in the 110th United States Congress (2007 2009). In second place were Edward Kennedy and John Kerry of Massachusetts. Bingaman was the most senior junior senator in the 110th United States Congress. Currently, Bingaman is the senior senator from New Mexico. On April 28, 2008, Jeff Bingaman endorsed Senator Barack Obama for the 2008 Democratic Presidential Nomination.
On December 13, 2008, Bingaman was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from New Mexico State University at the university's Fall 2008 commencement ceremony.
Being from a border state with Mexico, Bingaman has been much involved in the debate over illegal immigration. He believes in increased enforcement of borders to stem the flow of illegal immigrants, including more patrol agents and the use of surveillance cameras. However, he also believes that the U.S. should enact a guest worker program so that immigrants looking for honest work can arrive legally. Bingaman voted against the Secure Fence Act in 2006. He voted against declaring English to be the official language of the US government and voted in favor of continuing federal funds to self-declared "sanctuary cities."
Energy and the environment
Throughout his political career, Bingaman has burnished a pro-environmental record. He has worked consistently to protect wildlife and public lands. He spoke publicly about the necessity of the Clean Energy Act of 2007, citing the importance of developing clean technology and green jobs. He stated his support for the bill's principle of eliminating tax breaks on gas and oil companies.
Since 2006, Bingaman has been working on a bill that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions via a "cap and trade" system." He has stated that he would like to see his plan implemented so that emissions would be reduced to 1990 levels by 2030. His bill would also increase levels of federal funding for research and development of green technologies.
Abortion, media and gay rights
Bingaman has voted in line with the majority of his party on abortion, and he has received a 100% rating from the pro-choice NARAL. He has voiced his support to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. Although he voted in 1996 for the Defense of Marriage Act, he voted against a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, and has been ranked favorably by gay rights groups (89% from the HRC). He has also voted twice against a proposed amendment to ban flag desecration and has supported affirmative action.
On October 11, 2002, Jeff Bingaman was among the 23 Senators who did not vote for authorizing the Iraq War.
Crime and torture
Bingaman has a generally prorehabilitation stance on crime, supporting more programs to prevent youth crime, lower high school dropout rates, and stop drug use. Bingaman has been an outspoken critic of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay. He cites the need for due process of law for detainees by saying:
- "The current practice of holding detainees or prisoners indefinitely, without affording them basic due process rights, has been widely criticized in this country and throughout the world. For a country such as ours that has consistently advocated for the rule of law, the policies of the current administration are nothing short of a major embarrassment... How we handle prisoners can have a dramatic impact on how our own men and women are treated in the event they are themselves taken prisoner."http://usliberals.about.com/od/liberalpersonalprofiles/p/SenBingaman.htm
Health care reform
Bingaman supported President Barack Obama's health reform legislation; he voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009, and he voted for the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.
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