COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
A lot has changed in Sen. Roy Blunt's nearly three decades in politics.
Where it used to be taken for granted that political opponents in Congress would work together for the people, things have changed somewhat.
Bipartisanship still exists, but it's harder to come by these days, Blunt says.
Blunt sat down with ABC 17 News for an interview ahead of the end of his final Senate term.
Looking ahead to the future of our country, the Republican senator has some words of advice for future political leaders.
"I think one of the big challenges of the last decade or so were so many people running for office saying 'If I don't get exactly what I want, I won't settle for anything else,'" Blunt said. "That's antithetical to democracy."
Blunt's last day in office will be Jan. 3. He said after his term ends he will continue to work in some way.
"I've tried to really do everything I could to stay focused on this job right up until the last minute," Blunt said. "I think we've accomplished not only a lot in the 26 years I've been in Congress, but a lot in say the last 26 months or so at a time we knew I wasn't running again."
Southwest Missouri roots
Blunt was born in 1950 in Niangua, Missouri, located in the southwest part of the state. He grew up on a dairy farm and was the first person in his family to graduate from college.
Blunt earned a degree in history from Southwest Baptist University where he later became the school's president. Blunt also went on to earn a master's in history from what is now Missouri State University.
Blunt married his second wife Abigail in 2003. Together they have one child, Charlie. Blunt also has three children -- former Missouri governor Matt, Amy and Andy -- from a prior marriage. He has six grandchildren named Davis Mosby, Ben Blunt, Branch Blunt, Eva Mosby, Allyson Blunt and Brooks Blunt.
In 1984, Blunt was elected as the first Republican in more than 50 years to serve as Missouri's secretary of state. He represented Missouri's 7th Congressional District from 1997 to 2011 before being elected to his current position as U.S. senator.
Blunt was elected majority whip in 2007, earlier in his career than any other member of Congress in eight decades.
Blunt said a lot of the success he's had has come through working with lawmakers across the aisle.
"The way you advance the country is to find people to work with and get as much as you want as is possible to get," Blunt said. "That's sort of the proper, the balance of democracy."
His bipartisan efforts include securing seven consecutive funding increases for the National Institutes of Health.
"It's just what it takes to get things done and I think we've done things that've advanced the country and advanced our state," Blunt said.
Under his chairmanship, Blunt helped to bring the total increase to $15.4 billion. From 2015-2021, NIH funding for the Show-Me State increased by more than $314 million.
Blunt's other bipartisan work includes his work on the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act which was signed into law in June after the Uvalde massacre. Blunt was one of 10 Republicans to work with Democrats in creating the act, which included more than $8.5 billion to expand the Excellence in Mental Health Program.
Blunt along with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) helped to sponsor the Mental Health Act to expand mental health and additional services with state funding for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics.
What the future holds
Looking toward the future, Blunt believes Missouri is "incredibly well-positioned" for challenges and opportunities.
"Where we're located is really an advantage for us, you know, where we can bring a river and a rail and highways all together to make us more competitive," Blunt said. "Small-town America is a great place to create a sense that anything is possible."
Blunt currently serves alongside fellow Missouri U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley.
The two top contenders running for Blunt's spot are Republican Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Democratic candidate Trudy Busch Valentine.