By RUSSELL CONTRERAS and MORGAN LEE
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Pete V. Domenici, the son of Italian immigrants who rose to become a power broker in the U.S. Senate, died Wednesday in New Mexico. The Republican was known for reaching across the partisan divide and his work on the federal budget and energy policy over a career that spanned more than 30 years.
Domenici was surrounded by family when he died at an Albuquerque hospital after suffering a setback following a recent surgery, his family said. He was 85.
The Albuquerque-born Domenici carried a consistent message of fiscal restraint from his first term in 1972 until leaving office in 2009 — regardless of which party was in power. He even refused once to buckle to President Ronald Reagan.
Former Democratic U.S. Sen. Bennett Johnson of Louisiana described Domenici as “the consummate legislator.”
“He always knows his subject very, very well,” Bennett said previously. “He’s strong in his views, but not rigid in his approach to negotiations. He’s willing to give in when necessary, but he keeps his eye on the ultimate objective.”
New Mexico’s longest-serving U.S. senator, Domenici was remembered most for his ability to reach across the aisle and for his unflagging support of the state’s military installations and national laboratories.
Domenici announced in October 2007 that he wouldn’t seek a seventh term because he had been diagnosed with an incurable brain disorder, frontotemporal lobar degeneration.
“I love the job too much,” Domenici said days before leaving the Senate. “I feel like I’d like to have the job tomorrow and the next day.”
His decision started a scramble that saw the state’s three congressmen give up their seats to run for the Senate. His successor was Democratic Rep. Tom Udall, the son of Stewart Udall, a former Arizona congressman and Interior secretary in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.
“While we sat on different sides of the political aisle, I admired Pete’s dedication to the well-being of all of New Mexico,” Sen. Udall said in a statement.
As chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Domenici oversaw part of the debate on a national energy policy, including…