Farewellby Former Representative Nick J. Rahall II
Posted on 2014-12-11
RAHALL asked and was given permission to address the House for 1
minute and to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. RAHALL. Madam Speaker, in good times and bad, one constant
remains here on Capitol Hill. The Congress of the United States
continues to attract some of the brightest minds and most eager spirits
our country's colleges and universities can produce. They are our
I want to acknowledge and express my deep gratitude to my staff members, especially Kent Keyser, my former chief of staff and now senior policy adviser, and Jim Zoia, my chief counsel, both of whom have been by my side every step of the way. They are outstanding and dedicated individuals who deserve the highest praise for their selfless sacrifice and service in behalf of the people of southern West Virginia. Through the years, many too numerous to mention have served on my staff and then have moved on, putting the lessons they learned serving on my staff to work for our State and Nation.
In addition to Kent and Jim, those serving on my Washington staff include: David McMaster, chief of staff; Kate Denman, deputy chief of staff; Diane Luensmann, communications director; Andy Mollohan and Rachel Meyer, legislative assistants; Carol Wallace, projects director; Josh Sutherland, legislative correspondent; and Megan Price, staff assistant.
In my West Virginia offices: Kelly Dyke, my district director; and Debrina Workman, Debbie Stevens, Teri Booth, and Kim McMillion represent over a century of service and experience to their fellow West Virginians. They are joined by Greg Crist, my district representative, and Larone Alexander, who serves on my staff through the House Wounded Warrior Program.
Those working on my Transportation and Infrastructure Committee staff are: Ann Adler, Ward McCarragher, Ed Gilman, Lisa James, and Luke Strimer.
Those who serve on my subcommittee staff include: Alex Burkett, Rachel Carr, Dave Jansen, Elliot Doomes, Janet Erickson, Alexa Old Crow, Helena Zyblikewycz, Jennifer Homendy, Ryan Seiger, and Chelsea Welch.
My own public service began as a staffer for the master of the United States Senate, Robert C. Byrd. I learned of the institutional ups and downs firsthand, starting work as an elevator operator for the Senators only, so I know a little about laboring behind the scenes: answering the phones, responding to the mail, enduring the long hours of sometimes mundane, often utterly thankless tasks that keep this place running for the very people we were elected to serve.
My entire career in this body has been served on two committees: first, it was called the Public Works and Transportation Committee, then it changed to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where I now serve as ranking member. I served also on the House Interior and Insular Affairs that later changed to the House Resources Committee, where I had the honor of chairing on the Subcommittee on Mines and Mining, and, most importantly, serving as chairman of that House Resources Committee.
I do appreciate, Mr. Speaker, that all of us in this body are all bridge builders. We have tried--and I certainly have tried--hard to build bridges between our coal miners in my great State of West Virginia and our coal operators, between our disadvantaged and our advantaged, between our need to provide jobs and protect jobs in our coal fields and our need to protect our land and the air we breathe, and from all our middle class to the Middle East and beyond, we all seek a world of peace.
I am proud of my record, my 38-year record in this body of protecting and providing black lung benefits, health care and pensions, and, most importantly, safety for our coal miners. I have steadfastly sought relief from excessive regulations on our coal industry. I have defended and protected that vital safety net for our unemployed, our sick, elderly, and others disadvantaged through no fault of their own. My direct help in building our infrastructure in southern West Virginia, where the transportation, technology, or tourism is well-documented for generations to come. I have created vital additional wilderness areas in our State, white water rafting opportunities, and the largest Federally protected areas east of the Mississippi, which is called the New River Gorge National Recreation Area.
Mr. Speaker, my grandfathers came to this great land as pack peddlers from Lebanon. They worked hard, as all West Virginians do. They lived the American Dream.
[[Page H10305]] I have traveled the Middle East extensively during my close to four decades in this body, including with President Clinton in that historic December 1988 codel to the Middle East when he became the first U.S. President to step foot on Palestinian soil. I have met with kings, queens, emirs, presidents, prime ministers, militia chiefs, warlords, you name it, in this region, many times even when not in sync with our official U.S. policy. I have long advocated for Palestinian justice, human rights, dignity, and relief.
Madam Speaker, I do leave this body with a great sense of pride and a great sense of accomplishment in what we have been able to do together for the people of West Virginia.
I do appreciate my colleagues taking a moment to reflect with me on what truly has been a remarkable personal journey, a distinct honor, and a true privilege to serve the people. From elevator operator, mail carrier, assistant to the Democratic Whip Robert Byrd in the Democratic cloakroom in the other body through those Watergate years, all through my 38 years in this august body, it has been both exciting and frustrating, full of fast-paced days and long, drawn-out nights, such as we have just been through this evening. It has been full of sometimes tears, sometimes laughter, and, indeed, it has been an experience that I have truly appreciated and have loved every minute of it.
I want to say in conclusion that I thank, first and foremost, of course, God. I thank my family for their support. This very day, as I speak, is a 10th anniversary of my dear wife, Melinda, and I, and we celebrate this anniversary knowing that it has been a great ride in this institution. My late father stood behind me all the way. My 89- year-old mother, now living in my hometown of Beckley, and my brother Ed and my sisters Vickie and Tanya have always been there for me. My three children, Rebecca and her husband, Michael; Nick III and Laura; and Suzanne Nicole have always been behind my career. And all three of my grandchildren, Madison Kaylee, Nick Joe IV, and Ellianna, that is what it is all about, as we all know in this body, making this place a better place for our children and our grandchildren to live in.
My heartfelt thanks go out to the good people in West Virginia. I have been most proud to fight for our courageous coal miners, and I am very happy to see just this week that those war notices issued by the coal companies earlier this year will, fortunately, not be honored in most cases, and, fortunately, these coal miners will be able to keep holding their jobs.
I have been deeply proud to fight for our courageous coal miners. I have been deeply humble to serve and stand up for our American heroes, our veterans. West Virginia is a proud and patriotic State. I thank our working men and women, the backbone of our country, and our seniors who strengthen this Nation day after day with their continuing contributions. And may God bless our educators, our teachers who positively shape the future of our youth throughout eternity.
Madam Speaker, in concluding this chapter of my life, I offer my special heartfelt thanks to you, each of you in this body, my colleagues, for all the experiences, for representing the immense diversity of our country, and for a lifetime of lessons through the many trials and tribulations that you have shared and taught me. I truly have had the high honor of serving with dedicated public servants and their staffs who will ensure this country remains forever the best in the world.
Thank you and God bless this House of Representatives, and God bless our country.