Reflections on Congressby Former Representative Spencer Bachus
Posted on 2014-12-11
in the house of representatives
Thursday, December 11, 2014
Mr. BACHUS. Mr. Speaker, as I prepare to retire after 22 years in the
House, I feel as I did when I first walked into this chamber as a
freshman--it is an extraordinary privilege to be able to serve and
being a U.S. representative is a humbling opportunity I never imagined
I might have.
As Members of Congress, we see the Capitol Dome every day and I suspect that none of us ever fails to be inspired by its beauty and what it symbolizes. It is the incarnation of words attributed to Alexander Hamilton: ``Here . . . the people govern.'' In times of peace and war, prosperity and economic crisis, and social consensus and societal change, America stands unique among nations and in history. The phrase that perfectly explains this is ``American Exceptionalism,'' which I truly believe in. You see it in the leadership that America provides to the world, in the service of our troops and veterans, and in the spirit of our people.
In Congress, I have served with three Presidents and five Speakers and been in this institution for the final years of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks, the accounting scandals and later the financial crisis of 2008, and many other historic events. Frequently, the concern expressed in our nation was, ``Will we make it through?'' Each time, America demonstrated its resilience and the reason for that, in my view, is because of our freedom.
It has been my privilege to serve on three great committees: the Financial Services Committee, the Judiciary Committee, and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. My colleagues accorded me the honor of selecting me as Financial Services Committee Chairman, the first to come from my home state of Alabama since Representative Henry B. Steagall in the 1930s. Little did I know that my leadership term on the committee would coincide with the most severe financial crisis to test the U.S. since the Great Depression. During the depths of the financial crisis in the fall of 2008, we worked to prevent a repeat of that catastrophe by stabilizing our weakened banking system; I am proud of my advocacy [[Page E1804]] of the successful capital purchase program as a solution.
However, if asked about my most satisfying achievement, it would be debt relief. The bipartisan agreement that emerged from Congress and the Clinton and Bush Administrations to provide debt relief to the world's poorest nations has reduced hunger, poverty and disease and lifted tens of millions of children and families from despair to hope. It is an example of what this institution is capable of doing at its finest.
As Dean of the Alabama congressional delegation, I have been honored to be part of a group of House Members and Senators that works across party lines to promote the interests of our state as a whole. Some of the projects that stand out to me are the construction of I-22 and the Northern Beltline, the creation of the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge, the location of the National Computer Forensics Center in Hoover, and especially the construction of the Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo, a shrine to our veterans and their families.
One thing that Members of Congress learn quickly is that their effectiveness is greatly enhanced by a high quality staff. Over the years, I have had many talented and dedicated individuals on my personal and committee staffs. In the past on this floor, I have noted the contributions of Larry Lavender, Warren Tryon, and Gerry Cashin. While time does not permit me to name every staff member, I would like to acknowledge loyal staffers who have been with me during my final year in office: Michael Staley, Tim Johnson, Brett Quick, Philip Swartzfager, Thomas Crockett, Summer Bravo, Brooks McClendon, Katherine Runkle, and Blake Lasuzzo in my Washington office and Christian Sanford, Ethan Vice and Pam Cook in my Birmingham office. Both the institution of Congress and bureaucracy of the federal government are large and complex, and experience matters when you interact with them on behalf of your constituents.
One thing I cannot stress enough is that I would not have been able to achieve anything without the support of my family. My wife Linda is my source of comfort, inspiration, and love. We are blessed with five wonderful children--Candace, Warren, Lisa, Stuart, and Elliott--and seven delightful grandchildren--Christopher, Madeline, Olivia, Rayner, Charlotte, Braden and Lillie. With great eagerness, I look forward to having more time to spend with my beautiful family.
In conclusion, I leave with great respect as well as with an abiding fondness for this institution. A departing hope is that while we vigorously debate policy, as we elected to do, we focus on doing so with respect and civility. My father gave me the advice, ``If you can't say anything nice about a person, don't say anything at all.'' That's not an easy thing to do in politics, but it's a good standard to aspire to. A benefit, I believe, would be an increase in public regard for this legislative body, which is vital in a society where consent comes from the governed. We should strive to make the public proud of their Congress; as Members, we should take personal pride in and honor the tradition of this essential institution.
The people of America look to us for leadership and, in turn, the nations of the world look to America for leadership. This is still President Reagan's beloved ``Shining City on the Hill.'' My hope is that during the time the people of Alabama have given me here, brief in the scope of our country's glorious history, I have been able to contribute in some small way to maintaining the Promise of America for our children, grandchildren, and the generations to come.