tv U.S. Senate Sen. Heidi Heitkamp Farewell Speech CSPAN December 12, 2018 8:57am-9:31am EST
me a for good and noble purpose, to try into the things that i i was not needed to be done in this country. and it's an important lesson for all of you. the greatest gift you have is not your bank account, your greatest gift that you have is the amount of time you have left on this earth. and what you do with that time. and i chose for good or bad to come to the united states senate. i think, i think when have a world of options and we make this choice, it is so important that we come here with purpose. not just to be named a a senat. not just for the office but for purpose. so the truth is i'm not supposed to be here. i am from north dakota, a town of 90 people. when was growing up my family was 110 population i just have to say. my dad was a world war ii veteran. loved education. read the paper every day, believed in this country but he
was never given a chance to go to high school. my family struggle to y get by, and when you look at it, you think about this, you think about it i country or somebody from my background could actually become the united states send it. i'm a, democrat from a very conservative state but against all odds and prediction was it was only 1/8% i got elected got elected to the senate. the fact that i got to serve in the senate for six years is an incredible american story. people always ask me at what point did you kind of think wow, you came to the senate? i said i was so busy after got elected because no one thought i would ever get elected, so people want to see me who never went to see me during a campaign. and so busy taking beaty, busy putting together the office. i remember the day i came to that chair and the pastor gave andy gaveled in and then i turned around to say the pledge of allegiance. and i thought, here i am.
a girl, middle age, eiji democrat from north dakota, and i'm standing in theot well of te senate were not even 2000 people come before. this is a great, great and good and noble country with great purpose. with great opportunity. and i want every child out there to understand it doesn't matter, we represent a cross-section of this great country. but we also are not that special. we are not good sometimes i think the american public thinks if he took 100 random people and put them into chair, they could do better than we could do. but the truth is you all came here with that same noble purpose. you all came here to change america, , to do the right thin. i don't care if you sit there or sit here. you all came here for the right purpose. and so the fact i got to serve
in the senate is part of a great american story and that story only happens in this country. don't ever forget that. and if we lose that opportunity, we won't become a diminution in we are. and so want to today offer a few comments and hope they are not too preachy to want everyone to understand, especially my colleagues, that this this is n the opportunity off a lifetime. .. we have an opportunity not just to achieve the title, but to this country. my job in the work i've done is remember who we're standing in this well for.
throughout my life and the past six years i've been here for north dakota, for the incredible people that i served. i've stood here for the families of disabled children who were terrified they would lose their health care. when i took that vote on the affordable care act, i saw in their -- in that vote, i remembered their faces. i remembered their tears. i stood here for the men and women of our armed forces and our veterans in north dakota who believed that they did a great thing and deserve to be treated respectfully, honorably and, yes, get the benefits that they've earned and too often they're denied. a veteran should not have to come to a congressional office to get the benefits they've earned, but, yet, too many have to. i've stood here for retirees whose pensions are threatened and i've asked the simple question, if we can spend billions bailing out the failed wall street bankers, can't we just pay attention to the
working men and women who are struggling, who are in crisis, and literally, the heartbreak of their stories, if heard across this chamber, the reaction would be overwhelming. many of them are veterans. many of them worked hard, and now, are broken in the work that they've done. i've stood here for farmers in rural communities and i've stood here for native people and many many times, as you know, have tried to do my best to educate all of you on the challenges of our first americans, our native americans. but mostly, i think, i hope i've stood here for the children of america because in spite of how we behavior, they truly are our future, they are the people who make a difference for our future. and if we do not start respecting that challenge that we have to create a better world, a better world of more opportunity, we will not fix
the problems of america long-term. so, these are the people that drive me every day. they are who we serve, not a party, not an ideology, we serve americans. i've spent my time standing and fighting for them and for me, that work was never, never done. so, with all that said, i stand here proud of what we've accomplished. when you look at the time and the opportunity to rise above partisanship and rancor, i've found so much common ground with so many members of this body and i'm incredibly proud of what we've been able to accomplish. i've advocated for native american communities and my bills stand up for native american children which i did with lisa, from the beginning with senator murkowski. the first bill i introduced, it was symbolic for me because we have to do better and i found great partnership with lisa not just on this, but on other
issues, but i know her heart and i know that she cares, and when you find people who care the way you care, you can do amazing things. my legislation to create an amber alert with our colleague john mccain, and san -- savannah's law the missing and murdered indigenous women. and crack down on human trafficking on-line. we shut down people who were, in fact, selling children for sex. you think about that. that's a noble act that we took. and the challenge continues. congress passed my bill to give first responders more training and resources to keep our communities strong and safe. i led a successful effort, again with my colleague from alaska, lisa murkowski, a ban on exporter oil and with
renewables that we did with my other colleagues on this side of the aisle when we looked at enhancing renewable energy. a flaming success on both sides. we are exporting literally millions of barrels of oil resulting in energy independence and helping our allies, but we also are growing our renewable energy industry because of that effort. it couldn't happen without colleagues working together. i secured an events center in grand forks and might be small to this body, but huge to the veterans it serves. i got needed funds for flood protection across north dakota in projects that we need working with senator holden. i passed my bill to secure the northern border working with kelly ayotte no longer here, but a great friend. and legislation i helped write to provide relieve community banks. senator crapo, senator donnelly, senator tester,
instant warner. no one thought we could get that done, but we did because we believed we could. think about that. i worked with republicans and democrats, the first carbon legislation that passed here, i can't speak to ear other pieces and senator sheldon whitehouse collaborated and said we can't agree on climate, but we can agree on technology and this is essential to tackle the problems of carbon emissions in this country. so don't say it can't be done. if you can get sheldon whitehouse and mitch mcconnell on a bill that involves carbon on coal industry, that's a good day here.
i worked to help to address detrimental impact exposure to trauma and it's an issue i hope you all will become better informed on, trauma and effects it has on many of our children and i worked with dick durbin who let me take the ball and run with it, and i'll always be grateful for. and worked with cory, cory booker from new jersey, if we change american families, address why it is that we do everything that we've always done and we expect a different result. we have to think differently about these issues. i helped write, negotiate and pass farm bills. thank you for pat and debby believing in partnership and rural america. i've worked with incredible folks, i think john bosman from arkansas, a great story. little known fact in the farm bill that we're all going to pass is maybe the first piece
of major legislation involving cuba. we've lifted the ban on using the usda program who enhance export opportunities to the island of cuba. first time. we've addressed cuba in any major piece of legislation and, yes, i don't know if senator harper is here, but i care about the post office and you guys do, too. we've ignored it way too long. i'm going to give you a shoutout, tom, and get everybody interested because i'm not going to be your partner on the office, but for those who care about politics, i want you to understand when i made a post fixing my mail thinking i'd get 20, 30 hits in the little state of north dakota i got over 500 complaints with what's happening with rural postal delivery. if we can't run the post office how can we run the country? you all need to ask yourselves that question. i'm also incredibly proud of the stuff i've done every day
for north dakota. >> and i've held meetings in washington and north dakota and my office provided responses to over 204,000 north dakotans and over 18,000 north dakotans, getting va benefits, helping to fix social security, and immigration and much shall much more. people ask what is your greatest achievement in the senate? i can go through the things i talked about, but i like to talk about one thing. it's a native american, he's from spirit lake nation and he is a pipe maker, which is a very ceremonial and honorable position within their culture. he's also a korean war vet and one of the first people on the peninsula. he was injured, captured and literally saved lives during what was called the tiger death
march. he ended up serving the entire korean war in a prison camp. when he got out. no one knew who he was. there was no documentation of the fact that he was in the prison of war camp. there was no documentation that he'd been injured. and senator dorgan was able to get him his p.o.w. medal. guess what? he also didn't get his purple heart. and that bothered andy because he had served. and he had done incredible things in that service. and so we were able to find, scouring the earth, and found him in texas, mr. president, somebody who would sign an affidavit who said, yes, he had been injured. and when we presented that purple heart to that veteran, 86 years old, he got out of his wheelchair, he saluted the flag during the flag song and hugged his medal. you all have the power to do that. you all have the power to make
this one little difference. do that, do that and it's a great thing, even though it's not big legislation. so knowing that we are doing the work of the people, and knowing that so many north dakotans have met with me and told me about incredible challenges that they have, incredible obstacles that they face and that you can make a difference, you can help put food on their table, you can help them remain to be a family. you can help get them health care. you can do big things, but the little things matter, too. the little things that affect each one of their lives. so despite all the progress we've made during some difficult times, we aren't done. every day i come to the floor fighting for rural america, you know, there is a huge gap in productivity, a huge gap in economic viability. there is a huge gap and as we
see the retreat of rural america, we become less in this country. as we see more and more wealth moving to urban areas, we have to address this issue. and there are big clouds, i think, on the horizon facing this country in rural america. if congress doesn't tackle them head-on, our children and grandchildren will suffer consequences and this is an urgency that takes center stage for me. i always said, the thing i wake up every morning thinking, what am i going to do about rural america today? you know why? because i'm one of the few people here who does. that's because i represent a state that's still very rural, even if you live in fargo and i know it's not a big city to some of you, but a pretty big place to those of us in north dakota. even if you live in fargo, you're one generation from hillsboro. one generation from cooperstown. so i also want to say that we cannot sustain record debt and
deficit. this is a bipartisan challenge. this is a challenge of historic proportions. we are the only generation in america and in our history, who has inherited from the greatest generation our parents and we are borrowing from our kids. shame on us. shame on what we are doing right now. the congressional budget office has said our country's debt is headed to the highest level since world war i, or world war ii. these actions will have serious consequences, including increasing the chances of a fiscal crisis, which we can't ignore. i urge you to put fact before fantasy. fact before fantasy. open your eyes. see this challenge. several months ago when i voted against the tax bill, that had greatly contributed, i think, to record deficits we now face, i ran into an older man after i'd given a speech at veterans day service and he came up to me and it was actually before the vote and he came up to me
and he said senator heitkamp. >> i said, yes, sir? >> he said, i want a tax break. >> i hear that a lot. >> but not at the expense of my kids. he's a patriot, that vietnam veteran. he still knows what it means to sacrifice for the next generation. so the federal government needs to be responsible how they spend money. i'm glad my friend james lankford is here, we toiled away government efficiency and toiled away in spite of our ideological differences many times, in spite of our world view on these issues, we believe that this government need to be efficient, it needs to be effective, anded spend moib the right way and that nobody seemed to tear about it any more than just to show up for an emotional meeting. that work can't stop and i hope you find an equal and willing partner in your work, senator lankford because i know your heart and for you this is a
moral imperative to spend every dollar that gets sent here the right way, the most efficient way and to do things right. and what we can tell the american public that we are spending their dollars responsibly. that we are making the right choices, we will have many, many more options and we will grow the reputation not only of the united states government, but of the united states senate. income disparate is at crisis with more individuals and families getting left behind. the one-- the top 1% of families in america make more than 25 times what families make in the bottom 99%. think about that. and let me repeat that. 25 times what families in the bottom 99% make. and much of the recent economic prosperity we've seen in this country has been concentrated on the coasts leaving much of rural america behind. the administrative trade war, not something i've been shy talking about, is causing an emergency in rural america, but
i think it's going to cascade into a challenge and it's going to domino into an economic peril for this country. i'm not saying that we don't need to address disparities, inequities and trade agreements, i'm saying you don't need a 17th century solution called a tariff to solve 21st sken century problem. think about the unilateral responsibility of the white house to impose a tax on the earn m people. and then even more remarkably to create a system over at the department of commerce to basically wave those taxes. how many of you would let the president decide who he's going to tax if it were income taxes and who he's going to waive? none of you would. take responsibility. congress needs to take back responsibility for tariffs before it's too late. and these markets took years to develop for agriculture.
they are not going to come back at the snap of a finger. when you look at net farm income it will be 13% lower in 2018 with no problem for net farm income in the future. this will cascade through rural america. i also want to sound the alarm and it goes to senator blunt, who did a wonderful job, i couldn't agree with him more being the wife of a family physician if he could only get the patients compliant with their hypertension, and diabetes and that leads to challenges. that challenge leads to despair and that despair leads to a record rate of suicide. i don't know how many of you saw the economist magazine, a story on suicide around the world, only one country is increasing and that's the united states of america in the developed nations. according to the u.s. centers for disease control and preventi
prevention, jump in north dakota between '99 and 16 ap that's why we have to look at the underpinning causes in the various pockets of population, whether it's our veterans, native americans, young people and now the growing rate of suicide among the elderly. congress has to take steps and there's bipartisan support for addressing mental and behavioral health. and looking at comprehensive crisis of addiction. and can we just, if i-- as long as i've got this soap box and you're all listening to me, can we quit just talking about opioids can we start talking about methamphetamines and alcohol and not just focus on the opioid addiction. it's the bright shiny object we run to, but it's a cover story for a much bigger problem that we're not addressing in this country so please, please, face
the addiction challenge head-on and in a broader context. i also would not be me if i didn't talk about country. facing dire challenges with poverty, abuse and addiction. far too many americans fully understand the challenges in indian country or the importance of tribal sovereignty, treaty rights and cultural heritage. i worked to educate many along with my colleague, lisa, i also talked about the challenges of run away and missing people with my colleague susan collins who has been a great partner on so many things that i've done and i think that when you find people of like hearts and like commitment, we can do amazing and good things for the american public we all need to understand the first people, our first americans should not be the last americans. they should not be ignored.
and when you have a unique, a unique position here, given that your government, the united states government signed treaty and sovereignty rights. so when you look at the disparities, you can't believe that we've done right by the treaties and finally, i want to talk about the crisis of childhood trauma which i've already addressed, but just to give you some numbers. and they may be things that you haven't thought about. according to a justice department study, 58% of all american children have witnessed or have been a crime victim in 2014. traumatic experiences like abuse, neglect, witnessing crimes, parental conflict can lead to ongoing severe mental and behavioral health complications. for native children these are that much more prevalent. so, when we look at the challenges ahead, there are larger issues for congress to confront. members of congress can't just
look for a quick win to talk about in their states without taking into account the long-term consequences of their actions. we need to look up and we need to look bigger. so that congress is creating a solid future for our children and our grand inner ch -- children. if we do nothing else in this chamber, that would be an important first step. everyone in congress makes their own decisions about how you want to use your time, and it can come down to a few simple questions, do you want to solve problems or not? do you want to do right by your children and your grandchildren? and that means all of our children and grandchildren. do you want to win reelection no matter what the cost? do you want to be able to look yourself in the mirror and say, i did good today. i am-- self-serving and hope those take up the mantle with the
needed priority. for am of you, many priorities are the same. and a challenge, one tuesday, i challenge you, you have the democratic caucus and their lunch, a list of ten problems that americans confront and want to solve and the republican conference the same thing. i bet if you match those two lists they'd look pretty similar, in fact, they'd probably be identical. when the american people sees that you know the problem and yet, you can't find the will to solve the problem, then they become understandably discouraged. so, my work isn't done and i will continue to do this work from a different vantage point. as you start work with the next congress with these challenges, consider a few things. the senate only works if we enable it to. each of us need to do our job and we may not always agree, but senators can work together as i have to get results and i
know that gridlock and partisanship does not have to rule the day. i've seen it firsthand. as long as, again, a little ad-lib here, i also think that you as senators need to take power back from leadership. too often leadership determines the agenda, we should determine the agenda so i've seen it firsthand. i've seen that we can come together and solve problems, whether it's on climate change advocates along with climate deniers coming together on a carbon bill. if that's an indication that congress can function, i don't know what is, but it took political courage on both sides, particularly with my colleague from rhode island. so i don't believe that this country or the caucus is as divided as it seems. all of us serving in congress and those across the country want our people to get a good education. they want affordable quality health care, a good job that puts food on the table, retirement security.
they want all of those things that build in the economy which is the foundation, it is the bed rock of the might of this country. it's our economy. people will point to the military. the military cannot exist without the economic strength of this country. but i think too often politicians create and profit from dividing us. the only profession where people are rewarded for blocking things from getting done. think about that. it's no wonder the american public has such little faith. i have a novel idea since i joined this chamber. i've been determined to get results and put my state first above political party and there are many around here on both sides of the aisle who know how to get results, too. and i encourage them to speak loudly, work clearly, seek compromise and continue to do great and good works. and i hope more senators will join them. we also need more political courage in congress. we need members of congress who are willing to take tough votes because it's the right thing to
do, even if it puts their reelection in jeopardy. we need more members who are not too scared to stand up when someone in their party uses fear and lies to win support. there's a fine line between those representing those you serve and being representative of them. they don't always align. it's why we need to use facts and judgment, not polls to make our decisions and then it's up to each of us to explain those decisions, simply put, sometimes leaders are theeded to move public opinion to the right side of history. remember the decisions you are making, especially on big policy, will have consequences well beyond today. you know, i want to tell you about a native american principle called seven generations and urges decision making in any way to look at how the current decisions that are made in this generation will affect seven generations, the next seven. and to think about how you can
look to a much broader purpose. i had a thing i did in my office, when people would come in and look at issues of the day. look up, what's on the horizon. debt and deficit. a looming retirement crisis, a crisis in education. a crisis in addiction. look up, what are we supposed to do? a crisis in infrastructure, in health care, look up, what do we need to do today that seven generations of people would look back and don't worry about a public opinion poll because you're making decisions not just for the people today. you're making decisions for the next seven generations and they have to be the right decisions. so, all of you know that you are better than the outcomes of congress. you are nobler than the petty rhetoric that's bantered about here every day. your reputation, importantly, is tied to the reputation of every other member because we
have no power independent of each other. the greatest power that we have is the collective power of the united states senate. the success of your colleagues is your success. and when great and hard things are done, you share in the satisfaction of a job well done. it's been true honor and privilege to serve as a member of this chamber and contributing to north dakota and our country and i'm grateful for that wonderful opportunity. over the last years i've made amazing friendships if all of you and i can't talk about it now because it's too hard. i want you to fight for the shared dreams for the dreams you shared with me, those ideas that you had that would move this country forward. i want you to continue to dream and continue to believe. when i came here, i once came to a member and i said i have this really great idea and i told him about it and he said, yeah, that's a really good idea and i said let's work on it. he said well, it will never happen and i said, well, a good
idea? yeah, it's a really good idea. it will never happen. and i said, we have to get out of the shared culture of failure, believing it can't happen. we can do really big and great things when we believe we can and when we refuse to accept failure. when we refuse to believe that we are somehow limited. no one's tying you, no one's limiting you, you're a united states senator and complecttively you will make a difference. so i want to just thank other people, first is the capitol police. jokingly only it's not a joke some of my best friends here are capitol police. some of the nicest people you're going to meet serve you in the dining room, some of the greatest people are painting the walls out there. say hello. don't just walk buy them. they serve you and they're
proud, proud of the work that they do. and so, there are wonderful people and i want to thank them for their friendship. i want to thank so many more who cared about this place. and i also want to thank my staff which are all here, many of them are amazing him and go on to do amazing things and the thing when i sign things i say go do great and good things. you can do great things and they may not be good things. we've seen that throughout history. go do great and good things. and they will they are amazing, and they've given so much and you all think you have the best staff. unfortunately, i do. and a lot of them are available, just want to say. [laughter] >> so i want them to take what they've learned into their future endeavors and i want to make sure that the legacy that we leave is a legacy of service, of who we serve, who we stand for. finally i want to thank my
family, my husband darwin who is toiling in the clinic as we speak, my daughter ali is an and son nathan. six brothers and sisters who are fairly famous in north dakota and i would like to say they have been my rocks. finally i want to thank my mom mom and dad because they taught me and my siblings to stand up for what's right, to have our voices heard, and i know they're watching me from above and i want to thank them for raising a rowdy boisterous crew who are best friends. my mother and father raised us to be strong and i hope i've made them proud. i yield the floor. . >> senator heitkamp's speech from yesterday. we'll leave there and go to the senate.