Thursday, January 15, 2009

SENATOR HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: CHAMPION FOR NEW YORK - Clinton.Senate.gov



Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke today on the Senate floor and thanked her colleagues, her staff, and the people of New York.

“I may not have always been a New Yorker, but I know I always will be one. New York, its spirit and its people will always be part of me and of the work I do,” Senator Clinton said.

Highlights of Senator Clinton’s service for New York, including region-by-region, are available here:
http://www.clinton.senate.gov/documents/Champion_for_New_York.pdf.

A transcript of her remarks on the floor follows. Audio and video are also available.


Senator Clinton: Thank you very much, Mr. President. I am so honored to be here at the same time with my friend and a colleague whom I admire so much and have such great affection for, the Vice President-elect, Joe Biden. I listened with great enthusiasm and a lot of sentiment to the speech that he delivered just a few minutes ago. And the way he evoked the Senate and the relationships that are developed here and the work that is done on behalf of our country was as good as I've ever heard.

And so, I am deeply honored and privileged to be here with him and to address this chamber as a Senator from the great state of New York perhaps, if I am confirmed, for the very last time.

And particularly amongst colleagues who I have come to respect and like so much and whose work I believe is always in the best interest of their states and their country, even when we are not in agreement.

I'm gratified by the support and vote of confidence I received earlier this morning from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And I am eager, should I be confirmed, to get to work with the President-elect and with the Vice President-elect and with all of you.

I have loved being in the Senate working alongside public servants of both parties who bring their expertise and enthusiasm to the difficult, painstaking and occasionally contentious work of turning principles into policy and policy into law.

I also have been fortunate during these past eight years to have been served by what I objectively believe is the best Senate staff ever. In Washington and throughout New York, this incredible group of people have been assembled, led and inspired by my chief of staff and my friend Tamera Luzzatto. Mr. President, I would like to submit for the record the names of all those with whom I have worked over the last eight years, because I could not be standing here speaking to you were it not for them. And I will also submit to the record a catalog of the work and achievements which they have brought about.

You know, in the Federalist Papers, we often hear the reference to the Senate's role to avert the consequences of sudden and violent passions and intemperate and pernicious resolutions. Well, to the everlasting credit and wisdom of our founders, we do come together in an effort to find common ground. And as I look back on my eight years of service, I find myself reflecting on this tiny piece of Senate and American history.

Ten years ago, I asked the people of New York to take a chance on me, to grant me their trust and their votes. And in the years since, as our economy has grown more interconnected and the world more interdependent, I have worked to keep faith with my fellow New Yorkers.

I well remember when I first arrived in the Senate, there were a few skeptics wondering what I would do and how I would do it, and there are were stalwart supporters and guides like my great friend, Senator Barbara Mikulski, who kind of read me the rules of the road and set me on my way. No sooner had I figured out the way around the Senate, actually had just moved into my office, which all of our new colleagues will eventually be able to enjoy, and had gone off on my first August recess – I never when I was on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue understood why the Senate went on recess all the time. But after the intensity of the workload and the extraordinary pressure of both the work here in Washington and the constituency work in our states, I was thrilled and relieved to see that August recess roll around.

Shortly after we returned in 2001, our nation was attacked on 9/11. The toll was devastating, and New York bore the heaviest burden. Here I was, a really new Senator, and my city and my state had been devastated. Nearly 3,000 lives lost, the World Trade Center in ruins, a toxic cloud of debris and poison raining down over our first responders and others. I well remember the rallying of support and sense of common purpose that all of my colleagues and the citizens of all the states represented here showed toward me personally and toward New York.

Many of you offered not only kind words, but specific deeds. Senators sent staff members to help answer the ringing phones in our office as New Yorkers struggled to track down family members or to seek aid. I will never forget Senator Robert Byrd telling me at my state's hour of need, "think of me as the third senator from New York."

On September 12, my colleague Chuck Schumer and I went to New York. As you recall, the roads were shut down. There was no way in or out of Manhattan other than by rail. The skies were clear. So Chuck and I, in a plane provided by FEMA, were the only ones in the sky that day other than the fighters who were circling ahead.

We landed at LaGuardia, and we got into a helicopter to fly to the heliport on the west side of Manhattan on the Hudson River. And then we proceeded with the Governor, the Mayor, federal officials to go toward the horror.

When we were circling in the helicopter above the World Trade Center site, we could see the smoke still coming up, because it was, of course, burning. And we could see the very fragile piles of scrap and steel tottering as firefighters and construction workers tried to continue their search-and-rescue efforts.

That site was as close as I have ever seen to what Dante describes as hell. It became known as "the pile." Chuck and I and our government colleagues walked along one of the streets and could not even see beyond the curtain of blackness, and occasionally breaking through would come a firefighter, totally exhausted after having been on duty for 24 hours, dragging an ax, knowing already that friends and even family members had been lost.

The air was acrid. The thick smoke made it hard to breathe. It burned your throat and your lungs. And I knew then there would be lasting health problems for everyone who was exposed over any period of time to that air that carried so much death and destruction.

Two days later Senator Schumer and I went to the Oval Office and secured a commitment from President Bush for $20 billion in federal aid for New York's recovery. In the years that would follow, he and I have stood side by side to fight for the successful delivery of that money as promised. And in this and every instance, I am very grateful to have had Senator Schumer as my partner and my ally. No one fights harder or is more determined. And even though I am leaving the Senate and we will no longer serve together, I know that whenever I'm missing Chuck, all I have to do is turn on the television, especially on Sunday in New York.

Over the past seven years, thanks to so many of you, Senator Inouye, Senator Cochran and others on the Appropriations Committee – I see Senator Harkin, Senator Murray – you have been there with us as we have worked to recover. And I'm very proud of the progress that has been made bringing New York back and securing funding for the essential programs to provide health screening and monitoring and treatment for all those who still are suffering.

I've developed close and lasting relationships with many of the victims and the families of the victims of 9/11, and I applaud and thank them for their courage and their fortitude in not only fighting for the health benefits that were so desperately needed, but for the creation of the 9/11 Commission, for trying to do better on threat assessments, more resources for first responders, committed, despite their grief, to smarter policies to prevent future attacks on our nation.

I see what we did together and then quickly followed by that, the anthrax attack, and remember with such incredible gratitude how we all came together. We should not only come together with that level of connection and commitment in time of disaster. This is an opportunity for us to pull together with the new administration to make a real difference, a lasting difference for our nation.

That's what I've tried to do as a senator from New York, and it has been a privilege working to improve the upstate economy, working on behalf of the farmers of New York.

I well remember a short conversation one day with Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan and Tom Harkin and Max Baucus early after my arrival about how I wanted to help agriculture in New York. And they looked at me so quizzically and said, "You have farmers in New York?" I said, "Yes, in fact, we do. About 30, 40,000 family farms." And Kent Conrad looked at me and he goes, "You know, I don't believe that at all." So I gave a speech one day with a picture of a cow and said this is a cow who lives on the farm and the farm is in New York. We had a lot of fun kidding each other, but working hard together.

I'm grateful for the incredible efforts we made to support the people who do the hard work in New York and America, who get up every day and just do the very best they can. In the Finger Lakes region, in the North Country, we helped to expand broadband access and partnered with eBay to create a way for people to have a global marketplace when before the market was limited to a very small region of our state. We looked for ways to retrofit trucks and school buses and other heavy vehicles with new clean diesel technologies developed by two great companies in New York in Corning and Jamestown to clean up our environment. We created the first "green print" in Rochester for how we can expand the research institutions and others to come up with a way to be a clean energy leader. We worked across the state to really target investments from bioinformatics in Buffalo to cultural icons like the Stanley Theater in [Utica].

I took special pleasure in working with tourism because New York is such a great place of our historic culture that I thought needed to be given more support. So for me going to Seneca Falls, the home of the National Women's Hall of Fame and the site of the landmark Women's Rights Convention, the first-ever in the world in 1848, was a labor of love.

There is a lot to look back on with great nostalgia and a lot of excitement. But I want to look forward now, because we are at a turning point. I know that very well as all of you do. And our challenge will be to come together, putting aside partisan differences and insofar as we can, geographic differences to meet the challenges of our time. I know that our two leaders are struggling to do that as we speak. But I think this could be one of the golden eras of the history of the Senate. This could be a time when people will look back and say, you know, you never can count America out. Whenever the chips are down, we always rise to the occasion. We figure out a way forward and then we make life better – better for our people – and we extend peace and prosperity and progress throughout the world.

So, Mr. President, I'm very excited about what can happen in the next four years. There's a lot of work ahead of us, but I know the people in this chamber are more than up to it.

And, finally, to my fellow New Yorkers, I want to express my profound gratitude. I love being your senator. Serving you has been the opportunity of a lifetime. And it gave me the chance to continue the work of my life. To advocate on every single child's chance to live up to his or her god-given potential. To fight hard for those who too often feel invisible. To remedy wrongs like I hope we all do either today or in the next days to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act as well as the Paycheck Fairness Act. To do what we know will give our fellow Americans a better shot at the kind of future that is within their grasp.

And I've had a lot of fun. Eight state fairs, 45 parades, 62 counties, more than 4,600 events across the state. I look back wistfully and I look forward hopefully.

I now, if confirmed, will have the high honor of serving our country in a new role. But I will be sustained and directed by the same values that have motivated me for nearly four decades in public service.

And so to my colleagues in the Senate, thank you. You have been wonderful teachers and mentors and very good friends.

And to the superb Democratic staff and the Republican counterparts who keep this chamber going day in and day out no matter how late we're here and how long the workload turns out to be.

And to my own staff here and across New York, to my supporters, and most of all, to the people of that great Empire State. I may not have always been a New Yorker, but I know I always will be one. New York, its spirit and its people will always be part of me and of the work I do.

And I look forward to continuing my association with this body. We have much to do over in Foggy Bottom and we need your help to kind of clear up the fog, to give us a chance to really operate on all cylinders with the direction and the resources and the improved management techniques that I hope to bring to the job.

This is a challenging and defining moment. But I will always keep faith in this body and in my fellow Americans. And I remain an optimist that America's best days are still ahead of us.
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