Kelly Ayotte

Farewell Remarks - Dec. 7, 2016

Kelly Ayotte
December 07, 2016— Floor of the Senate
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Mr. President, it is with deep gratitude that I rise today to address my senate colleagues and members of my staff with whom I have had the privilege of serving with over the last six years.

First and foremost, I want to thank the people of New Hampshire for giving me the extraordinary opportunity to serve them. From Nashua to Newport to the North Country, they have inspired me. The people of our state are hardworking, caring, compassionate people with grit. And they have a fierce sense of independence which I respect and admire. That spirit has guided me during my time here and it has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve them.

I want to thank my family. My husband Joe, my wingman. Joe is a patriot with a heart of service. That's why he served our country as a fighter pilot in the air force and why he has been my biggest supporter during my service, not only as New Hampshire's attorney general but as a senator. We are so proud of our children, Kate and Jake, who are now 12 and 9. My family has sacrificed so that I could serve the people of New Hampshire, and I'm grateful for their patience and love. I also want to thank my mother Kathy, who is and always has been my mentor and number-one cheerleader. I could not have done it without her help and that of my stepfather Jim, my uncle Jack and Jane, and all of our extended family who have done so much for us. They have made it possible for me to serve, and there are not adequate words to express how much their love and support means to me.

I also want to thank my wonderful and hardworking staff. In New Hampshire and Washington, whose dedication, work ethic and talent is unparalleled in the senate. I'm especially fortunate that some of the members of my staff have served by my side since I was first sworn in six years ago. My staff is dedicated, creative, tireless and compassionate. I'm so proud of our team and all that we've accomplished together. I'm confident that they will continue to work to create a brighter future for New Hampshire and for our country. And I ask unanimous consent that a list of their names be entered into the record.

(Allowed)

Thank you, Mr. President.

I want to take a moment to thank the capitol police who devote themselves to keeping us safe each and every day and who have become friends to my staff and me over the years. I'm so grateful for all of our first responders who put their lives on the line each and every day to keep us safe. I also want to thank the senate floor staff, the pages and everyone who work so hard behind the scenes to make our work possible here.

During the past six years, I've traveled throughout New Hampshire, talking to people from all walks of life, listening to their ideas and learning from their experiences. I've met so many hardworking people in our state who have, in turn, inspired me to work hard on their behalf. True to the nature of our great state, they have never been shy about letting me know what's on their minds, whether it was at one of the 50 town hall meetings we held or in the grocery aisle at the market basket. They sent me to the Senate with a sense of purpose, and it has been an honor to fight for them and their families every single day.

One of the most rewarding aspects of my time in the Senate has been standing up for those who put their lives on the line for our country. Our veterans and our men and women in uniform and their families, and today we mark the 75th anniversary of the attack on pearl harbor, we are reminded once again of their selfless service and sacrifice on behalf of our great nation.

I was honored during my time here to lead the charge to repeal unfair cuts for our military retirees, and to help make progress toward improving access to local health care for veterans in New Hampshire, who for far too long have been forced to travel long distances to receive care from a VA facility because we don't have a full-service hospital, unfortunately, in the state of New Hampshire. Too often, our veterans are not treated as they should be, and this has to change. They have sacrificed so much for our freedom and deserve only the best from us. As the wife of a combat veteran who served in Iraq, nothing has been more important to me than keeping our country safe. That commitment is deeply personal to me.

One of the greatest privileges I have had as a senator is to visit with members of our New Hampshire National Guard and our men and women in uniform who serve overseas and are there now as we are here today, and we pray for their safe return. They make us so proud. They represent the very best of our state and our country. As a member of the armed services committee, I have been proud to advocate for the ports mouth naval shipyard and the vital workers who help our national security.

This has been a team effort between New Hampshire and Maine. I want to thank my colleagues, Senator Shaheen, Senator Collins who I see here today, Senator Angus King, for their incredible work in supporting the shipyard. I especially want to thank Senator Shaheen for all the work we did together on important issues for our state, whether it was advocating for the shipyard, for the air refueling wing to receive the new tanker, for our national guard and for our veterans. We always look for ways to come together for the people of New Hampshire, and I appreciate her dedication and service.

Since I first came to the senate, one of my top priorities has been reversing the Obama administration's misguided policy to empty and close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Each year, I've led efforts to prevent the transfer of terrorists to the U.S., to our soil here, and to be -- and to urge the administration to be transparent with the American people about these dangerous detainees. As I have called for previously, I hope the new administration will immediately halt the dangerous policy of releasing Guantanamo terrorists to other countries where they often rejoin terrorist activities and finally establish a commonsense detention policy that keeps terrorists off the battlefield and protects American lives and our national security.

We made progress in saving taxpayer dollars at the Pentagon, and I know there's more work that needs to be done, by ending wasteful programs like the missile to nowhere and passing the never contracting with the enemy legislation that cut through red tape and helped prevent tens of millions of dollars from ending up in the hands of our enemies. And working with chairman McCain, I was proud to help lead the successful effort to prevent the premature retirement of the a-10 aircraft. Ensuring that our ground troops continue to have the best close air support possible to keep them safe.

During my time on the committee, I've had the privilege of working closely with Chairman John McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham to ensure that America maintains the strongest and best military in the world and to ensure that our country continues to be the greatest force for good in the world. There are no stronger voices in this body for America's leadership in the world nor fiercer advocates for our men and women in uniform than Chairman John McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham. Now more than ever, we need their leadership, expertise and passion for keeping this country safe with the challenges we face around the world. I'm honored to have worked with them and most of all to call them my friends. Serving on the Armed Services Committee has been one of the best experiences I've had in the Senate.

I want to express my gratitude to all my fellow committee members because it has truly been a bipartisan effort each year to ensure our troops have the resources they need to do their jobs, and I see Senator McCaskill, the senator from Missouri here, and I deeply appreciate the work we have done together on behalf of our men and women in uniform. Thank you.

Going forward, it is critical that congress and the next administration work together to reverse the harmful cuts to our military and to ensure we have a defense budget based on the threats that we face around the world right now, which are unprecedented. Another issue that has been near and dear to my heart is addressing a devastating epidemic that's facing the state of New Hampshire, and that is a heroin and prescription opioid epidemic that has taken a devastating toll on our state. I've met so many people in New Hampshire who are hurting because of this epidemic. Mothers and fathers who have lost children, brothers and sisters who have lost siblings.

Many of the families who have been affected have become my dear friends, like Doug and Pam Griffin of Newton, New Hampshire, who lost their beautiful daughter Courtney, who had so much potential, and they lost her to an overdose. The Griffins, like so many other families in New Hampshire that I've met, have turned their pain into passion to save other families, and I've learned so much from their experiences. They inspired me to work with a group of great senators and my colleagues, Senator Rob Portman, whom I know is here today, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island and Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota.

The four of us came together and worked on what's called the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. This bill will provide a much-needed framework for addressing this epidemic, for prevention, treatment, recovery and support for our first responders who are doing so much for this epidemic. As a bipartisan team, we worked on this legislation for more than two years. Our bill passed the Senate overwhelmingly and was signed into law earlier this year. CARA will focus on the best programs to help state and local efforts in turning around the tide of addiction that are facing so many in this country.

CARA is an important first step, but there is so much more work that needs to be done. I'm encouraged that because of our efforts, this body has recognized the seriousness of this crisis. I was particularly glad to advocate for a billion dollars in funding to address the heroin epidemic be included in the 21st Century Cures Act, which we are expected to pass and send to the President this week.

I want to thank Senator Lamar Alexander for his incredible leadership in getting this important public health bill passed. The funding in the 21st Century Cures Bill goes hand in hand with the important policy provisions in the CARA bill and will help save lives in New Hampshire and across this country.

Finally, I would like to return to the reason I ran for the Senate back in 2010, to make sure that we leave New Hampshire and our nation stronger and better off for the next generation. As the mother of two young children, I was increasingly concerned that left unchecked, our skyrocketing national debt would ultimately burden future generations and diminish their opportunities. I ran because I believed it was time for New Hampshire to bring some of its common sense here to Washington to deal with our nation's spending habits, and on every committee I served on, we looked for ways to cut wasteful spending and fought to hold the government accountable for the way it spends our hard-earned taxpayer dollars. It is my hope that this issue will be at the top of the agenda of the incoming Congress and the new administration. If there's anything that I've learned in my time here, is that it takes cooperation from both sides of the aisle to get things done.

It has been a privilege to serve with so many in this body that care about our country deeply and work tirelessly each day on behalf of their constituents, and I am so honored as I see my colleagues who are here today because I know how hard you work every day, and I want to thank you for what you do on behalf of the people of this country. I'm humbled by what I have learned from each of you and from each of my colleagues in the senate, and for the opportunity to serve with so many good people on behalf of our great nation. I thank each of you for your dedicated service and most of you will for your friendship. Without leadership here, things just don't get done, and I especially want to thank majority leader Mitch McConnell for his commitment to making the senate work and to making sure that we're doing the people's business.

On a personal note, I've deeply appreciated his mentorship and his friendship. Working with our new president, the senate has a fresh opportunity to create a better quality of life for all Americans in this great country. That means elected leaders will need to work together and put aside our partisan differences. During this election, we heard the frustrations of the American people about their government. They rightly expect this body to move forward in solving the significant challenges facing our nation, such as getting our fiscal house in order, ensuring that families can afford quality health care without Washington between them and their doctors, reforming our broken tax code so we can keep and grow jobs here in the united states of America, and foremost, keeping America safe in a dangerous world.

My hope is that the members of this body will appeal to the better angels of our nature, put partisanship aside and focus on the challenge of building a more perfect union. Because the challenges before us are great, and we cannot hope to overcome them unless we do so working hand in hand. I know my senate colleagues are people of great character, and they are up to this challenge. And I wish them the very best as they continue their very important work on behalf of the people of the greatest nation on earth.

To the people of New Hampshire, Joe and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the greatest honor of a lifetime, for serving you, and for the privilege of serving in this, in the United States Senate with so many good people.

Mr. President, I thank you and I yield the floor.