8:57 PM EDT
Larry Combest, R-TX 19th

Mr. COMBEST. Mr. Speaker, I am touched deeply by the gentleman's comments and the fact that you will take this special order to do this. One never expects to find themselves in this position, and we have seen it over the years as others make their departures, and you never know exactly how it feels until that time comes for yourself. But I appreciate so much the gentleman's kind words opening this and those of my friends and my colleagues that had very kind things to say.

It is the friendships, I think, that one can develop here that is important. It is not just the work. It is the friendships that you can develop and the growth and the years that you can watch occur to your colleagues and to your friends and to your staff.

I appreciate so much the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Thornberry) mentioning so many people that have been involved in the making of the success of the office, not my success, but the success of the office that the people of the 19th District through 10 elections gave us the opportunity to sit in because they are important. He knows them well. As he mentioned, as a former chief of staff, he is one of those that should definitely be mentioned when you think about hiring the best. You all

see that every day in the work that he continues and that he does in this House, his thoughtfulness, his integrity, his intelligence, his character.

Sharon and I fondly remember watching him and his now-wife and mother of their children when they were dating and attending their wedding and watching Mary Kemp and Will as they grew up and as they were born and as they have turned into young adults; and they are dear, dear friends and very dear in our hearts.

[Time: 21:00]

And to others, I am just sorry that when GIL GUTKNECHT was here we did not have a little Rodney Dangerfield episode. I encourage any of my colleagues who have never had the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Gutknecht) do Rodney Dangerfield that it is worth your time.

To, obviously, all of those who put in the hard work on the committee and those who came tonight that were not part of the committee, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Brady) and the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Granger) are dear Texas friends for coming and sharing with us. They are both dear, dear friends, dear people to us, and their families.

That will be the thing, I suppose, more than anything that is missed. It has been a wonderful ending to a career that we have seen an opportunity to visit with a lot of groups. I always find that the person whose name is on the letterhead is the one who gets the award or the one who gets the acclaim, but certainly not the one that solely is responsible for any of the work that is done. I think back to the most recent thing, of course that has been the farm bill, but back to the years on the Permanent

Select Committee on Intelligence, a wonderful dedicated staff of public servants. Most of their work no one will ever know.

We wrote a piece of work over a 2-year period of time that was called IC-21, the Intelligence Community for the 21st Century, and it created a lot of turf battles. It did not get far, but I told the staff as that was completed that the good news was and the thing they could rest in was that someday the intelligence community would look like that product. And following September 11, it is becoming to look more like it, because it was a work in what should be done.

Certainly the most recent effort, the farm bill, was a tremendous dedication [Page: H4232]

by a lot of people. The committee and all of the members of the committee were so dedicated to producing a product and laying aside any partisan bickering and certainly laying aside even parochial interest for the better of the whole. And it was a success. It was something that took a lot of work.

I have often said to those groups that I have had a chance to meet with that I only wish that they knew the work that was put in by the committee staff. It is something they will never have an appreciation of, the time that they spend away from family; literally the nights that were spent on the floor, on couches, in chairs, wherever they could grab a quick nap, wherever they could get a little rest and then plod on from there. They never quit. They never gave up. They did it with wonderful smiling

faces. American agriculture, I think, has never seen such a capable staff assembled, nor do I suspect they will ever see one that is more capable ever assembled in the future. They did such great work.

Bill O'Conner, chief of staff, who was in and around the committee nearly 20 years ago when I started, and who knows a great deal about the institution, about agriculture, and about the process. And it was many, many long hard hours under his leadership and direction that that staff continued to work. And everyone worked together. Tom Sell, who was the deputy chief of staff, one of the great young men that I have gotten to know over the years. It does not hurt also that his son and I share the

same birthday. Noah and GIL GUTKNECHT and I have the same birthday, and it is something we will obviously always remember.

I could tell a story about every member of that staff and the work that they put into the end product that became the farm bill. There were some, Alan Mackey, who literally was so wracked with pain that it was difficult at times for him to even get out of bed, but

was always there, every day, long, long hours every day. Dr. Elizabeth Parker was undergoing chemo at the time and set a new style for women's hair fashions in the Committee on Agriculture. She was there every day. Debbie Smith, whose home was less than a quarter of a mile away from those hit by a tornado, spent 3 days up here and never went home to see how things were because it was at a critical time here.

So many others on both the majority and the minority. There was an effort put into this in a bipartisan fashion, as my dear, dear friend CHARLIE STENHOLM said that was not for politics but for the good of the cause of American agriculture.

There are so many people over the years that I could spend a lot longer than any of my colleagues want to spend mentioning the staff and the work they do. They make us look awfully good. All of us know that. They are the ones that produce the work that really makes a difference, that keep the fires burning. I will be very remiss in not mentioning every one of them, and I could, and you are all in my thoughts; but I will particularly mention Lynn and Patty, who were there the day the door opened

and will be there the day the lights are turned out, and have just kept things going, and so many in the district.

It has reminded me a great deal over the past several months of a particular translation from Corinthians that says, ``What do you have that God hasn't given you? And if all you have is from God how can anyone boast as having accomplished anything on their own?'' And I think we have to always recognize there are a lot of others, including much more powerful than we, who direct our lives and who direct the things that we do.

And I will just close with this, Mr. Speaker, again giving my appreciation to you, Mr. Chairman, but saving the best for last, I want to thank Sharon. This is, as all my colleagues know, a family effort. This is not something we, anyone, does alone. It takes a tremendous amount of sacrifice and dedication on the part of our spouses. Mine is extra special.

I have very fond memories of this place, but one of the things that she and I have talked about is that we hope that we have spent our last night apart, as so many nights we spend apart from our families when we are in Congress. And to those of you who we will miss greatly not being here, the fact that 24 hours of every day I will spend with her, I can take missing you all a little bit. We are looking very forward to the next phase in our lives, spending it together.

It was quite ironic, I think, when we made the announcement publicly that we were going to make this move. We just simply could not quit. Everyone was just so interested, particularly the media, about what was wrong. There has to be a problem. You cannot just walk away from this. And I think she summed it up quite well when she said, isn't it really sad that people do not think you can leave that to spend more time with your wife? And it is, I guess, if people think that with all of the wonderful

opportunities that we have here, that that is more important to us than those that we care about.

And so we are looking forward to this next phase, I will assure you, as much as we were 18 1/2 years ago when we came here preparing for this phase; but it will be done in a different setting. We intend to continue in our service. It will be in an unpaid capacity, and it will be done out of dedication and love for each other and for people. But this has been a wonderful opportunity, and I am proud of the accomplishments that this House has made over the years and that I have been able to just

sit here and be a part of it.

We will continue to watch you occasionally, to see how you are doing. But come about middle of the summer, when it is really hot and humid here, we will be somewhere under the cool trees in the mountains of Colorado, maybe spending enough time there that I could almost become a constituent of my good friend Governor Bill Owens. We will not be there quite that long, we will always have a home in our beloved Texas, but we are looking forward to that adventure in our lives.

So next week, when you are out doing your Memorial Day parades, we are going to start the fishing trip. Thank you very much.