Chairman Jeb Hensarling Gives Farewell Speech
Yesterday, Rep. Jeb Hensarling gave the final scheduled speech of his Congressional career on the floor of the House of Representatives. You can watch the entirety of the speech HERE.
After eight terms, I have chosen to go home to Texas, the land of my forefathers, and with hope of being a better father and a better husband myself. I’m also going home because I believe America is best served by the Jeffersonian model of American democracy. And that is a citizen legislature.
I fear too many wish to become members of the permanent ruling class. I am not among them. I also know that this congressional seat, Mr. Speaker, it never belonged to me. It belonged to the people of the Fifth Congressional District of Texas. It’s always belonged to them. They allowed me to hold it in trust. It was a sacred trust, Mr. Speaker. A sacred trust to be the guardian of their freedoms and their opportunities. And I will always, always be grateful for that privilege. So come January 3, I reverently return their seat back to them. And I wish my successor, Lance Gooden of Kaufman County, Texas, all the best. All the best.
Mr. Speaker, 16 years ago I went to these very same people in the Fifth Congressional District of Texas, and I told them, I believe I know what the genius of America is. It’s faith, it’s family, it’s free enterprise, and, yes, it is freedom. And it does indeed all start with faith, because, Mr. Speaker, over your chair right there is emblazoned our national motto: “In God We Trust.” And it is my firm prayer that for our nation, may it always be so. And I firmly believe we cannot be a virtuous nation unless we are first a Godly nation.
People have come to America for many reasons. They’ve come here for political freedom, economic freedom, but also, most profoundly, for religious freedom. May we never forget Jefferson’s prophetic words enshrined, quote, “can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of people that these liberties are gifts of God?” Mr. Speaker, as vital as faith is, so are our families. And the family that made me in College Station, Texas all those years ago was blessed with two wonderful parents. Chase and Anne. My father was a poultry farmer, my mother was a stay-at-home mom. Together they taught me and my siblings invaluable lessons about hard work, fairness, faith, discipline and honesty. In a word, Mr. Speaker, values.
They lovingly led by example, which is what my wife and I attempt to do today with our two children. We now have so many different years of history showing that it is our families that can best perpetuate our values, raise our children and care for our elderly. Now, let me turn to free enterprise.
1776 wasn’t just a revolutionary year for America. It was a revolutionary year for free enterprise. For American capitalism. Free market capitalism as well, because it was in that year that Scottish moral philosopher Adam Smith penned its intellectual foundation. In his opus magnum, The Wealth of Nations, prosperity would never, never be the same. We now have over 200 years of history in this country proving that free market capitalism produces the greatest wealth for the greatest number of people.
Yes, free enterprise is about wealth creation. But this not to be confused with materialism. Yes, free enterprise does produce Porches, it produces Jacuzzis, and it produces vacations to Paris. But more importantly, it empowers a factory worker in my district in Mesquite, Texas to start her own business. It helps a family in Jacksonville, Texas, send their first kid to college. It puts ample nutritious food on the kitchen table and that kitchen table is found in a home that some hardworking family in Forney, Texas never dreamed they could own. But they have, because of American free enterprise.
There is no greater foundational principle to the American people than liberty. Personal liberty, political liberty, religious liberty and economic liberty. May we in this body always fight to preserve it.
Now, in the federal city, political calculus changes by the moment. Policies come and go, but principles endure and there are no more enduring or foundational principles in America than faith, family, free enterprise and freedom.
I believed it 16 years ago when I came to this body, I believe it even more fervently today, Mr. Speaker. Now, Mr. Speaker, I have learned a couple of things in my 16 years of service in Congress. One thing I learned is that when one announces their retirement, two things happen. One, people begin to say nice things about you. Had I known about this phenomena earlier, perhaps I would have retired years ago.
Second of all, reporters ask you about your so-called legacy. Mr. Speaker, I have to laugh because I’m not sure there’s anything as soon forgotten in the federal city than as a former member in Congress. So I don’t think in terms of legacy. I frankly don’t know if I have changed Washington, but, Mr. Speaker, I know Washington didn’t change me.
I do take solace, though, and I take a measure of pride knowing that along with a handful of other conservatives in this body, I fought steadfastly against the forces of what I view crony capitalism. And that be either by earmark, set aside, subsidies, tax preferences or trade protectionism. Particularly now, as the specter of socialism once again rears its ugly head in our nation, we can never let our fellow countrymen somehow confuse free market capitalism with crony capitalism. In the one, your success depends upon how hard and how smart you work on Main Street. In the other, it depends on who you know in Washington. The latter is a threat to the former, and the Republican Party will lose its moral authority to prevent a social welfare state if we ever acquiesce to a corporate welfare state. This, we cannot allow to happen.
Mr. Speaker, you know personally, as does the previous speaker, the gentlelady from New York, how much pride I take in the work of the great men and women of the House Financial Services Committee. Most Americans today are seeing the best economy that they have ever seen in their lifetimes, and that is in no small measure to the work of the men and women of the House Financial Services Committee. I’m not going to argue that our work was on the same order of magnitude as tax reform, it wasn’t’. But the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act signed by President Trump was the most pro-growth banking bill in a generation and has certainly done more to grow our economy than any other legislation passed by the House besides tax reform. Now, Mr. Speaker, economic growth cannot solve all of America’s problems, but it lifts the downtrodden from poverty. It empowers middle-income America and enables tens of millions to achieve their version of the American dream.
It has indeed, for 16 years of my service, been worth fighting for. And as I prepare to leave office, Mr. Speaker, I leave with many, many hopes. And Mr. Speaker, I leave with a few fears as well that I believe my fellow countrymen should pay attention to.
Steve Jobs was a risk-taker, and because he took a risk, Apple again became the most valuable company in the world whose innovations have revolutionized our lives. And what’s important isn’t the amount of money that Steve Jobs made, but what he was able to do with it. And that is to create a successful company, to employ and serve millions who have collectively exercised their God-given right to pursue happiness.
Fewer entrepreneurs taking fewer risks means fewer jobs, Mr. Speaker. It’s that simple. And so one day, if we lose our ability to fail in America, we will soon lose our ability to succeed. There are simply too many burdensome regulations that crush the entrepreneurial spirit. This must cease.
Another fear I have, Mr. Speaker, I fear we are drifting away from our Constitutional mooring as I witness the rise of the administrative state, Because we need to appreciate our birthright, the sheer genius of the Constitution, which, unfortunately, today is threatened. Our Constitution’s framework of checks and balances, limited government, and co-equal branches of government, that has secured our fundamental rights and given us the freest, most prosperous society that the world has ever known.
But we are witnessing a century-long liberal expansion of unconstitutional government that has unleashed the modern regulatory state as we know it. Extremely powerful, exceedingly intrusive, imperiously opaque, bafflingly bureaucratic, and alarmingly unaccountable. Instead of being governed by the rule of law, increasingly citizens are being ruled by the rule of rulers. Specifically the rules promulgated by legions of unaccountable, unelected bureaucrats. The result? It’s OSHA now, that governs over workplace safety. It’s the E.P.A. now, not Congress, that governs over our air quality. It’s H.H.S., not Congress, that now governs over our healthcare.
Now, on the one hand, for those who believe we are on the precipice of something truly catastrophic, I remind them: we have survived a bloody Civil War. We survived the turbulent 60’s of my youth. Politics has rhetorically always been a full-contact body sport, and if you read biographies of our founders such as Jefferson, Adams, and Hamilton, you will discover just how coarse and vile ad hominem attacks could be at the dawn of American politics.
But with the exception of the notorious Alien and Sedition Acts, I don’t recall ever there being a greater effort in our nation’s history to ever actually silence dissent. The cry for civility in political discourse, as welcome as it is, is actually somewhat misplaced. The threat to democracy does not come from incivility, but from instead those who are committed to preventing the debate as opposed to winning the debate. That’s where the true threat comes.
Democratic self-governance relies on a free flow of differing ideas within the public square to fully inform all opinions and challenge all accepted orthodoxies and ideologies. And there was a time in America’s history that the American ethos was encapsulated by the words that had been attributed to Patrick Henry: “I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Regrettably, I can hear all over the nation today people saying something along the lines of “I disapprove of what you say, and I’m going to harass and intimidate you and your family, defame your character, and attempt to take away your livelihood until you simply shut up and withdraw.”
Those who do not respect the rights of others to be heard in the public square may be little better than book burners and represent a clear and present danger to American democracy. It is a time for every citizen who cares about the destiny of their nation. It is time for courage, but it is a time also for goodwill and mutual respect among our citizens. It is time to re-secure our democratic values in the public square.
My greatest regret in public office is my inability to convince more of my colleagues and more of my fellow citizens of the peril of this national debt. We are experiencing debt to G.D.P. ratios that haven’t been seen since World War II. But in World War II, they were episodic and temporary. Today’s debt is structural and permanent. As a veteran of the so-called “Super Committee,” Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Committee, and now Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, my iPad is awash in reports saying that our national debt is simply unsustainable, yet denial, justification and obstruction continue to rule the day.
We should all be troubled and sobered by the fact that if one carefully reviews history, you will find few examples of republics that have existed beyond 200 years. And most of those republics met their demise through some kind of fiscal crisis. There is so much at stake.
Most Americans, as I observe, are enjoying the greatest economy in their lifetimes. Oh, what a difference that has made in the lives of millions of Americans. And indeed, to borrow a phrase from the past, it is morning in America again.
Opportunity abounds like few periods in our nation’s history. In our military might that has been hollowed out, it is being rebuilt, and it is respected and feared around the globe again. As we look at our nation’s history we cannot but conclude that we live in a time of relative peace, relative security, and we should always, always be grateful. But the main reason I come to this floor tonight so hopeful, so hopeful for the future because of the people I’ve met in the 5th District of Texas that I’ve had this privilege to represent. I Texas. I’ve met great entrepreneurs like Sam Bistrian of Lake Highlands. You know, he immigrated to this country as a 12-year old boy from Romania, didn’t even speak the language. And a few years later, he managed to get a job at one of the local retailers, Neiman Marcus. He got a job starting at the bottom, I think it was stocking shelves. And with hard work and vision, he ended up one day launching his own line of designer rain boots called Roma, and now heads up a multi-million dollar enterprise and, oh by the way, he gives his boots away to poor people all over the world.
I also have hope because I met great patriots. Patriots like Doc. Collins from Van Zandt County, who is a real conservative leader from that county. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, he has bone cancer that he continues to battle. But during a recent election, he got chemo in the morning for his bone cancer and he was working the polling places in the afternoon because he felt that strongly about his cause and his country.
There are so many people I wish had time to mention in the Fifth district of Texas who represent the best of America. I don’t have all that time, Mr. Speaker, so let me mention one more. Kim Watterson of Terrell, Texas. I mean, he is a bulldog of a Marine veteran and he opened the Veterans Resource Center not a block, maybe two blocks away from the Dallas VA hospital. And now, if homeless veterans will go to the VA hospital to get their healthcare, as soon as they come out, they can get clean clothes, they can get showers, they can get counseling, they can get access to computers and people to help them find a job in society. So, Mr. Speaker, when I see entrepreneurs and good Samaritans who are stepping up every day in the Fifth District of Texas, I know America has a very bright future ahead.
So let me simply conclude where I began. For me it’s time for me to go home. It is time to go home to my family, i5 is time to go home to Texas. All things must pass, including our congressional service. I continue to have so many blessings in my life, but, Mr. Speaker, I don’t believe I’ll ever have a greater privilege than fighting for freedom and opportunity in the People’s House, the House of Representatives. My heart is just full of gratitude. Full of gratitude to my staff whose work empowered me. Full of gratitude to my constituents whose encouragement and prayers supported me. And most of all, to my family. So much gratitude to Melissa, Claire, and Travis, whose support, love, and grace have sustained me all those 16 years. They are my rock.
Here’s what I know after 16 years, Mr. Speaker. I know if we will continue to trust in God, I know if we will continue to revere freedom, I know that if we will keep faith with our founders’ vision, our children will have brighter futures, and our republic will be forever preserved. May God continue to shed his grace on this great country. And for the final time on the House floor, I yield back the balance of my time.