Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison: Goodbye and Thank You
After nearly 20 years in Washington, this is my final week as the senior US Senator from the great state of Texas.
People often wonder what compels a person to run for public office. Some think it’s the power – though I can assure them that being one of a hundred senators, particularly when you’re in the minority, is as far from personal power as one can get. Some think it’s the excitement of politics – but anyone who has been through a tough, mud-slinging campaign would fail to describe the politics part favorably!
For me, the reason was to give back to the state that gave me so much.
I was raised with good Texas values, in a small town – La Marque – full of honest, hardworking people, in a tight-knit community with a wonderful public education system. Combined with the world-class education I received at the University of Texas, it gave me the tools to be whatever I wanted to be.
I got my professional start covering the statehouse at KPRC-TV in Houston, when the station owner took a chance on a young law school graduate.
And I was mentored by great Texans on my way up the political ladder, who continued their support when I got to the Senate and have stood solidly with me ever since.
For this I am grateful, and for this I have sought to give back, as have all the Texans with whom I’ve had the pleasure of serving. From Senator Phil Gramm to Senator John Cornyn to the entire Texas Congressional delegation, my colleagues have always been a strong and unique force in Congress. Texas stands out as the delegation that will band together across party lines to fight tooth and nail for our state. Team Texas always has the best interests of our beloved state in mind, and while some in Washington don’t quite understand our particular brand of friendliness, I always say that Team Texas’s hearts are as big as our mouths.
It may seem as though nothing gets done in Washington, DC. But we have accomplished so much for Texas in the past two decades, by sticking to the good Texas values of common sense, hard work and perseverance.
With so many Texans serving in the armed forces, I fought hard for our nation’s military and their families, including legislation that studied how overseas military bases compared to American ones. That resulted in thousands of troops coming back to the US, where training and rapid deployment were superior. I also worked to secure over $82 billion for base construction, military housing and veterans’ programs. Over the years, I have visited our troops in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan, and seeing our military men and women when they are in harm’s way is a very powerful reminder of the sacrifices they make and how indebted we are for their service.
I brought a new medical center to the Valley for our thousands of veterans; I helped secure research for the Gulf War Syndrome that has debilitated thousands of those who served in Desert Storm; and I helped expand the beautiful Waco veterans’ facility to serve as a center for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Working for women and children has been a priority, and I am proud to have taken Amber Alerts – originally a Texas initiative – national. In the years since the legislation passed, nearly 600 children have been returned home. I also introduced legislation to strengthen anti-stalking laws
I fought for and secured the right for Texans to deduct state sales tax from their federal taxes. When married couples were inexplicably punished by having their joint incomes pushed into higher tax brackets, I ensured they were treated fairly with marriage penalty relief legislation. And I introduced the legislation for spouses who do not work outside the home to save for retirement, through the Homemaker IRA.
Texas research universities have risen from 6th to 3rd in federal funding for science and innovation, strengthening our state’s economy and helping America keep our global competitive edge. I have fought for investment in and support for our higher education systems, and Texas is now a leading destination for some of the country’s – and the world’s – best scientists and researchers. And Texas gets exponential benefit from the long-term funding we secured for NASA’s future.
So while it may seem that Washington is in a perpetual state of gridlock, Texans can take pride that their representatives have been fighting for them and getting results.
It has been my great honor to represent our state for the past two decades. I want to thank the people of Texas for this extraordinary opportunity, and make the solemn promise that I will continue to work for our state after I leave office.
And for the last time as a US Senator, I am proud to say: God bless you and God bless Texas.
Hutchison, a Republican, is the senior U.S. senator from Texas.