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Public Statements

Making Continuing Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. BAUCUS. Mr. President, 3 months ago the United States Senate came together and passed a full 5-year farm bill. We did not kick the can down the road. We passed a bill, working together, that provides the certainty America's farmers and ranchers need to continue supporting rural jobs and putting food on our tables. So there is absolutely no excuse for Congress to adjourn without sending this bill to the President's desk to be signed into law. Still, because the House refuses to even bring this bill up for a vote, it looks as though that is exactly what is going to happen. It is shameful.

Passing the bill in the Senate was not easy; everyone had to make a compromise. But the farm bill touches on the lives of millions of Americans in every single State. It is too important not to act.

The Senate's farm bill is true reform. We cut the deficit by more than $23 billion over 10 years. We streamlined programs to make them more efficient. We went back to the drawing board on commodity programs and created a true safety net--one that works for America's farmers as well as for the taxpayers--again, cutting the farm program by $23 billion.

The House Agriculture Committee pushed out a bipartisan farm bill as well. I give the House Agriculture Committee a lot of credit. It is no secret that there are differences, but even to begin working out those differences the House needs to catch up, because despite having a bipartisan farm bill that passed the House Agriculture Committee, the House leadership is refusing to take it up.

This isn't my first farm bill. I can tell my colleagues from personal experience that this action in the House body is unprecedented. House leadership has never blocked a farm bill that has been reported out of the House Agriculture Committee.

On September 30, our farm safety net programs expire and the farm program expires--just 11 days from now. This is our last chance to give America's farmers and ranchers the certainty they deserve.

This is also an opportunity to provide much-needed disaster assistance. Not long after we passed the farm bill in the Senate, a drought began to stretch across the United States. It was on the news virtually every night and has been for months. Wheat and cornfields have been drying up. Without enough forage, ranchers had to face the decision to either sell their herds or purchase extra feed, cutting into their very thin margins.

As of this week, more than 2,000 counties have been designated as drought disaster areas by USDA, and 36 of them are in Montana. That is well over half of our State in a disaster.

There is a consensus in Congress and across the countryside that something must be done, and the farm bill is that something. We had a bipartisan vote here in the Senate by a large margin and, as I mentioned, a bipartisan vote in the House Agriculture Committee.

We have so many reasons to be grateful for the hard work of America's farmers and ranchers. They help sustain healthy rural economies. And because of the strength of America's agriculture, they put food on tables around the world.

In 2011, agricultural exports reached $137 billion, with a record surplus of more than $42 billion.

Agriculture supports 16 million jobs nationwide. In Montana, one in five jobs is tied to agriculture. The farm bill is our jobs bill.

Last week many Montana farmers and ranchers came to town to talk about the farm bill. They each told me and other Senators and House Members the same thing: We need a farm bill, and we need it now.

Three of those Montanans were Bing Von Bergen from Moccasin, Ryan McCormick from Kremlin, and Charlie Bumgarner from Great Falls. Bing, Ryan, and Charlie, similar to many Montana farmers, plan to go into the field next month to plant their winter wheat. They will be doing so with the current farm bill expired. They will be doing so with no certainty of what the farm programs will be--that certainty which community bankers happen to rely on to advance loans so farmers can plant.

They do not want to see the farm programs expire. They do not want short-term extensions. They need the certainty of a full 5-year farm bill.

I urge the House to listen to what farmers and ranchers across the country are saying: The time to pass the farm bill is now.

Holding up a farm bill with wide bipartisan support is playing politics with the livelihood of our hard-working rural constituents. Instead, let's do our job so farmers can do theirs. Let us answer their calls and pass a 5-year farm bill now.

TRIBUTE TO RUSS SULLIVAN

Mr. President, I would like to take a few moments to tell you about a dedicated public servant and his son--Russ Sullivan and Alhaji Amadu Hassann, or AJ, as he was known by his family and friends.

AJ died on July 28 of this year. But in his short life, he inspired people through his exuberance for life, his courage, and his determination. Born in Sierra Leone, west Africa, in 1992 during the midst of a brutal civil war, violence served as the backdrop to AJ's early childhood in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

As a young boy, AJ, his mother, and two sisters were forced to flee their war-ravaged country to Guinea, where they found safety in a refugee camp. However, life in the refugee camp was difficult. There was no work for the adults, no formal schools for the children, and little hope for a better life. Unable to return to their homeland, their lives were put on hold for 8 years as refugees.

But AJ remained hopeful for a brighter future. That day came in 2002, when their father, who was living in the United States, was able to bring AJ and his sisters to America.

The children--15-year-old Ousmatta, 11-year-old AJ, and 9-year-old Laretta--moved in with their father in Virginia. However, their father had struggled in America. Similar to many who do not have steady work, he did not have health insurance. So when AJ's father got a tooth infection, he ignored it. Left untreated, the infection spread throughout his entire body and AJ's father died.

An aunt tried to raise the three children on her own but had difficulty making ends meet. The children were split up. A cousin took in Laretta, Ousmatta stayed with their aunt, and AJ was taken in by a man named Russ Sullivan.

Russ has long been serving as a foster parent in the community. He has mentored dozens of young men, becoming the legal guardian of some and helping hundreds see a different course for their life. Russ took in AJ. Then Russ took on additional responsibilities of becoming AJ's legal guardian.

So who is this man Russ Sullivan? Russ Sullivan is the staff director of the Senate Committee on Finance. He is known in the Senate--as Senator Harry Reid has said--as ``a problem solver.'' Russ has developed a reputation for leadership, dedication, and respect for his colleagues. His staff admires him, his colleagues trust him and admire him, and I am honored to call him a friend. Nobody who has met and worked with Russ Sullivan has a different point of view. I have never heard anyone utter a criticism of Russ Sullivan, and no one ever will; he is that kind of man.

Philosopher Thomas Carlyle once said: ``The work an unknown good man has done is like a vein of water flowing hidden underground, secretly making the ground green.''

That is Russ. His name is not in lights. People do not know about him. He is working to solve problems and make the ground green.

Under Russ's nurturing care, AJ began to adjust to his new life in America. AJ had boundless energy and loved to play soccer. He was fun to be around, had a great sense of humor, made friends easily, and loved to flirt with the girls.

AJ completed high school but had no intention of going to college. That was until Russ came into his life. In April 2011, AJ told a newspaper reporter that his life changed after meeting Russ. This is AJ:

I was just going to do what everybody else was doing--drop out and get a job. But after I met Russ, everything changed about my mentality toward life. He started pushing me and getting me to think harder. ..... He's a great man, and I thank God I met him. .....

AJ first enrolled at Salem International University and after 1 year transferred to the University of West Virginia. He majored in sports management and loved being a ``Mountaineer.''

Then tragedy struck. In a senseless act of violence, AJ was assaulted in front of a local college hangout. He fell, hit his head hard--back, head snapped--and over the next few hours slipped into a coma.

On Capitol Hill we were in the middle of deficit reduction negotiations. When Russ received the news about AJ, he rushed from Washington to West Virginia, where he stayed at AJ's side.

Over the next month, Russ was traveling back and forth--back and forth--from West Virginia to Washington. This is during the supercommittee talks. Russ was juggling not only his career but also AJ's medical treatment. He was also forecasting what we could do. He was fostering several other boys--this is not the only boy Russ was a foster father for--and Russ kept working with the extended family and friends in the loop. He kept working with them and telling them and keeping them informed about AJ's condition.

I often hear the media reports about Capitol Hill being dysfunctional--the sides are polarized and compromise is a dirty word. But when Chris Campbell, the Republican Senate Finance staff director, heard the news about AJ's injury, he enlisted his staff and the Republicans stepped up to help. They took Wednesdays.

For the next couple months, Russ's boys--18 in total when they are all home from college; imagine, Russ Sullivan is the foster father for 18 different young men--knew that Wednesday night was pizza night, coming from the pockets of the Republican Finance Committee staff. ``Wednesdays'' was that night.

AJ was moved from the West Virginia hospital to Children's Hospital and Rehabilitation Center in Washington, DC, where he remained for the next several months until his death in July.

We mourn for the loss of this young man--who brought an incredible light to this world and light to Russ's world and to all who met him. He brought such a light in such a short period of time.

We are fortunate to have Russ working on Capitol Hill. Russ epitomizes public service. He is honest. He is direct, upbeat, positive, looking for solutions, cutting through all the redtape. He always seeks to understand the arguments and keeps searching for the common ground--constantly. Senator Reid keeps asking me: Can Russ help here? What can Russ do about this, in trying to reach out to the other side to find an agreement. He has always been someone I respect and trust. He is also someone I have come to admire.

Months have passed since AJ's death, but his zest for life remains in the hearts of those closest to him. Russ continues mentoring and helping others, changing lives one after another.

Just last week, Russ witnessed a victory for another one of his boys. The boy had been wrongfully convicted of a crime and was facing deportation. But because of Russ's continued diligence and commitment, his innocence was proven and the conviction was overturned. That was just a few days ago.

Harvard Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter once said: ``A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more.''

Russ sees the vision of what could be and rolls up his sleeves to make it happen.

I know I speak for all of us on the Senate Finance Committee--and many of us in this body as a whole--when I say: Thank you, Russ. Thank you for making us want to find our better selves, thank you for working to make the future better, and thank you for all you do.

I yield the floor.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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