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Public Statements

Immigration Reform

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. BENNET. In the vein of thank-yous, I wanted to come down after this historic day, passing this historic bill, to say some thank-yous. I have already thanked my colleagues in the Gang of 8 and the other Senators who worked so hard on this bill, and there will be a time to do that on another occasion.

Sometimes people have asked me during the course of my checkered career: How did you get to do this? Why did they let you do this? How did somebody with no apparent skill or aptitude for public education, for example, get to run the Denver Public Schools, one of the most cherished things I have ever done.

My answer has always been the same, which is the key is to find a bunch of people who are better at doing their job than you would ever be at doing their job. Assemble them, organize them around a project, a challenge or an obstacle and let them do their thing.

The Presiding Officer spoke eloquently about this yesterday when he thanked his personal staff and the Senate staff on his way back to Massachusetts.

I ask unanimous consent to submit the list of staff for the Record.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. BENNET. Of all the staff in the Senators' offices who worked on this bill, I will take further time tonight to mention a few names. First, I thank people on my staff, Rachel Velasquez and Stefanie Aarthun, who did amazing work, both of them, over many months on this bill and not only here. Also, we worked on the Colorado Compact in the State of Colorado. This was what enabled us to be part of this conversation.

I have thought throughout this process how important the work was that we did in Colorado in preparation for this moment, to get to this moment. It simply would have been impossible to succeed at producing what we call the Colorado Compact, composed of six principles. They were so bipartisan that when we had the press conference, the person who came to read the first of these principles was actually my Republican opponent in the 2010 Senate race, Ken Buck.

I want to thank him for that and the others who were part of the compact.

I especially thank my deputy chief of staff, Sarah Hughes, who did an amazing job of pulling everybody together. She has been with me longer than anybody on my staff. Nothing I could have accomplished in the jobs I have had before and certainly not in this instance could I have done without Sarah Hughes.

The same goes for Jon Davidson, who is my chief of staff and who is a model for what a chief of staff in the Senate should be--or anywhere else, for that matter, but particularly here, where the pressures can be so extraordinary. His ability to attract an incredibly talented team of people who work on all kinds of issues, from immigration, to health care, to education, is incredibly important in the constituent service we do both here and in Colorado. Simply none of it would have happened if somehow I hadn't been lucky enough to hire Jonathan Davidson, who has been around this place, actually, as a young person, for a very long time, having been, among other things, Paul Sarbanes' chief of staff when he was the chair of the Banking Committee.

By my side both before I came to the Senate and in the Senate on this issue has been Sergio Gonzales, who has worked tirelessly. ``Tirelessly'' doesn't even capture it--24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it has felt like. He certainly looks that way. He won't appreciate my saying that, but it is true, and people who know Sergio will know what I am talking about. He has done an amazing job with a sense of humor and has served not just me during this but the entire Gang of 8, and we will be forever grateful.

There were many times during this process that I have thought about Sergio's grandfather and his grandmother. His grandfather, Corky Gonzales--Rodolfo ``Corky'' Gonzales--played such an important role in Colorado's history and the history of the West, and a library was just named for him last week. I have wondered what he would think about knowing we live in a country where his grandson has helped to shepherd across the line the most important immigration reform in this country's history. So I thank Sergio Gonzales for his leadership as well.

None of this would have been possible without Chuck Schumer, whom I talked about earlier. None of it would have been possible without his incredible staff: Leon Fresco, Stephanie Martz, Mike Lynch, his chief of staff--all of whom did an extraordinary job of keeping us on track and keeping Chuck on track, and I deeply appreciate that.

The others I wanted to mention while on the floor today are the staffs of the people with whom we negotiated the agriculture provisions of this bill. Dianne Feinstein did a great job leading that effort, with Chris Thompson, Neil Quinter, and Kim Alton, who all work for her. I deeply appreciate their work.

From Orrin Hatch's office, Matt Sandgren did an excellent job all the way through.

I particularly want to say thank you to Marco Rubio's staff and their efforts to bring Democrats and Republicans together on this issue. This is the first time we have had an immigration bill where the agriculture provisions in the bill are endorsed by both the growers and the farm workers union. That has
never happened before. I thank all of them for doing that. We would not have accomplished that without some very late night meetings, and Enrique Gonzalez was always there along with John Baselice. He will never forgive me for that, and Enrique will never let me forget it, but they did extraordinary work on that part of the bill and other parts of the bill as well.

I thank the leader's staff--Serena Hoy--the Judiciary Committee staff, and the floor staff.

As I say, I have submitted names for the Record, but there are names here that are too often not mentioned on the floor of the Senate, so I want to read these names. These are the schedulers for the eight Senators who worked on this bill so hard for so many months.

The day I knew we were actually going to get this done was the day John McCain said in his office some months ago that unless we begin to meet three times a week, we are never going to get this done. As the Presiding Officer knows, that is an enormous commitment of time, to meet three times a week, and we did it week in and week out. Sometimes we weren't even in Washington but back home on the telephone, but we carved out the time to do it, and that could not have happened without the schedulers in our offices--from my perspective, certainly not without Kristin Mollet, who is my extraordinary scheduler. I told her at our first meeting--I don't know if I was interviewing her or she was interviewing me; it was probably a little bit of both--that the scheduler is the heart of the operation. If the schedule doesn't work, the wheels come off and nothing else works. Kristin Mollet has done an extraordinary job getting us through this process.

In no particular order, let me please say thank you to Alice James, with Senator Graham; Megan Runyan, with Senator Flake; Rob Kelly, with Senator Menendez; Claire Reuschel, with Senator Durbin; Jessica Bonfiglio, in Senator Rubio's office; and a very special thanks to Alex Victor, with Senator Schumer, and Ellen Cahill in Senator McCain's office. We could not have done this without them.

In the story I told before about when I was a superintendent and working in business, not in politics--I had never run for office before when I took this job--I mentioned that the key is finding people a lot better at doing their job than you would ever be at doing their job. Well, that has never been more true than it has been in the Senate, where the quality of the work we do depends entirely on the quality of the staff we have. So I want to say thank you to all the Senate staff for their efforts.


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