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Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act--Motion to Proceed--Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. ROBERTS. Mr. President, I wish to talk about the farm bill. As we can see from an open Senate, I think we have done our work, and we have been successful. Most of what we can say on this bill has already been said.

After final passage, I simply wish to reiterate what the chairwoman has said, what I have said all along: This is a reform bill. We cut $23 billion in mandatory spending. These are real cuts, no gimmicks. We have eliminated four commodity programs--four commodity programs. We have streamlined conservation programs from 23 to 13. We have eliminated numerous other authorizations.

In total, approximately 100 authorizations for spending and appropriations are eliminated. This is real reform. I also wish to take a quick moment to thank all the staff who have worked so hard on this legislation, especially the committee staff on both the majority and the minority sides.

I especially wish to thank the legislative magician, if I may call him that--expert--David Schiappa and his staff. They are no longer here, but they guided us through some difficult times, as he always does--as they always do.

I would like to take a few moments to recognize the members of my staff who worked on this bill. For me, this is a very special occasion. We are only as good as our staff. I have been blessed with the very best, and I have been a bucket toter. That is what a staff member is. When someone totes buckets, they try not to spill anything.

Sometimes they are successful and other times they may trip and fall. Other times it is just the way it is. I was administrative assistant to Senator Frank Carlson, the only man in Kansas to serve us as a Member of Congress, as a Governor, and a Senator, prior to our current Governor, Sam Brownback.

I was the administrative assistant for Congressman Keith Sebelius, who was on the House Agriculture Committee, and learned an awful lot about agriculture with Keith as we went through those days. Obviously, if someone is from Kansas, they are a legislative assistant or a bucket toter or whatever description you want for Bob Dole forever.

These people, as far as I am concerned, are not only my staff, they are my family. They have persevered. Anne Hazlett, my chief counsel, in my opinion, is the best chief counsel in the Senate, one of the top legislative drafters in the Senate, former director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture under Gov. Mitch Daniels. When she is at my door, I know I am going to be told no on something.

I actually had better listen to her.

Eric Steiner. Eric has charged me with cruel and unusual punishment for putting him in the charge of dairy policy. After the 1996 farm bill and all that--and the 2002 and 2008 farm bills--I said I don't do dairy anymore. Then, in came Eric. He also became a dad for the first time earlier this year as we worked on this bill--talk about working 24/7 and giving up your family.

Keira Franz is a former Bob Dole staffer. Bob still tells her what to do so she can tell me what he says I am supposed to be doing.

Autumn Veazey, our southern bell and specialty crop guru, has also had the pleasure of getting to know places such as Dodge City and the inside of a meat processing plant--something that should be required of every agriculture assistant. Don't ask her.

Gregg Doud. Here is a real Kansas cowboy and one of the top agriculture trade experts in Washington, and he still wears his boots.

Tara Smith, our commodities and crop insurance expert, helps me navigate the minefields of both. Thank you so much, Tara. You have been wonderful.

Janae Brady keeps our staff--and, most importantly, my staff--director organized.

Andrew Vlasity, a great young man and a tremendous writer, has helped create a research title for the future.

Max Fisher, our No. 1 crunching guru, also became a dad for the third time as we worked on this bill.

Chris Hicks, our other legal counsel, is a former Senate-confirmed general counsel at the Department of Agriculture and provides the wisdom of that position as we work on complicated matters.

Patty Lawrence is our Department of Agriculture detailee on conservation issues and the ultimate professional.

Also, in my personal office: Ryan Flickner, a young Kansas farm lad who will soon return to Kansas to get married and become my deputy State director.

Wane Stoskopf is another Kansas farm boy who is taking Ryan's position, and Emily Haug.

Also, my communications director, Sarah Little--dear Sarah is never short of work when it comes to cleaning up what I have said and should not have said.

My State agriculture representative is Mel Thompson. I used to work with Mel. He was a legislative assistant and I was administrative assistant with Keith Sebelius. We went through two farm bills. There is no better person to have eyes and ears on the ground than Mel Thompson.

Then, there are Joel and Mike, the ``two musketeers,'' who saw me every morning, every afternoon, and every evening. I have a tendency to wander, to reflect on past farm bill stories, and to occasionally give ranks. These are not particularly helpful in regard to moving legislation forward, and so Joel and Mike would say: Sir--at least they said ``sir''--Sir, keep your eye on the ball. Stay focused. Where there is a will, there is a way. If you rank, if you wander, you will be lost in the midst of the desert farm bill purgatory. Don't be lost in the desert farm bill purgatory. Stay focused.

I tried. I think we succeeded, for the most part.

The chairwoman also has a great staff. Everybody likes to brag on their staffs, and I know she will mention many of them. I especially thank her staff director, Chris Adamo, and chief counsel, Jonathan Coppess, for their outstanding work on this legislation. They have been professional throughout. I don't know what you guys are going to do now that we are not breaking into your office in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings to see your smiling faces--and then we wonder why you are not smiling. Thank you for a top job.

I also thank all those in Senate legislative counsel and the Congressional Budget Office who helped us get to this point today. They all worked behind the scenes, but we could not be here today without them.

I view my staff as family. I thank my family over here for their tremendous work in achieving what I think is a great farm bill and for doing something to restore the Senate back to the Senate.

I yield the floor.


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