Reflection of Time Served in Congress

Floor Speech

Date: Dec. 15, 2022
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KINZINGER. Mr. Speaker, it is with great pride that I rise today and for the next few minutes, I would like to reflect on my 12 years serving in this body.

I knew from a young age that I wanted to serve our Nation. While I was still in college, I was elected to the McLean County Board, the youngest person ever to do so.

In 2003, I was commissioned in the Air Force, a responsibility that I took very seriously, and one I still serve to this day.

Returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, I ran for Congress, and I won.

Well, at the time I didn't have a family, I promised to myself to leave them a better country than the one that I inherited. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, I cannot in good conscience say that I have done that.

When preparing this speech, I knew that reflecting on our country's past would be the guiding light to our destiny.

What made the experiment of our great Nation so remarkable was that the American people put their faith in their fellow citizens to tell the truth and make difficult choices.

We have taken these ideals for granted for far too long. Instead of using our platform to advance the well-being of our Nation and our people, we have turned this institution into an echo chamber of lies.

Coming home from war, I truly believed that American democracy was infallible.

How could a Nation that fought a civil war for the freedom of all, a Nation that vanquished fascism and communism in Europe, how could it falter.

How could we stand atop Mount Everest only to decide that we prefer to fight in the mud.

I have sworn an oath, both in uniform and in this office, to protect this Nation and its Constitution. While overseas, I witnessed the dangers that radicalization of beliefs can have on people in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sadly, since coming to Congress, I have watched how Republicans and Democrats have weaponized fear in much the same way.

We must not abandon our values or our beliefs in the U.S. Constitution. We all swore an oath in this very Chamber to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, not a political party and not a single man. Let us renew this belief while casting out those who take the unprecedented call to abolish this sacred document.

Just as Lady Justice looks upon the Constitution and the Old Supreme Court one floor below us, we must remove the blindfold of politics and govern for all Americans when we are executing our duties.

Where Republicans once believed that limited government meant lower taxes and more autonomy, today, limited government means inciting violence against government officials.

Following the tragic Oklahoma City bombing, former President George H.W. Bush publicly refuted those who used fear to gain support. In stark contrast, our leaders today belittle, and in some cases, justify attacks on the U.S. Capitol as ``legitimate political discourse.''

The once great party of Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Reagan has turned its back on the ideals of liberty and self-governance. Instead, it has embraced lies and deceit.

The Republican Party used to believe in the big tent, which welcomed the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Now, we shelter the ignorant, the racists, who only stoke anger and hatred to those who are different than us.

Our constituents voted us in based on our beliefs, but we cannot use our faith as a sword and a shield while ignoring the fact that we are all children of God, that we are all Americans.

To my Democratic colleagues, you must, too, bear the burden of our failures. Many of you have asked me, Where are all the good Republicans?

Over the past 2 years, Democratic leadership had the opportunity to stand above the fray. Instead, they poured millions of dollars into the campaigns of MAGA Republicans, the same candidates President Biden called a national security threat, to ensure these good Republicans did not make it out of their respective primaries.

This is no longer politics as usual. This is not a game. If you keep stoking the fire, you can't point the fingers when our great experiment goes up in flames.

Unfortunately, there are too few Republicans and Democrats that have the spines to stand up and put country over party. This is not how our Founding Fathers intended for our democracy to function, because, Mr. Speaker, our democracy is not functioning.

When one party's megaphone echoes calls for a civil war and the other tacitly, and in some cases, openly supports it, then we are clearly lost, Mr. Speaker.

Much like the Titanic on its maiden voyage, if Republicans and Democrats don't urgently course correct, I fear we will hit the iceberg right in front of us.

While our politics are more divided now than any time over the past 160 years, we are often reminded of the magic of America at its best.

Following tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombing, or Hurricanes Sandy and Harvey, Americans from all walks of life banded together to support their neighbor, regardless of their political affiliation. Through hardship, hope reigns.

With this in mind, we cannot allow the loudest voice in the room to become the voice of reason. While we in recent years have failed our constituents, there have been times when we have come together to find commonsense solutions to some of the pressing challenges of our times. As a Nation, we achieve more when we work together.

Americans deserve a democracy that values truthful leaders and real dialogue between our parties. It is my belief that we have to put aside our differences and remember that the Nation itself will only survive if the people have faith in one another.

Unfortunately, we now live in a world where lies trump truth, where democracy is being challenged by authoritarianism. If we, America's elected leaders, do not search within ourselves for a way out, I fear that this great experiment will fall into the ash heap of history.

To millions of Americans looking for solutions, not lies, it is up to us to ensure that this ship does not sink. We are being challenged at home and abroad. We must not crumble under the gravity of this moment.

So many men and women around the world would die and have died trying to achieve what we have in the United States. So many of America's sons and daughters, many of whom were my friends, have died protecting it.

As we continue to navigate a challenging and changing world, we must remember the past. Whenever the United States turns its back on humanity, we all suffer the consequences.

Western appeasement of Hitler not only led to the Second World War, but also the genocide of millions of Jews across Europe. Believing that we could leave Europe destroyed following the demise of Nazi Germany only emboldened Communist Russia to repress the Eastern Continent for nearly five decades. Only through continued American engagement did we defeat communism and liberate our European allies to enjoy their God- given freedoms.

Unfortunately, we once again retreated from the world thinking that no one would challenge the sole superpower. Our hubris left a window for 19 men armed with box cutters to murder 2,996 Americans here at home. History has proven that American isolation from world affairs is dangerous.

Over the years, I have been privileged to lead the effort on supporting American leadership in a world drowning in faux strongmen.

Advocating for the rights of Syrian men, women, and children to live without fear of Assad's death squads shouldn't be political, it is just simply the right thing to do.

Advocating for a stronger American assistance in Ukraine to counter Putin's illegal invasion shouldn't be political, it is just the right thing to do.

By supporting those who believe in freedom, we advance the interests of the American people. Should this Congress or any future Congress decide to turn their back on our alliances and commitments, it will do nothing but embolden our adversaries. None more than the Chinese Communist Party.

It is all but certain that China is gauging their tolerance for pain based on our response to Ukraine. Should we fail to support our allies in Kyiv, China will unleash their own imperial aspiration across the region.

Had I known that standing up for truth would cost me my job, friendships, and even my personal security, I would, without hesitation, do it all over again.

I can rest easy at night knowing that I fulfilled my oath to the office. I know many in this institution cannot do the same.

Some of my most rewarding and memorable accomplishments in Congress have come from working to solve issues directly impacting the 16th District and Illinois as a whole.

Whether it was fighting the opioid epidemic or keeping nuclear power plants running and our bridges standing, to responding to more emergent events like flooding, tornadoes, and even a global pandemic, these projects always felt so personal to me, and I took them seriously.

Even though my time in Congress is coming to an end, I stand here renewing that promise I made over a decade ago to leave this country a far better place than the one I inherited, not only for my son, Christian, but also for future generations.

In closing, I need to first thank God Almighty for his blessings. Without his guidance and protection, I would not be where I am today.

I also thank the hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans who placed their trust in me to represent them in this Chamber. While we may not have always agreed on every issue, I always worked to best represent my constituents and my Nation.

I certainly would not be the man I am today without my family. For my parents, Rus and Jodi Kinzinger, to my wife and newborn son, Sofia and Christian, you have all lifted me in my time of need. While others fled, you stood your ground, and you supported me through thick and thin. For this, I am eternally grateful.

Last but not least, I need to thank my staff, both past and present. Over my 12 years in Congress, I had the privilege of having dedicated young men and women who sacrificed long hours, weekends, holidays, and special events in support of my goals.

Without them, legislating would have been impossible. They serve on the front lines every day, prosecuting casework for my countless constituents, advancing my legislation, and taking the brunt of the vitriol from angry and lost individuals. Their work was never easy, and they never wavered.

I especially thank my chief of staff, Austin Weatherford; my deputy chief of staff and district director, Bonnie Walsh; my legislative director, Sebastian De Luca; my deputy district director, Patrick Doggett; my policy adviser, Paul Laurie; my field representatives and caseworkers, Greg Ridenour, Casey Gross, Luke Phalen, and Leah Bohlmann; my communications director, Theresa Reed; my legislative correspondent, Luke Sandlin; my press assistant, Emily Hayes; and my staff assistant, Anna Brooks Reed.

I was truly blessed to have such a dedicated staff to advise me through this whole process. They have become like family, and I will never forget the work they have done in service to their Nation and me.