In Final House Speech, Rep. John Yarmuth Says What He Will And Won’t Miss About Congress

Dec 14, 2022 at 12:59 pm
Screenshot via U.S. Congress livestream.
Screenshot via U.S. Congress livestream.

In his final speech on the House floor, retiring Rep. John Yarmuth laid out what he will and won’t miss about serving in Congress, taking a few shots at the flaws of the federal government and emotionally thanking colleagues along the way.

Yarmuth — who founded LEO Weekly three decades ago and served 16 years in the House of Representatives — announced that he wouldn’t seek reelection back in Oct. 2021.

In January, state Sen. Morgan McGarvey was elected to replace Yarmuth as the Congressperson for House District 3, which covers Louisville.

Like the columns he has written over the years for LEO, Yarmuth’s speech was at times funny, thoughtful, sharp and cautionary.

Watch or read his entire speech below:

Mr. Speaker, several years ago I ran into a former member of the House, and I asked him whether he missed it. He answered, “I don't miss the circus. I miss the clowns.”

 Now that I'm in my final days as a Member and I've reflected on my 16 years here, I'm going to tweak that line. I won't miss everything about the circus. And I will miss many — but not all — of the clowns.

 I also now understand why so many people are afraid of clowns.

 I definitely will miss speaking on the House Floor, so I will use my last appearance in this historic space to talk about what I will and won't miss. I will miss the feeling that I'm part of history — if not always history I would brag about. I will miss the constant reminder that I have served in the same body as Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy, John Lewis, and so many other amazing Americans.

 I will miss the serious, thoughtful, and often noble discussions about how we can make a positive difference in the lives of so many Americans, even if we rarely make as big a difference as we'd want. And I will miss the give and take of policy debates, even though I know there was never a chance the debates would change anyone's mind.

 On the other hand, I won't miss the reality that most of our rhetorical firepower is preaching to our respective choirs, and that too much of what we say comes from the devils and not the angels of our natures. I won't miss the constant emphasis on raising money and the apparent conviction of some that only gobs of money can persuade enough voters to win elections.

I won't miss the frustrating reality that we rarely move quickly enough to deal with the challenges of a fast-moving world, and the fear that if this body doesn't figure out how to work more expeditiously, we will continue to frustrate our citizens.

 I will miss many of my colleagues, some of whom are now among my best friends — and yes, even some from across the aisle. They have broadened my perspective and reinforced my belief that, with all our flaws, we are essentially decent and caring people who tried to find better ways forward for our country. I respect them and thank them for their service and friendship. They are definitely not clowns.

 I have so many other people to thank as I leave this body. Of course, I must thank my family for encouraging me to do this work and for excusing me for missing so much of their lives. And in recent years, my grandsons, J.D. and Rory for being constant reminders that what we do here has implications far beyond the moment.

 I will be eternally grateful to the people of Louisville, who have given me the extraordinary honor and responsibility to represent them here.

 As a former staffer, I knew that a great staff is essential for success. I have been blessed with phenomenal staff members throughout my eight terms. Thanks to every one of you. I'm also grateful to the staff of the House Budget Committee, which always made me look more competent and knowledgeable as the Chairman than I otherwise would have. Thanks to all the House support staff who serve quietly and effectively to keep this body functioning. Thanks to the Capitol Police who protect and defend us, and who showed the world on January 6, 2021, how brave and selfless they are. Thanks to all my Committee Chairs and Ranking Members whose examples kept me from screwing up any more than I did. Thanks and praise to Democratic Leadership: Speaker Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and Jim Clyburn, and for their friendship, trust, and inspiration.

 Finally, I want to thank the person who has been with me every minute of my 16 years in the house. If Julie Carr is not the best Chief of Staff ever to serve here, there's no better model to emulate. I often said that if she left me, I would retire the next day. Luckily, she stuck with me. And now, she will also leave the House after 25 years of service to me and others. The citizens of Louisville are, unbeknownst to them, much better off because of her work. And I was a better Member because of her intellect, judgment, dedication, and friendship. Thank you for everything, Julie.

 So, I will leave the House proud of my work, grateful for the opportunity to serve here, and committed to continue to serve our great country and its people.

 For the last time Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

(Text via Yarmuth's communications office)

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