Let me also talk about some local projects that are important to all of us and to my work in Congress.
The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge continues to grow in size and scope, and we’ve already began construction on a visitors center that’s sure to bring many here to see even more of the beauty our part of the world has to offer.
And the progress on the River Raisin National Battlefield Park in Monroe is also something of value to our history, our culture, and our economic growth.
We’ve also made progress on the establishment of the New International Trade Crossing, and I commend our local and state officials—as well as the Canadian government—on their hard work and dedication to this project.
I share our people’s dedication, and I will continue to work to see to it that the Administration, my colleagues in Congress, and all at the federal level understand the importance of this project. We cannot delay.
As I said earlier, our domestic auto industry continues to grow, with some of the best cars in the world being made by some of the best workers right here in Michigan.
We’re continuing to see record sales numbers, shift additions, production expansions, and countless more evidence of success. We have to look no further than Flat Rock to see a prime example of the recent growths in this industry.
This is what happens when our workers and management come together in the name of making a good product at an honest wage that the American people can rely on. I’ll continue to fight for our autos every step of the way.
We’ve also made progress on a matter near and dear to me: ensuring affordable and fair health care coverage for all.
Nationwide, we’ve seen some 3.3 million Americans enroll in health care plans under the Affordable Care Act, with more than 115,000 of those enrollees right here in Michigan.
Of course there’s still work to be done to ensure that enrollment numbers continue to increase, but this most recent surge in enrollments is a telling sign that this program will be successful as more people find out about it and select the care they can afford and deserve.
You all know that I have made it my life’s work to ensure affordable health care for all, and the progress being made encourages me greatly.
Despite the political fighting over this topic, the American people are already benefiting from this law.
Kids can stay on their parents’ insurance to age 26. No one can be denied coverage due to a preexisting condition. The insurance company can’t cancel your coverage just because you got sick, or while you’re on a gurney making your way into an operating room. No longer are there lifetime caps on coverage.
These are real benefits that we’ve never seen before. I fought for inclusion of what is known as the Patients’ Bill of Rights because I believe that we have had too many people die or be left helpless due to want of necessary care. We need a system that works, and the Affordable Care Act is a step in that right direction.
Why do I say these things now? All of these things we have discussed today are critical to our future. We have laid the foundation to do it as we have so many times in the past, by putting aside our differences and working together for the common good. I am confident this will happen again.
I would like now to invoke a point of personal privilege to talk a little about myself, which is something I am usually reluctant to do. There are plenty of people in Congress who love to talk about themselves and I have tried very hard not to join their ranks over the years. But I am setting aside that rule today to share my personal plans for the future with you, my dear friends.
Around this time every two years, my wife Deborah and I confer on the question of whether I will seek reelection. My standards are high for this job. I put myself to the test and have always known that when the time came that I felt I could not live up to my own personal standard for a Member of Congress, it would be time to step aside for someone else to represent this district.
That time has come.
I am fully aware of the honor that has been bestowed on me every two years by the people of Southeast Michigan when they gave me their votes to serve them in Washington. There is no greater privilege than a life spent in service, and I know how fortunate I have been to spend my life as a Member of Congress. I have done my best for the people who live here - my neighbors, my friends, those who supported me, and those who didn't. The fabric of Michigan is the fabric of my life, and it has never frayed.
Public service is undervalued in our modern times, and I can understand that when I look at what our Congress has become. But it doesn't have to be that. I am hopeful that this fever breaks at some point, and Congress goes back to what it should be: the House of the People, standing up for the average man and woman. That's how I've always defined the job, and it's a damn good definition.
I have ten months more in Congress, and I'm not going to waste a minute. There's still a lot to be done and a lot I want to do.
Make no mistake, I love the Congress. It is the greatest legislative body in the world. It has been a privilege to serve them. I have loved the institution, the people I have served, the grand and good people of Southeast Michigan, of the 15th, 16th, 15th and then 12th districts. They are good people—the best I have known—and they care for the nation, their state, and their communities. They work hard, play by the rules, and deserve everything their hard work gives them.
Their elected officials are some of the finest people in the world, in and out of office. And their goodness to me and my family when I raised four kids alone will never be forgotten. I owe so much to the people of Southeast Michigan. Loyal, decent, good, kind and wonderful they are.
I also want to take advantage of this time to express my thanks and gratitude to the hundreds of people who have served on my staff, working long hours to serve the people of Michigan. Will those of you in the room who are current staff and alumni please stand so that we can give them the applause they deserve?