“I want to share today with my constituents and colleagues an announcement about change and thanksgiving.
Nearly twenty four years ago, the people of South Jersey afforded me the opportunity, responsibility and honor of serving as their Representative in the United States House of Representatives. Through times of prosperity and recession, great social change and war and peace, I have gratefully accepted that responsibility and for nearly twenty four years given my all to the tasks before our country and our community.
Over the years, there have been many occasions on which the possibility of pursuing other paths in life have been presented to me. On each of these occasions, I concluded that the right choice was to continue my public service in the Congress. In recent days, a new opportunity has come to my attention, which will allow me to continue to serve my community in the private sector, which I believe is in my family and my best interest to accept.
The House has always been a place of high energy and healthy division, and it remains so today. My decision is, however, most emphatically not a political decision about what is happening in Washington--it is a personal decision about the best path for my family. I am proud to serve with members of both parties, Democratic and Republican, liberal and conservative. I also have great confidence that Leader Pelosi, a woman of remarkable talent and energy who has taught me much, and to whom I am forever grateful, will succeed in the effort win a Democratic majority.
Reflecting on nearly twenty four years of my public service in Congress, together, we have lived through the horrors of 9-11, mourned at the funerals of sons and daughters who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, visited the families of fallen officers and other lost first responders, and elected our first African-American President.
Reflecting on my time of public service, I am also proud that, with our dedicated office staff, we have been able to accomplish much in these twenty-four years to improve our nation and our community.
I am proud that the Affordable Care Act will serve as a pillar of progress much as Medicare, Social Security and the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s have built a stronger and more prosperous America. Already today, nine million Americans have secured health insurance coverage under the new law, and health care costs are rising at their lowest rate in decades.
I am proud that the Direct Student Loan Program, which I co-authored, has opened the door to college for generations of students and will continue to do so. As Camille and I tackle the challenge of paying for higher education for our two daughters, we know personally the importance of this work to South Jersey and American families.
Working together locally across party lines to invest in jobs and better transportation, we have supported several billion dollars worth of projects that have been brought into our community. In the last five years, nearly 1.5 billion in transportation improvements alone were secured, such as the Direct Connection project at 295 and 42, which will ease traffic and encourage growth in South Jersey. Just last Friday, we learned that the State will fully support another 200 million dollar project connecting 42 and 295.
I am honored to have been able to fight for and help secure nearly 60 million dollars in critical funding for police, firefighters and first responders to keep our communities and families safer. Dozens of South Jersey communities have shared in this opportunity.
Today, hundreds of families live in safe and high quality housing in the City of Camden because of the nearly 300 million dollars that we have been able to help secure for the Camden Housing Authority.
My office's special commitment to our veterans, including ensuring these true American heroes receive the benefits and honors they deserve, has facilitated everything from transportation to hospitals, disability benefits, and receipt of medals. Today, because of this commitment, high quality VA outpatient health clinics exist in Turnersville and Camden that see thousands of veterans each year.
I have had the privilege of nominating hundreds of amazing, intelligent young men and women to our service academies and awarding First Congressional District Scholarship Awards over one thousand outstanding high school graduates. These South Jersey young men and women are our nation's future.
And, most importantly, when, on approximately 150,000 occasions, you or your neighbor has called, written, emailed or visited us about a hospital or utility bill not paid, a health care company's refusal to allow a critically necessary procedure, a scholarship applied for, a job lost, a Visa not issued, child support, a desire to adopt a child from a foreign country or foster a child from our community, Medicare or Social Security problems, a parent who needs assisted living, job training, a missing traffic light, or a disabling injury, we have been here to help.
A law firm with which my family and I have enjoyed deep and personal bonds stretching over three decades has offered me the opportunity to lead its Government Affairs practice. This is an opportunity that requires a decision now. I am looking forward to utilizing the skills, experiences, and perspectives I have developed in these years in public service in ways that I believe will help our community and our country in the private sector. After the most careful consideration, I have decided to accept this new role at the Dilworth Paxson law firm, a firm deeply rooted in high standards of professional excellence and public service. Accordingly, I will be leaving the Congress during the forthcoming President's Day recess, on February 18, and joining the firm shortly thereafter.
As I reflect on nearly 24 years of our service together, these very individual and personal opportunities to make a difference in a person's life stand out as my most memorable moments of service. So many constituents in supermarkets or diners have graciously thanked us for clearing up their Mom's Medicare bills or helping their Dad secure his military medals from years ago. Recently, a couple proudly visited this office with two teenage sons. When those boys were toddlers, we had helped them clear immigration so that they could be adopted. Last Friday, we were delighted to inform a disabled veteran on the verge of losing his home that his application for full disability had been granted. As I reflect on nearly twenty four years of our work together, these instances of changing people's lives mean the most.
I am profoundly thankful to so many people who have supported me and, without whom, these accomplishments would not have been possible. I am very thankful to my wife Camille and my daughters Jacquelyn and Josie, whose love and commitment are the core of my life.
I am grateful to my staff and many interns, now and over the years, for the hard work and great abilities they bring every day to the service of our constituents. They do a great job, and I thank them all. I have asked the House leadership that these dedicated professionals remain in place until my successor has been elected. Our constituents have entrusted us with more than 5,500 open casework matters and will continue to be served in this way by these dedicated and compassionate professionals.
I am grateful to the Democratic leadership of South Jersey--our County chairs, elected officials and County committee men and women – for their hard work and support over the years. I am also grateful to the many supporters of our campaigns across the political spectrum. In the November 2012 election, the hard work of my staff and supporters enabled us to win more votes than any US House candidate in the history of the State of New Jersey.
I am grateful to my colleagues in the House, especially Democratic Leader Pelosi, and members of both parties for their guidance, fellowship and public service.
And, of course, I am most thankful of all to my constituents – the people of South Jersey who have given me this opportunity to serve as their Representative. There has never been a day that I did not walk up the steps of the Capital humbled that a Bellmawr son of a Shipyard worker, who never graduated from high school, was given this opportunity to serve our great nation.
I again want to thank all of those who have made this service possible. As this change in our family's life occurs, we are very thankful for and humbled by the support and friendship of so many.