I rise today to honor my friend and colleague, Congressman Rob Bishop. After 18 years of service in the House of Representatives, he has decided to hang up his gloves and embark on his retirement.
Rob has served the First District of Utah with integrity, tenacity, humility, and humor, and it is my privilege to have worked with him through the last ten years.
Born and raised in Kaysville, Rob has been a lifelong resident of the First District, with the exception of his two-year mission in Germany for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He graduated from Davis High School with high honors, and later graduated magna cum laude from the University of Utah with a degree in political science.
The epitome of a public servant, Rob began his career as a high school teacher at Ben Lomond High School and Box Elder High School, teaching courses in German, AP U.S. History and Government, and coaching debate.
He notoriously had one rule in the classroom: “I’m never wrong.” That might tell you something about Rob Bishop.
An avid lover of musicals, he was also active in community theatre, where he met his wife Jeralynn. They first met on a production of “South Pacific” at the Palace Playhouse; and they later starred together as the prince and princess in a production of “Once Upon a Mattress.” In their real-life love story, they have five children – Shule, Jarom, Zenock, Maren, and Jashon; with spouses Melissa, Kristin, Shalise, Courtney – and nine grandchildren.
Inspired by Barry Goldwater, he was also involved in local politics from a young age, working at various levels of government and of the Republican party. He’s gone from precinct chair to member of the Republican National Committee; from Vice Chair of the Davis County Teenage Republicans in 1968, to advisor to the Utah Teenage Republicans in 1996; and starting in 1997 served two terms as Chairman of the Utah Republican Party.
At just 25, he was elected to the Utah House of Representatives, when he was known for always wearing sweaters and no socks. He served in the state legislature for sixteen years, and during the last two was unanimously elected to serve as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
In 2002, after serving in the state legislature and 28 years of teaching, he decided to serve at the national level.
As he said in one of his most popular campaign slogans, “Utah has plenty of Bishops – send this one to Washington!”
Rob has faithfully and devotedly represented Utah’s First District in Congress ever since.
I remember one of the first times that I worked with him, when Rob was a relatively new member of Congress and I was working as general counsel for Utah’s Governor, Jon Huntsman.
At the time, a private fuel storage organization was trying to store spent nuclear fuel rods in above-ground storage casks along the Wasatch Front corridor – just miles from Utah’s major metropolitan area, and just under the low altitude flight path of fighter jets flying to the Utah Test and Training Range.
And out of all the members of the Utah delegation that I was working with to prevent such a dangerous idea from taking place, Congressman Rob Bishop stood out.
He had a full understanding of the problem – a complete mastery of scientific facts of the issue – and detailed, helpful ideas about how to address it.
Thanks to his vision, direction, determination, and strategy, he worked to pass a bill designating the area in question as wilderness, and successfully prevented spent nuclear fuel rods from coming to Utah.
Though new to Congress, Rob was punching above his weight because he was willing to dive into the nitty gritty details of an issue and put in the hard work.
And that has characterized Rob’s time in Congress as a whole – doggedly, thoughtfully, and honestly working for Utahns’ best interests.
He has served on the Armed Services Committee, the powerful House Rules Committee, the Science Committee, and as Ranking Member and Chair of the Natural Resources Committee – chairing hearings with his characteristic witty quips and wry jokes.
He has also chaired the Congressional Western Caucus, served on the House German Caucus for his whole tenure, including for two years as Chair; and helped found the 10th Amendment Task Force.
When Speaker of the House John Boehner created committees for congressional reform, Rob was named Chairman of the Committee for Procedural Reform; and later on, leader of the Rules Group. Under Speaker Paul Ryan, he was named Chair of the Federalism Committee.
Rob did all of this in addition to being a staunch advocate for the military and for Hill Air Force Base.
One of his proudest achievements was getting an extension of the Michaels Airstrip at the Dugway Proving Ground in Tooele County. When he was told that there was no funding for it to be done at the federal level, he successfully got the Utah state legislature to appropriate the funding to make it happen.
And he was instrumental in establishing Falcon Hill – an aerospace research park just outside of Hill Air Force Base, and a public-private partnership between the Air Force, the State of Utah and private developers that was the first of its kind in the country.
Rob has also brought his love of baseball to Washington. A huge admirer of Mickey Mantle and Ernie Banks, Rob is known to have dirt from the original pitcher’s mound of Yankee Stadium in his D.C. office. He’s been a longtime supporter of the Salt Lake Bees, even championing the construction of their stadium while he was in the state legislature; and is a diehard Cubs fan.
Every year, he dons a uniform himself, leading his office in the intramural baseball league on Capitol Hill, with their team name as the “Raucus Caucus.”
Rob has brought the same passion he has for baseball to serving his constituents.
He has for years worked with the Close Up Foundation to bring high school students to Washington; and partnered with teachers and students to put on an AP Government conference each year.
He has famously led constituent and student groups on long, expert, nighttime tours of the Capitol building; and spent hours late into the night making personal phone calls to each constituent who writes in.
One of my favorite things about him is precisely how understated and down-to-earth he is – a true feat when you’ve been in Congress as long as he has.
While he’s known for his sharp, three-piece suits here in Washington, I can’t count the number of plane rides I’ve taken with him on which he wears gym shorts, sandals, and a hoodie. (Many times he has given me the sage advice to not torture myself by wearing a suit on 4-hour plane rides.)
But when you have a conversation with Rob, you never feel that he is trying to advance his own agenda or gain fanfare; as a matter of fact, it’s quite the opposite. It feels like a real conversation, with a real goal of trying to fix a problem. He simply tells it like it is – an altogether rare, refreshing quality on Capitol Hill.
When Rob ran for Congress, he said it was his goal to make Congress less powerful when he left than when he came.
In all of his time here, he has sought to put power in Washington back in the hands of Utahns and people around the states.
Just so, in all of his time here, he has slept on either an air mattress or a futon so that he would not get too “at home” in Congress.
Rare is the man who can come to change Washington, but not be changed by Washington. Rob Bishop has managed to do just that.
He has made a real difference for the people of Utah and our country, and it’s been a pleasure to call him a colleague and a friend.
I yield the floor.