In just a few short weeks, my eighth term as representative for the 4th Congressional District will come to an end, and I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve for the past 16 years. It has been a profound honor to represent Kansas in our nation's capital.
Much has changed since I first walked onto the House floor in January 1995 after the historic Republican Revolution of 1994. We have witnessed the impeachment of a U.S. president, four years of balanced budgets, the end and beginning of a new millennium, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, an ongoing global war against terror, and the collapse of established financial and business institutions worldwide.
Other things have changed very little. We are still fighting against runaway federal deficit spending. The false notion that new government programs will solve our greatest problems continues to plague Washington, D.C., despite attempts at cutting waste. Thanks to the tea party movement, a new wave of fiscal conservative representatives will take office in January, and I am hopeful we will see renewed progress in putting Washington on a diet.
One of the privileges of serving Kansas has been to achieve real results for our communities. During my second term, we were successful in lowering airfares for Kansans traveling to Dallas by repealing the Wright amendment — a feat previous congressional delegations had been unable to attain.
I was also proud to have used my position to return millions of tax dollars to Kansas to help build dozens of important infrastructure projects, including flood-control levees in Arkansas City and Augusta, the Equus Beds Aquifer Storage and Recovery Project, the Wichita railroad grade separations downtown that provide emergency vehicle access, construction of a new full-length parallel taxiway at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport, and a much-needed instrument landing system for the Independence Municipal Airport that enabled economic growth and ensured safety was not compromised.
The National Institute for Aviation Research at Wichita State University has been a tremendous success, and it has been a privilege to secure more than $90 million in funding for this nationally recognized program. The institute has been an economic and educational catalyst for the entire region, and it is my hope that NIAR will continue to spur new jobs and innovations.
While there remains much to do in protecting the rights of the unborn, we have achieved a number of significant successes, including enactment of the 1998 Tiahrt Amendment. This public law prohibits taxpayer dollars from being used for international family planning programs that engage in forced sterilizations and coercive abortions.
After a four-year effort, a statue of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was unveiled in the U.S. Capitol rotunda, where it will remain permanently. Millions of visitors who pass through our Capitol each year can now see a prominently placed sculpture of Kansas' native son and our 34th U.S. president. Kansas was the first state to replace an existing statue, and it was a privilege to spearhead this project with help from the Kansas delegation.
This commentary would not be complete without mentioning the ongoing fight to replace the Air Force aerial-refueling tanker fleet with the Boeing KC-767. Working with Kansas Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, we successfully fought back attempts to procure a European tanker and have made the case for purchasing an American tanker made by an American company with American workers. It is my continued hope that the Air Force will make the right decision and select the KC-767, which will employ thousands of skilled engineers and workers in Kansas.
While there are numerous other people and events that could be mentioned, I again just want to say what an honor it has been to serve you these past 16 years. Thank you for the phone calls, letters, e-mails and office visits that have helped keep me informed about issues important to our state. There are no finer constituents in the nation.
I encourage each of you to stay involved in the political process and keep informed about what is happening in our country — then make your voice heard.