Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), retiring chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, took to the Senate floor Thursday to say farewell to the body he has served for 30 years.
Rockefeller's message was aimed at calling his colleagues to the more bipartisan angels of their nature. He also praised the E-rate program, saying that was an example of when the government needed to step in, when private industry couldn't or wouldn't, to insure that broadband got to schools and libraries.
He also said that the government should not outsource its security to telecom companies, saying he had "seen what telecommunications companies can do when they can get away with it." That appeared to be a reference to Congress' inability to pass legislation on data collection or cybersecurity.
When the free market cannot solve our problems, he said, it is the government's role to step in. "We are here for a reason."
But mostly his speech focused on the need for compromise and for empathy, and for separating their endlessly campaigning selves from their legislative ones. He said he knows Congress, "at some point in some way," will rise up to address key issues and problems.
He said legislators "have to know who and what we must fight for" and must embrace the opportunity to lead, listen and make a difference.
Rockefeller also fought back tears as he praised his staff. That includes one former staffer, Jessica Rosenworcel, who is now an FCC commissioner and worked with Rockefeller to promote, and continues to promote, E-rate subsidies.
"It was a privilege to work for such a remarkable public servant," said Rosenworcel, adding that she was "grateful for every minute of it."