U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today honored Nick Rossi, a longtime member of his staff and current chief of staff in his whip office, who will soon be leaving Capitol Hill after 26 years of government service.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, it’s members of Congress who get the spotlight here in Washington.
“When we talk about a bill getting passed, for example, you usually hear about the members who introduced and pushed for that bill.
“You don’t usually hear about the staffers.
“But, Mr. President, none of us in Congress work alone.
“We are supported by dedicated staffers who spend long days – and oftentimes nights and weekends – working to serve our constituents and our country.
“Today I want to talk about one of those staffers, my whip office chief of staff, who is leaving the Hill after 26 years of government service.
“Nick Rossi has been with me since 2013, when I became the ranking member of the Commerce Committee.
“He came on as deputy staff director and took over as staff director two years later.
“There isn’t one thing we did in my years as Commerce ranking member and chair that wasn’t at least partially owing to Nick Rossi.
“The 2018 FAA reauthorization, the FAST Act, Coast Guard legislation, FCC bills, broadband legislation, spectrum legislation, Section 230 reform legislation known as SESTA/FOSTA, legislation to reduce the number of annoying robocalls, other consumer protection legislation like the FTC Consumer Fairness Review Act, legislation to advance 5G … the list goes on.
“Mr. President, Nick came to my staff after an already illustrious career on the Hill.
“He had served as chief counsel at the Senate Judiciary Committee, as chief counsel and chief investigator on the Commerce Committee, and as staff director on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
“But his career in government started much earlier.
“He actually started his government service in the FBI – applying on a whim when he couldn’t join the U.S. attorney’s office because of a hiring freeze.
“As is typical for Nick, he graduated first in his class at the FBI Academy and then went on to spend 11 years in the FBI – as a special agent, a supervisory special agent, unit chief, associate legal counsel, and media spokesperson.
“That sounds like a lot for 11 years – but not so much when you know Nick.
“I mentioned that he graduated first in his class at the FBI academy.
“He also graduated with honors from Notre Dame and from Harvard Law School – where he was in the drama society with our colleague Ted Cruz.
“I don’t think I’ve ever asked Nick about any issue and gotten anything less than a thoroughly informed answer – whether the subject was technically in his area of expertise or not.
“I’ll never forget when he accompanied me and former Senator Bill Nelson to the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, South Dakota.
“This is a lab where scientists are conducting research in particle physics and the expansion of the universe – so pretty complicated stuff.
“Well, apparently not to Nick.
“He was in the car with us and he was throwing out technical formulas and the finer points of physics and cosmology with the ease he might use when discussing the lunch menu in Dirksen.
“When asked how he knew all this stuff – he definitely didn’t major in physics, and space wasn’t his issue area – he just said it was a hobby.
“Trust Nick to be flirting with particle physics as a hobby.
“But, Mr. President, while Nick may often be the smartest person in the room, he’s also the most humble.
“He’s often the last to speak.
“He listens. He asks questions – sometimes maybe when he doesn’t really need to. And he gives thoughtful, wise counsel.
“It’s been clear over the last few days, as staffers across the Senate learned that Nick was leaving, just how respected his voice is in the Senate.
“I’ve had more than one committee staff director talk to me about how he or she learned to run a committee from Nick.
“And I know a lot of senior staffers – inside my office, but outside of it as well – who will tell you that when they’re facing a challenge, the first person they go to to provide a sounding board is Nick.
“And Nick always makes himself available.
“He is uniformly generous with his time and knowledge.
“And he treats everyone the same, whether the individual in question is a staff assistant or a chief of staff.
“He’s brought out the best in every team I’ve seen him work with, whether at the Commerce Committee or in the whip office.
“Mr. President, Nick has been chief of staff in my whip office for two years – two very eventful years.
“Through it all, Nick has been a steady presence in the whip office and in the Senate.
“No matter the crisis, Nick is calm and collected – and he inspires that calm in others.
“(I do hear that it’s a different story when he’s watching Notre Dame football though.
“The word is that there’s a lot of ranting, pacing, and yelling at the TV.)
“Mr. President, above all, Nick is a character guy, which matters a lot to me.
“He’s a man of honor and integrity and principle.
“I never have to worry that Nick is going to cut corners or bend the rules.
“He is always going to do stuff the right way.
“And there is nothing more important than that.
“Mr. President, I can’t talk about Nick without also mentioning his commitment to his family.
“His pride in his kids always shines through.
“And just as he’s never too busy to talk to a staffer who’s having a problem, he’s always ready to take a break from his work to help his daughter Elena with her math homework (another subject Nick didn’t major in but is of course really good at) or to build swords and helmets and bows and arrows with his son Johnny.
“I’m very grateful to his wife Katherine and to Elena and Johnny for sharing him with us for all these years.
“And I am very happy that there are fewer late nights in his future so that he can get in some more time with his family.
“Mr. President, I realize that Nick may be starting to sound superhuman, so let me just say that while he is a man of many talents – who has not only successfully repaired the family’s microwave and dishwasher, but is also known for building a balloon arch in the shape of a shark for his kids’ school – I am reliably informed that he is NOT a good cook.
“And I’m pretty sure that ‘NOT’ was in bold and underlined.
“But seriously, Mr. President, Nick is one in a million.
“And it’s been my privilege to have him lead the team in the whip office.
“His absence will be sorely felt – by me, by my staff, and throughout Capitol Hill.
“And I hope he won’t mind the occasional phone call to pick his brain on some of the issues facing the Senate.
“Nick, thank you for your service.
“And God bless you in all your future undertakings.
“Wherever you land next, they will be lucky to have you.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.