Pelosi Floor Speech on H.R. 1836, the Guard and Reserve G.I. Bill Parity Act

January 12, 2022
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 1836, the Guard and Reserve G.I. Bill Parity Act.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you for – Mr. Speaker for yielding.  I thank the gentleman for his leadership in bringing this important legislation to the Floor.  

Our veterans – we owe them everything.  They make us the home of the brave, the land of the free.  They protect our democracy.  They and their families make us so very, very proud.  Mr. Speaker – and I thank you again, Mr. Takano, as Chair of the Committee, and Mr. Levin for his leadership on this particular legislation, which I will acknowledge in a moment. 

But, first, Mr. Speaker, I want to say – nearly eight decades ago, when Congress enacted the first G.I. Bill, our nation made a bipartisan and unbreakable promise: that every hero [who] steps forward to defend our nation deserves the tools to succeed when they come home.  Today, the House will proudly take another strong step toward fulfilling that pledge. 

On behalf of the Congress, I commend the outstanding leadership of the Committee Chair, Mark Takano, who has ensured the Veterans Affairs Committee remains committed to its long legacy of bipartisanship.  And, I salute the chair of the Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, Congressman Mike Levin of California, both for leading on this important legislation every step of the way and for his lifetime advocacy on behalf of our military communities. 

Every time our nation seeks to strengthen – excuse me – tries to strengthen and expand benefits for veterans, we have listened closely to the men and women in uniform and our veterans, taking their insight and expertise into account.  We continue to listen to them today, to build upon our progress and appropriately honor their service. 

On a regular basis, we have a meeting with our veteran service organizations.  The American Legion is very much a part of that, as well as other groups, reflecting our involvement in other wars since World War II.  That's where we still have a few veterans from then. 

What's interesting about this legislation today, to me, is that, again, it sprang from listening to our men and women in uniform, and our veterans, as to what their needs are.  That's exactly how the first G.I. Bill came to be.  The veterans of World War I, recognizing the disadvantages that they were at after World War I, came forth with a proposal to have the G.I. Bill.  

So, this was passed and signed by Franklin Roosevelt during World War II at the suggestion of veterans of World War I.  During the dark days of the Second World War, and after listening to the calls of the brave veterans of World War I, President Roosevelt made clear the urgent moral imperative of supporting our returning soldiers.  In a message to Congress in November 1943, he said: ‘The members of the armed forces have been compelled to make greater economic sacrifice, and every other kind of sacrifice, than the rest of us – and they are entitled to definite action to help take care of their special problems.’  The President said that. 

I'm very proud that my father was in this Chamber, Thomas D’Alesandro, Member of Congress from Baltimore, when he said that.  His brother would be lost shortly thereafter in battle, leading up to the Battle of the Bulge. 

Less than a year later, Congress enacted the first G.I. bill on an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, marking a turning point in how our nation cares for our veterans.  In doing so, we made a transformational investment in our Servicemembers, opening the doors to a college education and launching millions of families into the middle class, whether it was homeownership, so many different things. 

In 2008, it was my great privilege to serve as Speaker of the Congress when we took the crucial step to bring these benefits into the 21st Century.  With the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, passed on a strong bipartisan vote and signed into law by President George W. Bush, we expanded the promise of a full, four-year college education to veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.  And, we ensured in subsequent legislation that their families could also take advantage of that benefit.  And, in 2017, we strengthened this law by improving benefits and closing gaps in eligibility, so that we can best serve those who served our nation.   

Yet, today, too many veterans still do not receive equal access to life-changing benefits they have earned.  Over the last few decades, our valiant Reservists and Guardsmen have become even more integral to America's national security strategy.  Our Reservists often serve side-by-side with Active Duty Servicemembers, do the same jobs and incur the same risks.  As our nation has battled the pandemic, our communities have relied on our Guardsmen to help protect our nation from the deadly virus.  These heroes are essential to keeping our families and our nation safe, but current law falls short of delivering the benefits they deserve. 

With the Guard and Reserve G.I. Bill Parity Act, we will ensure that every day that our Reservist and Guardsmen heroes – that serve in uniform, will count toward their GI. benefits.  And, in doing so, we will lift up hundreds of thousands of current and future veterans across the nation, so that they too will have the opportunity they need to thrive in the 21st century economy. 

Let me be clear: ensuring every Servicemember has equal access to hard-earned benefits is an issue of fairness.  When the House passes this legislation today, we will build on a proud, bipartisan progress, forged by generations of lawmakers in this chamber and in the Senate as well. 

We show our heroes that they will always have our unwavering support, and we honor the sacrifice on the battlefield – the military battles.  And, on the battlefield, we will leave no soldier behind.  And, when they come home, we pledge that we will leave no veteran behind. 

There's so much more – listening to our veterans and our Servicemembers that we can learn, that we must do, so that they can take their strongest position when they come home.  And, in this all-American spirit, I urge a very strong ‘aye’ vote for this legislation, thanking the distinguished Chairman for his leadership and Mike Levin for his persistence, his relentless persistence, on the benefit of our veterans as a Member of that important Committee.

With that, I urge an ‘aye’ vote and yield back the balance of my time.