Pelosi: House Veterans Appropriations Bill Honors the Service of America's Veterans
'Our American veterans are our heroes. They deserve a hero in Congress and they have one in the person of Chairman Chet Edwards. Veterans, service members, and their families have no greater champion in the Congress of the United States than Chet. We have long relied on his thoughtful leadership, now as Chairman of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, he has delivered a bill that honors the service of America's veterans.
'When we came into office as the majority, we promised a new direction, and that new direction was reflected in our budget that we passed just a few weeks ago. It put forth the blueprint for that new direction by putting children and veterans first - America's priorities. And by putting veterans in the top priority, it enabled Chet Edwards to provide the necessary leadership on the Appropriations Committee to give the biggest increase for veterans' health in the 77-year history of the Veterans Administration. We even outdid the proposed budget the veterans gave us, because where we could find more, we wanted to put it where we place our top value.
'Let me say that this is a proud day. Chet said it was about respect and it's about keeping our promises; indeed it is. Any day that you can keep a promise around here is a proud day. I'm pleased to be joined by Steny Hoyer, our majority leader and also Congresswoman Nancy Boyda of Kansas. She's new to the Congress, a champion for veterans and a major part of our effort to accomplish what we're going to accomplish today or tomorrow, or whenever the bill comes up.
'Yesterday, I had the honor of joining Mr. Murtha in going to Walter Reed, and you were there the other day, Steny, when we had some veterans visit the Speaker's Balcony and at the floor of the House last Friday. They, as do so many other of our men and women in uniform, whether we visit them in Germany, Afghanistan, Iraq, or wherever they serve, are quite interested in what is going to happen to them when they come home. They know that on the battlefield the military is committed to leaving no soldier behind. Democrats have committed to them that when the veterans come home, we will leave no veteran behind. We were able to convey to them what was going to be happening this week, they were pretty happy about it.
'The first priority of the House Democrats, and indeed the Republicans as well, is to defend our nation. That is why the Democratic budget has placed this historic investment in America's veterans. This Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill that Mr. Edwards championed and is honchoing, as we have said, provides for the largest increase in veterans' health in 77 years. It funds more than 1,100 VA claims processors to reduce the backlog that some measured to be over 400,000. With Chairman Chet Edwards' leadership, the bill passed by a vote of 56 to 0. That is because Democrats and Republicans alike know that we must keep the promise of quality health care and timely benefits for our nation's veterans. These investments should receive similar bipartisan support from the whole House when the bill comes to the floor.
'And when we pass the bill, we hope that the President will sign it. It's very important and I think that the size of our margin on the floor is not only a testament to the priority we place on our veterans, not only a testament to the tremendous leadership of Chet Edwards, but a real statement of values of our country and a reflection of what the American people sent us here to do. To honor the service of our veterans and to demonstrate in a very tangible way.
'Now I'm pleased to yield to the distinguished House Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer fromMaryland.'