Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor today in opposition to the House Republican veterans bill that offers $6.2 billion less than what was provided in the bipartisan Veterans Appropriations bill passed by the House earlier this year. Below are the Leader’s remarks:
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I think the gentleman for yielding and I thank him for his great service to our country, for his leadership on behalf our veterans. They are precious to us. They make us the home of the brave and the land of the free. We couldn’t be who we are as a nation without the service and sacrifice of our veterans and of their families.
“Mr. Ranking Member, I thank you for your participation in our meetings that we on a regular basis with the Veterans Service Organizations where so many of them come and give us their priorities as to how we can help them – whether it was the veteran’s budget, or forward funding, a long list of them, so many issues that we talk about there, and now, of course, the backlog and the rest. And in those meetings, almost every time we meet, either at the beginning or the end, we always practically, in a prayerful way, quote what we say about our soldiers: ‘On the battlefield,’ the military says, ‘on the battlefield, we leave no soldier behind.’ And we say: ‘And when they come home, we leave no Veteran behind.’
“The gentleman has said we have one purpose here today and that is unite and support our veterans. Do we support our veterans when [they] leave their families behind? Our veterans go to battle, are willing to go to battle to fight for our country, for our values, for our families, for their wellbeing, [and] for our freedom. And those people are not just veterans. They are fathers, they’re mothers, they’re grandparents, they’re aunts and uncles, [and] they are members of families. They want the best for their children and their grandchildren. It may surprise you, sadly, some of them receive food stamps. Some of them receive Meals on Wheels. All of them, again, want a better future for our country.
“So, we are not uniting to support our veterans when we do what we’re doing here today because they would want us to support what they were fighting to defend: the ability of our country to be great – and that greatness brings them the health and wellbeing of the American people in addition to our military might. That’s how we would define our strength and I think, from listening to them, they would, too.
“I listened with interest to how people identified with their families, or my brothers who are in the army. My uncle died at the Battle of the Bulge, and that has always been part of the great pride of our family. That great World War II that my father’s brother was killed in – so this World War II Memorial means a lot to all of us, even if we don’t know anyone, even if we didn’t have someone in the family, it is really important to us.
“So, we have to think of the ramifications of our actions. When we shut down government, we can’t say: ‘Oh, we are not respecting our veterans because they can’t go to the World War II Memorial.’ That’s what cutting down government is: shutting down much of what they fought for, shutting down the tributes that we pay to them.
“So, let’s not leave our veterans behind by leaving their children, their grandchildren, [and] their families – what they need. And just to go into it, this bill is billions of dollars less than what over 420 Members in this House [of Representatives] passed in June. We are all there for our veterans. There is no question about that, as our distinguished Whip, Mr. Hoyer said. Nobody questions the commitment that we all have, [or] the gratitude that we have, the appreciation, the pedestal that we have our veterans at. But we leave them behind when we leave behind all that they fought for. And we leave them behind when we put a bill on the floor that is billions of dollars less than we all came together to support just a few months ago.
“Don’t exploit them. Don’t use them. We owe them too much. On the battlefield, we leave no soldier behind, and when they come home, we leave no Veteran behind – and all that they know and love. With that, I yield back the balance of my time.”