WASHINGTON, May 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Members of Congress held a brief press availability with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki before their meeting in the Capitol this afternoon. Below are their remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Good afternoon. It is an honor indeed for me to join my colleagues and the leadership of our national security committees and some of the Members of the Veterans Affairs Committee to welcome the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Secretary Shinseki, to the Capitol of the United States.
To many of us — to all of us here — he is a hero, and we are pleased to welcome him as we approach Memorial Day. It is a time that we can take some pride that we passed in the last few years, larger increases in the VA than ever in the history of our country.
We have a new G.I. Bill for the 21st century that is just going into effect. The kids who came to help us advocate for this bill said “thank you” to our veterans — send them to school. Not only did we do that, we send them to school or they can send a family member to school.
In our economic recovery bill, we had an additional $1.5 billion dollars in VA hospitals, $3 billion to modernize DOD hospitals, barracks and day care centers.
As they say in the military: “On the battlefield, we will leave no soldier behind.” And when they come home, we in Congress pledge that we will leave no veteran behind.
As we approach this Memorial Day honoring President Lincoln’s promise continued in the Gettysburg Address: “…to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan…”
I’m pleased to be joined by Chairman Chet Edwards, who does most of the funding for our veterans affairs issues; and, of course, our distinguished Chair of the Armed Services Committee, Mr. Skelton; the Chair of our Budget Committee and number two on the Armed Services committee, Congressman Spratt; the Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Congressman Filner; and other Members of the Veterans Affairs Committee.
We all join in welcoming — I started to say General — Secretary Shinseki. Welcome to the Capitol.
Secretary Shinseki. Madam Speaker, if I might just express my thanks and appreciation — for your leadership and the leadership of the committees that are represented here and the leadership of the House.
I’m not a stranger here, and I know many of these Members from other positions, but I’m absolutely thrilled to be back here serving as Secretary at a time when the economic downturn of veterans is particularly challenging. And I’m honored to be able to work with the Members here.
I know in years past that you have all been critical in how veterans fared, and I’m happy to report this year that the President’s budget is a good one, and I look forward to working with you and making sure that that comes out right.
But as honored as I am to be here and to meet with you, this particular time before this Memorial Day is particularly edifying and I thank you for your invitation.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Yesterday — on Monday, I spent the morning at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center. I told the young people there that I would be seeing you today and they were very excited about that. And they have all of our hopes for them and we invited them to come to the Speaker’s Balcony on Memorial Day to see the beautiful concert that is here or come any day because any day they are welcome here.
I just want to also acknowledge Congressman Harry Mitchell of Arizona, Congressman Harry Teague, Congressman Tim Walz, Congressman Mike Michaud, Congressman Jerry McNerney, Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Congresswoman Deborah Halvorson, Congressman Tom Perriello, and Congressman John Hall — who are with us as well.
We look forward to having a constructive conversation with you as we go, once again, into Memorial Day to honor those who make us the home of the brave in the land of the free.
Thank you all.
SOURCE Office of the Speaker of the House