June 18, 2019
Washington D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined House Democrats for a bill enrollment ceremony for H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Well, good afternoon everyone.
Thank you for being here.
This is a very important day for us because, as we all know, our veterans are so important to us.
Many of us were just in Normandy a week-and-a-half ago to pay tribute to those who just accomplished something historic. An invasion – certainly a naval invasion – bigger than any time in the history of our country.
Today, we are trying to help our vets from a later war. But, it is interesting because veterans from World War I helped the veterans in World War II and every generation of veterans has taken a responsibility. And, today, we have some very important groups and we will name them in a moment.
First, I just want to acknowledge the important work of our bipartisan leadership of the Veterans Affairs Committee. Mark Takano, our Chairman, and the Ranking Member, Phil Roe – thank you for being here. And, on the Subcommittee of Disabilities Assistance and Memorial Care, Congresswoman Elaine Luria, a Freshman Member of Congress, a veteran herself and Ranking Member Mike Bost.
Thank you. Thank you for your leadership and doing this.
This is, for me, a very personal day. If I just may indulge, back 30-some-years, when I was Chair of the California Democratic Party, 30-some-years-ago, and this is when, some of you may remember, there was a hunger strike of our Vietnam vets on Agent Orange in Los Angeles. And I went there to visit them and was there just to show support and the rest of that.
Dick Gregory was there and he had done many hunger strikes for one reason or another. And, Dick Gregory, who had been in the service with my brother in the army, so they had that connection – he was telling them, ‘You have to shower all the time. You have to drink enough liquid.’ He was trying to keep them healthy as they were trying to make this political statement about Agent Orange.
And who would think that it would take so long for us to get to a point where we could look our vets in the face and say at last we have something that we hope will make life better. And so, in that spirit, this bill, it is benefits and justice for our thousands of veterans exposed to Agent Orange, and for all the time it took to pass, it passed unanimously in the House and in the Senate.
So, I sign it here, now in this enrollment ceremony. We will send it over to the Senate and to the President. Within 24 hours this could be the law of the land and begin making a difference in the lives of our veterans.
And that is our important work, as we always say, the mantra of your committee, on the battle field we leave no soldier behind and when they come home, we leave no family behind.
In that spirit, I am very honored to sign this.
I guess I’ll sit down and do this.
Oh my – just enough letters.
I don’t have to use the dot the I for one.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Takano. Thank you, Madam Speaker.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Mr. Roe – Mr. Ranking Member.
Ranking Member Roe. It was a pleasure.
Speaker Pelosi. And thank you, Congresswoman – Madam Chair.
Chairwoman Luria. Thank you.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Mr. Bost.
Ranking Member Bost. Thank you.
Speaker Pelosi. And now, I want to also acknowledge some of the groups that are here.
From The American Legion – from The American Legion, thank you so much.
From the Association of the United States Navy – let me stand up – from the Association of the United States Navy, thank you so much.
The Disabled Veterans of – the Disabled American Veterans –
Disabled American Veterans Representative. Right here.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you so much.
The Fleet Reserve Association –
Fleet Reserve Association Representative. Yes, ma’am.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you so much. Thank you
Fleet Reserve Association Representative. Thank you, Madam Speaker.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you so much – I know you’ve worked on this for a while.
Order of the Purple Heart.
Order of the Purple Heart Representative. Thank you, Madam Speaker.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much.
And, where were we – Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Veterans of Foreign Wars Representative. Here – thank you.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you – oh, so recognizable.
And, the Vietnam Veterans of America.
Vietnam Veterans of America Representative. Yes ma’am.
Speaker Pelosi. There you are.
You’ve come to every meeting for so long to get this done.
So, thank you all very much for your leadership in making this happen. The inside maneuvering that we do would not be possible without the outside mobilization to keep it in the public eye and to do it in a way that truly gets the desired effects.
So, congratulations to all of you.
And, I am very proud of our Committee that this happened in such a strong, bipartisan way.
And we always promised – you and I, at our meetings to our friends – we always promised that we would stay as bipartisan, nonpartisan as possible when we are working for our veterans. That is sacred ground for us.
Now, we will send this over to the Senate, now that it is enrolled in the House, and then on to the President. Hopefully, it’ll all be done within one day.