The Weekly Democratic Party Address was delivered by Senator Jon Tester calling out the Republican administration for their withholding of health care for veterans harmed by Agent Orange.
(Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) delivers this week’s Weekly Democratic Address calling out the Republicans for blocking benefits for over 83,000 veterans exposed to Agent Orange.)
Our nation’s veterans have made many sacrifices for the freedoms that we enjoy. And in return for their service, we have an obligation to ensure that these men and women receive the quality benefits that they have earned. But the Trump Administration— while claiming to support our veterans, has turned their backs on them, blocking benefits for those who suffered from illnesses related to the exposure to Agent Orange. […]
Veterans are dying and their families are not getting the benefits that they have earned.
Let’s do right by these veterans and their families. End the wait for those who have already sacrificed greatly.”
(CSPAN link to Weekly Democratic Address: here)
Hi, this is Senator Jon Tester from Montana.
“And I want to talk about something really important today, that being our veterans.
“Our nation’s veterans have made many sacrifices for the freedoms that we enjoy.
“And in return for their service, we have an obligation to ensure that these men and women receive the quality benefits that they have earned.
“But the Trump Administration— while claiming to support our veterans, has turned their backs on them, blocking benefits for those who suffered from illnesses related to the exposure to Agent Orange.
“Agent Orange is a toxic defoliant that was used during the Vietnam War. And it was used in such great volumes, that if you served in Vietnam, you were exposed to it.
“As a result of these exposures, Vietnam-era Veterans are now experiencing diseases and debilitating health conditions.
“But the Trump Administration doesn’t see it that way. Instead of doing right by our veterans, they are actively denying these veterans—victims of their service—eligibility for the benefits and care that they desperately need.
“The White House is refusing to expand the list of presumptive health conditions that have been scientifically shown to be connected with the use of Agent Orange to include four conditions— Parkinsonism, Bladder Cancer, Hypertension, and Hypothyroidism. The Trump Administration doesn’t seem to think that exposure to these toxic chemicals in Vietnam is a cost of war.
“Well, guess what? They’re wrong. It is a cost of war. And it wasn’t until a veteran filed a Freedom of Information Act request that we finally figured out what the hold-up was: the hold-up was the Trump administration. They didn’t want to pay for it.
“According to these revealed documents, President Trump’s first VA Secretary—Dr. David Shulkin— recommended way back in the fall of 2017 that these conditions associated with Agent Orange be added. The VA urged the White House to expand eligibility, so these veterans could get the benefits they’ve earned for conditions like Bladder Cancer, Parkinson’s-like symptoms and Hypothyroidism.
“But Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and the White House objected. They didn’t want to spend the money. They said they wanted more studies – studies that would effectively run out the clock as more and more of these veterans suffer and die from their diseases caused by Agent Orange.
“Since then, the National Academies of Medicine has found even greater evidence that Agent Orange exposure results in conditions like Hypertension.
“Mick Mulvaney and the White House need to stop ignoring the overwhelming scientific evidence put forth by scientists, medical experts, and veterans, and commit to taking care of the 83,000 veterans who are suffering and dying from health conditions associated with this exposure.
“Yet the White House refuses to recognize the cost of war and continues to ignore Vietnam Veterans in their 60s, in their 70s, in their 80s– veterans who have already waited decades for the benefits that they desperately need.
“And this isn’t the only problem. Veterans who served off the shores of Vietnam, who were also exposed to Agent Orange, well, they are out of luck too.
“Congress has done their job. But this Administration has put a hold on all the benefits that go to the veterans who served in Vietnam offshore— that drank water contaminated by Agent Orange, that took baths in it, those who were exposed to it.
“Yet the Trump White House once again refused to recognize that these Blue Water Navy Veterans needed help.
“If the White House claims to be an advocate for veterans, it’s time to show it.
“No more excuses.
“Veterans are dying and their families are not getting the benefits that they have earned.
“Let’s do right by these veterans and their families. End the wait for those who have already sacrificed greatly.”
Any bolding has been added.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s weekly news conference from Thursday:
Transcript: Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning. Good morning. You’re getting ready for Thanksgiving, I hope? Isn’t it going to be wonderful to go home and be with family and put this all on the shelf? Or, well, sort of.
In this pre-Thanksgiving week, we are working with great seriousness and urgency to accomplish some of our legislative goals but also to be prepared for what comes next when we come back after Thanksgiving.
We did the Continuing Resolution. That will be passed in the Senate today, sent to the President. And we have passed our appropriations bills, so we’re ready for the negotiation. And hopefully it will take place expeditiously so that we can be finished by December 20.
We ran on a For the People agenda, an agenda that said we are going to lower health care costs by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and we’re working on H.R. 3 to do just that. We said we’re going to increase paychecks by building infrastructure of America in a green and modern, resilient way, and we are making progress on that. And, further to the jobs issue, we are working with the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement and are making progress on that.
We continue with, again, our transformative infrastructure plan, and we’ve been having meetings on as I say, we have our four letter word meetings: jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. So we’ve been talking about these issues, defining the challenge for America’s working families, reviewing the opportunities, and writing legislation to that effect.
This week was a very good one for bipartisanship in the Congress and for democratic values in Hong Kong and, really, throughout the world. We passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and also legislation to suspend sales of munitions to the Hong Kong police force.
We had a signing ceremony earlier. Some of you may have been there. It was very bipartisan. I was very proud of it. Some of us on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Capitol have been working for decades on this issue.
And now we have an ever-expanding number of bipartisan supporters for democracy in China and focusing on Hong Kong at the moment, but concerned about what’s happening with the Uyghurs, what’s happening in Tibet, what’s happening all over China. We can go more into that, if you have questions about that.
Last week, we walked over to the – Mr. McConnell’s office with our legislation for the Dreamers, H.R. 6, the [Dream and] Promise Act. It’s been there for a very long time, and we’re asking him to bring that up. It has the support of the American people. If he would bring it up, it would pass.
We did that on the same day as the Supreme Court was hearing the oral arguments on DACA. Many of us started the day on the steps of the Capitol. We talked about this last week. That was last week.
This week, we went over with the background check legislation, commonsense expansion of the background check legislation.
I continue to wear this bullet on this bracelet; constant, constant inspiration, not that anybody needs a reminder of the fact that for over 260 days, background check legislation has been sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk. About 100 people a day die from gun violence. Could all of them have been saved? No, but many of them could have.
And of that 100, about 47 of them are children – 47 percent of those who die from gun violence each day, 47 percent are teenagers or younger children.
Our message to Mitch McConnell, as we delivered again our poster, his reflection: as you look yourself in the mirror, why do you think your political survival is more important than the survival of our children? Not yours, not mine, not any of our political survival is more important. And if you’re afraid of the NRA, think of how afraid those children are at the prospect and then sometimes the reality of a gunman in their school.
So background check legislation, 267 days. Paycheck fairness, 239 days, equal pay for equal work. VAWA, Violence Against Women Act, 231 days. Save the Internet, 225, that is the net neutrality legislation, 225 days. Climate Action Now, 203 days. The Equality Act, ending discrimination against the LGBTQ community, 188 days. The DREAM Act, 170 days, and we took that over last week, as I mentioned. SAFE Act, protecting our election, 147 days. Raise the Wage, $15 an hour, minimum wage, 126 days. Butch Lewis Act to protect pensions, 119 days ago.
The ‘Grim Reaper’ says he’s the ‘Grim Reaper’, all of this will die in the Senate. No, it’s alive and well. These issues are alive and well in the public, and we have to make them too hot for him to handle.
But it’s also instructive. And I’ll say this every meeting I have, and the number will continue to grow. We have 275 bipartisan bills, bipartisan bills, sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk. I named some of them just now.
So, in any case, just to go back to gun violence [prevention], gun violence prevention and the bipartisan background check legislation, it’s been 267 days since we sent it. 25,000 Americans have lost their lives to gun violence, 47 percent of them children.
As we’ve said over and over, we are legislating, we are investigating, we are litigating. I’ve talked some about the legislation. Also talk about investigating, which you see going on now. And litigating, we’re winning in court.
Right now, the Administration has appealed a most recent decision at the lower court level – we’ve won at the lower court levels – they’ve appealed it to the Supreme Court, and we’re awaiting a decision by the Court as to whether they will lift a stay for the release of the information. Today, we will be making our case as to why they should lift the stay.
Chairman Schiff and the Committee, I think, have dealt with this with great seriousness and solemnity. Appropriate for something so serious for a country. Hard to think, except for declaring war, a more serious responsibility than the impeachment of a President. And, none of us came here to impeach a President. That’s not our priority, our vision for our country.
But we do, as the first order of business, take an oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. And when we see a violation of the Constitution, we have no choice but to act.
And the evidence is clear that the President – the President – has used his office for his own personal gain and, in doing so, undermined the national security of the United States by withholding military assistance to the Ukraine, to the benefit of the Russians; that he has undermined the integrity of our elections by what he has done, again, the Russian interference being ignored by him – and, third, he has violated his oath of office.
As we continue to gather evidence and the facts from the testimony, we’ll go where the facts take us. I believe that the truth will set us free. The President has said to me, ‘The call was perfect.’ I said to him, ‘The call was perfectly wrong.’
There’s something very sad about all of this, because the President is undermining and shredding the fabric of our democracy and the patriotism of so many of the American people. He’s trying to attack the whistleblower. That is fundamental to people speaking truth to power in our country.
As I said to him when he started to make an attack on the whistleblower on a phone call, I said, ‘You’re in my wheelhouse.’ I know about this, as somebody with more experience on Intelligence than anybody. Whistleblowers will go beyond the Intelligence Community, but in the Intelligence Community that protection is absolutely necessary.
So, you have seen now they’re making assaults on the whistleblower. This is, wherever you may stand on what the President did, an attack on the whistleblower is an attack on the integrity of our system. We cannot let that happen, and we won’t. We will not let that happen.
The Intelligence Community has publicly recognized the importance of whistleblowing and pointing out wrongdoing and the importance of protection of our whistleblowers.
So, in any event, sadly, the President has responded to the inquiry that is going on now with behavior that is beneath the dignity of the Presidency, of the office that he holds and the oath of office that he took. And, by the way, a very bad example for our children in the manner in which he behaves and speaks.
Any questions? Let me just see. Somebody who hasn’t been asked for a while.
Press questioning followed (see transcript)
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement on the election of Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney as Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform:
“The Congress and the country were devastated by the loss of Chairman Elijah Cummings, a master of the House who led the Committee on Oversight and Reform with great honor, integrity and principle. Now, our Caucus has elected Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a deeply respected and battle-tested leader, to this critical post.
“Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney has been a force for progress in America for decades. At the helm of the Joint Economic Committee, she has honed a keen understanding of the priorities and needs of the American people, and has worked tirelessly to deliver progress that lifts up families in every corner of America. She brings outstanding legislative experience and knowledge of the workings of the Congress that will strengthen the Oversight Committee’s work at this critical time in our nation’s history.
“We are confident that Congresswoman Maloney’s leadership will help ensure that the Congress can function as our Founders intended, as a co-equal branch acting as a check and balance on the others, and that our Democratic Majority can continue to achieve progress For The People.”
Speaker Pelosi and House members held a press conference calling on the Senate and #GraveyardMitch to pass H.R. 8 and H.R. 1112, the bipartisan gun violence prevention bills passed in the House 265 days ago.
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning, everyone.
Here we are: 266 days since the House of Representatives passed our bills, H.R. 8 and H.R. 1112, responsible, commonsense gun violence prevention legislation; an expansion of the background check legislation.
We’re going to take this poster over to Leader McConnell. He keeps saying we’re not doing anything over here but impeachment. No. We have 275 bills on his desk right now that were bipartisan when they passed the House of Representatives. Nearly 300 bills, bipartisan, on his desk. Many more bills passed, but of those that are bipartisan.
So, he has not been – he has called himself the ‘Grim Reaper.’ Well, he apparently is that in more ways than one, because in the 266 days since we sent this bill, about 25,000 people have died from gun violence in our country, 47 percent of them teenagers or children younger than that.
We want him to give us a vote. 90 percent of the American people support background checks legislation.
More at the link.