Thursday, September 13, 2007

Akaka's Excuses, Burr's Silence: Corporations Win, Vets Lose

Here is Senator Daniel Akaka’s statement from the floor of the Senate over yesterday’s uproar concerning Akaka’s proposed legislation that would effectively bar Blue Water Navy Vets from ever receiving benefits under Agent Orange legislation:




Mr. AKAKA. Mr. President, I wish to speak about the meaning of "By Request" legislation and more specifically about my continuation of a long-standing practice in the Veterans' Affairs Committee of the chairman introducing legislation at the request of the administration.

While I expect that those who deal regularly with the Veterans' Affairs Committee, such as the established Veterans Service Organizations, understand the meaning of a bill introduced "By Request," I have recently become aware that there are some veterans who are unfamiliar with this practice and who, therefore, have misinterpreted my recent introduction of certain "By Request" legislation as support for the passage of the bills into law. This is not the case.

Mr. President, as our colleagues know, periodically the administration sends forward to the Congress legislation for consideration. Those measures that fall within the jurisdiction of the Veterans' Affairs Committee are referred by the parliamentarian to our committee. In a tradition that began in the earliest days of the committee, the chairman, as a courtesy to the administration, introduces such bills on a "By Request" basis. This is a courtesy that has generally been extended to every administration and by every chairman, regardless of the party affiliation of the administration or chairman, and one that I am pleased to continue.

When I introduce legislation "By Request," I am taking no position on the legislation. In fact, I introduce such legislation without including any statement or explanatory materials. I do so for the express purpose of both accommodating the administration and ensuring that others are aware of the proposed legislation so that they might analyze it and, if they wish, comment upon it. As chairman, I am committed to the development of the best possible policy in the area of veterans issues and I firmly believe that this goal is most successfully achieved with the free exchange of ideas, not by stifling different points of view.

During this Congress, in accordance with this practice, I have introduced four "By Request" bills, S. 1757, S. 2025, S. 2026, and S. 2027. It is one of these measures, S. 2026, relating to certain Agent Orange issues, that has generated the most confusion among some veterans. I hope that my explanation of "By Request" legislation helps to clear up these misunderstandings.

Mr. President, I have taken no position on any of these four bills and simply introduced them as a professional courtesy to the administration. Indeed, at this point, I do not know whether these bills will receive consideration by the committee. For those who have views on some or all of these measures, I welcome your input. I ask that in providing your views you recognize that my introduction of "By Request" legislation should not be interpreted as a reflection of my views on the content of any such bill.


We don’t know about anyone else, but we are underwhelmed by this. It smacks of excuse making and an outright refusal to accept any responsibility whatsoever. It takes no more than five minutes for anyone to realize this piece of proposed legislation is sheer corporate protectionism, and an attempt by the Department of Veterans Affairs to close the back door while waiting to lose the Haas decision. Yes, the legislation was advanced by Akaka as a “courtesy” to the White House, but this originated on Vermont Avenue in the Veterans Affairs Building.

Akaka’s claim of a traditional “courtesy” is weak and unimpressive. A courtesy can be refused, as this piece of political garbage should have been.

Senators talk a big game but when it comes time to be a stand up guy and do the right thing they are seldom anywhere to be seen.

The actions of the entire Senate Veterans Affairs Committee this week has been a demonstration of thinly veiled corporate protectionism.

We asked for answers from Senator Akaka and got silence. We asked for help from Senator Burr and got silence.

Veterans have a long memory. We get mailings daily begging for money for Congressional and Presidential campaigns. We have written back asking the candidates to do something about the Blue Water Navy Veterans of Vietnam issue. We get silence, then more pleas for money.

Politics is a two way street. Frankly, I am ashamed of the people in our Senate. Ashamed and appalled at their callous treatment of Veterans of the United States.

Citizens of Pennsylvania ran a program called Operation Clean Sweep two years ago, in an effort to remove unresponsive and irresponsible legislators from the State House. The result was a 50% turnover in the House and 40% in the Senate. Some chose not to fight it, the rest were voted out in the primary and general elections.

We can envision a similar program being just as effective if not more so on a national level.

Veterans will not stand for this kind of treatment. And our young people will see this as a violation of the implied contract between the United States and the people who fight its wars. That will have a deleterious effect on recruiting across the board.

This era of disrespect by a bunch of seedy politicians who mouth platitudes and feign respect for the American Warrior, then turn around and abandon them when their service comes back to affect them medically is simply, totally unacceptable.

The sad part is there is no sense of shame on the part of our legislature. They’ll point fingers elsewhere but not one will stand up and take responsibility for their inactions and misguided actions. Nor will one stand up on behalf of the Veterans.

No more lip service.

The United States Congress is a blight on the nation’s honor.

There will be an accounting in the next few elections.


"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --
President Abraham Lincoln

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious." --President George Washington
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  1. Anonymous11:45

    Well said!! I am appalled that a bill such as this would be introduced with such obvious motivation! Sush arrogance and callous disregard for our nation's sick and dying veterans. I hope these legislators truly understand what they are trading away. It better have been worth it because we care very deeply for our own and we have a very good memory.

  2. Anonymous12:17

    As a sailor (1969) of an ammo. ship that was in harbor of Vietnam, I am dying of Mantle Cell Lymphoma( caused by exposure to pesticides) I am beyond ashamed by my Senators from NC. I am disgusted and pissed. I have contacted them numerous times and their response is pathetic. Well, I hope they enjoy the country club. And maybe they will have poolside service while they burn in hellbecause of the cowardly abuse of Blue Water survivors.

  3. Anonymous14:28

    This doesn't pass the smell test.

    The other bills Akaka submitted at the same time ‘as a courtesy’ were S. 1757, S. 2025, and S. 2027. This is the only bill that reduces or limits benefits.

    S1757 extends benefits for people who were injured during chemical or biological tests, more funding for gravestones for vets, and more training.

    S2025 extends what vets can receive full pension.

    S2027 adds more programs honoring veterans.

    Something just doesn’t smell right here.. The other bills Akaka says he submitted for the President all increased benefits and honors to vets except this one. I need more information before I believe Akaka and blindly knee jerk blaming the Administration. Just because Akaka says the administration submitted it to him doesn't make it so.. considering the other bills he submitted at the same time, I am more inclined to believe that Akaka was trying to sneak his own bill in with the others.

  4. Anonymous17:05