In the Democratic radio response to President Bush’s weekly radio address Rep. Chet Edwards (D-TX) spoke about the House of Representatives recent passage of the largest increase in spending on veterans’ health care in US history. After a brief introduction Edwards said, “What can we say to a deployed soldier who cannot be by his wife’s side when their child is born?  How do express our feelings to the 29-year-old widow I met at Ft. Hood, Texas, who was holding her newborn baby who will never meet his father?  When our troops are deployed overseas, there are no makeup days for missed graduations, children’s birthdays, or anniversaries.”

He then criticized the Bush administration for placing a greater priority on tax cuts than on veterans’ health care. “It is right to honor our veterans and their families with our speeches on Veterans and Memorial Day.  It is even better to honor them every day with quality health care and earned benefits.  Unfortunately, in recent years, Bush Administration and Republican congressional budgets seemed to have put a higher priority on tax cuts for the wealthiest than on health care benefits for veterans.

He then discussed the bill that the House passed this week, “That is changing.  This year the new House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has kept her promise that improving health care and benefits for veterans will be the highest of priorities for Democrats in Congress.  Just last week, the House passed the largest increase in veterans’ health care funding in our nation’s history – $6 billion more in 2008, which is $3.8 billion above the President’s budget proposal.”

Edwards also spoke about the White House’s threatened veto of the bill. “For weeks, the White House budget office threatened to veto this bill, because it was above their request.  Fortunately, the President finally backed down on his threat to this historic veterans’ bill, but only after it was clear that Congress would override a veto. When it comes to honoring our veterans, the new Congress will match our words with our deeds.  The unprecedented $6 billion increase for veterans’ health care services is all about respect – respect for the unselfish sacrifice of our troops and our veterans and their families.  This veterans’ bill is about keeping our promise to those who have kept their promise to defend our nation.”

He then talked about what this increased funding means for the nation’s veterans. “For veterans with traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, mental health care issues, and lost limbs, it means renewed hope to rebuild their lives.  For many of the 200,000 homeless veterans in America, it means the dignity of not having to sleep on the streets and hope for a better future.  For 400,000 veterans, including combat wounded vets, whose earned benefits are being delayed by over six months, this bill means 1,100 new VA case workers to ensure that needed benefits are received without delay. This bill also honors and supports our active duty troops, members of the National Guard and Reserves and their families by providing $207 million above the President’s request for better military housing, health care, and training facilities.”

I am glad that somebody finally decided to spend a little more on veterans’ health care, but compared to the onslaught of expenses that will meet the federal government for care of vets who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan in the future, this is just a drop in the bucket. For too long our service people have been underpaid and been forced to deal with a VA system that is both under funded and overcrowded.

However, it seems like Edwards laid the flag waving on a little thick here. Yes, it is nice that you got more money for health care, but maybe fewer soldiers would be injured if the Democratic Party could get them out of Iraq. If anything these remarks demonstrate that Democrats, when called upon can waive the flag just as much as Republicans. What Edwards talked about today was all well and good, but can we please get back to the business of ending this war?

Full text of Edwards remarks 

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com.  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at

www.411mania.com/politics

Jason can also be heard every Sunday at 6:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse
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