Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions - S 1289

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: June 19, 2003
Location: Washington, DC

STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS

By Mr. GRAHAM of Florida:

    S. 1289. A bill to name the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after Paul Wellstone; to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

    Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, I rise today to give due recognition to a colleague whose tragic passing is still fresh in our thoughts. Senator Paul Wellstone served 12 honorable years in the Senate for the State of Minnesota before suddenly perishing with his dear wife, Sheila, their daughter, Marcia, three of his staffers, and two pilots in a plane crash last October.

    The bill I am proposing today seeks to rename the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Minneapolis, MN, after Paul Wellstone. His distinguished record of service for veterans clearly demands such distinction. Indeed last October, just weeks before the crash that took his life, Senator Wellstone proclaimed on the Senate floor, "It has been a labor of love for me working with veterans."

    Paul Wellstone served our Nation's veterans with passion and commitment as a distinguished member of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. His legacy includes the many veterans today whose lives have been turned around due to his unyielding service on their behalf, such as veterans who are or have been homeless; veterans who are now receiving treatment for their service-related disabilities from exposure to radiation from atomic and nuclear weapons testing; and veterans who suffer from symptoms associated with Persian Gulf War Syndrome.

    Year after year, Senator Wellstone rose in this very chamber to try to increase the VA health care budget. In 2000, the Senator was part of an effort to secure the largest one year increase ever for veterans' health care benefits. In 2001, Paul Wellstone successfully pushed through an amendment to the Budget Resolution that provided $17 billion over 10 years to boost health care funding for veterans. And just last June, Senator Wellstone fought to include $417 million for veterans' health care in the Supplemental Appropriations Bill for FY 2002.

    In recognition of his tireless advocacy, he was awarded a number of distinctions by various veterans' service organizations, including: the 1995 Legislator of the Year Award from the Vietnam Veterans of America; the 1995 Patriot Award from the Paralyzed Veterans of America; the Congressional Leadership Award from the Forgotten 216th; the 1997 Distinguished Citizen Award from the Minnesota Veterans of Foreign Wars; the 2002 Distinguished Science Award from the Disabled American Veterans; the 2002 Legislative Leadership Award from the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans; and the Vanguard Award for Legislative Achievement by the Non-Commissioned Officers Association.

    George Washington once remarked, "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation." Senator Wellstone knew this all too well and worked to make the Department of Veterans Affairs a more responsive organization.

    The Minneapolis VA Medical Center was a source of great pride for Paul. He once described the facility as having become "the pride and joy of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and more important, of veterans throughout the region." The naming of the Paul Wellstone Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center will forever honor his commitment to our veterans by distinguishing the very institution that carries on his "labor of love." Mr. President, this is only a small mark of the appreciation that we all owe to an individual who served veterans with such compassion and conviction.

    Finally, I thank Frederick "Rock" Rochelle—a past President of the St. Paul Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America—for working with me on this legislation to honor the memory of Paul Wellstone. I have compiled a list of statements made by friends and colleagues in remembrance of Senator Wellstone.

    I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill and the above mentioned list of statements be printed in the RECORD.