Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor tonight in support of the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education and Military Construction-Veteran Affairs Appropriations Conference Report, which the House is debating this evening. Below are her remarks as prepared:
"Madame Speaker, our budget is a statement of our values. The legislation we debate today invests in American priorities: it includes the largest increase in veterans spending in the 77-year history of the VA, and potentially lifesaving medical research, and it does so in a fiscally responsible way.
"These bills have passed the House and Senate with the strong bipartisan majorities they deserve.
"The President has said he will veto these bills. But allow me to make the case that these are investments that are necessary and right.
"The Labor-HHS spending bill has been historically called the People's Bill.' It is where Congress addresses the aspirations of the American people: the economic security of their families, the health and well being of their families, and the education of their children.
"Today, this bill is once again the People's Bill.' This is because it makes crucial investments in the health of all Americans: every dollar spent on NIH research is returned to us manifold: in improved quality of life and millions of lived saved.
"We should be proud that NIH supported researchers have made the United States the world leader in biomedical and behavioral research, creating thousands of jobs and new businesses in the process.
"But in order to build upon past scientific achievements, address current medical needs, and anticipate future health challenges, we must make investments today.
"We stand today on the precipice of countless scientific breakthroughs. For example, mapping of the human genome has greatly advanced our knowledge about the links between genetics and diseases.
"Scientists are working right now to identify genetic changes that increase and decrease risk for cancer, to determine patterns of protein markers for very early detection of cancer, and to better treat and cure the disease. By funding these critical investments, we can declare a national war on cancer - a disease that kills 550,000 Americans a year.
"In my hometown, NIH is funding cutting edge research at the San Francisco VA Medical Center on the health of our veterans. Right now, scientists are breaking new ground in the diagnosis, prevention and management of disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries that result from combat.
"No group of Americans has stood stronger and braver for our nation than those who serve in the Armed Forces. From the bitter cold winter at Valley Forge to the boiling hot Iraqi terrain, our soldiers have courageously answered when called, gone where ordered, and defended our nation with honor. They have done everything asked of them.
"How we repay that service speaks volumes about our national character.
"I want to thank all of our veterans and military service organizations who have long advocated for the funding contained in this bill.
"I also want to thank Chairman Spratt, Chairman Obey, and Chairman Edwards for their leadership and their dedication to those who have worn our nation's uniform.
"This bill provides $6.6 billion more than last year and $3.7 billion more that the President's budget. These are dollars well-invested.
"For example in this bill we provide quality healthcare to 5.8 million America veterans, including 263,000 who have fought Iraq and Afghanistan. We ensure that the veterans returning for Iraq and Afghanistan - one third of whom will be suffering for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and 300,000 who are expected to suffer from Traumatic Brain Injury - get the best treatment possible. We will ensure the poly-trauma centers and Centers of Excellence for Mental Health and PTSD are fully operational.
"For our veterans living in rural areas, this bill will increase the travel reimbursement rates for those who travel long distances to the nearest VA facility.
"These benefits have been earned. These are the benefits our veterans deserve.
"Madame Speaker, on this coming Monday, our nation will honor its veterans with Veterans Day. But in this body, every day should be Veterans Day. On the battlefield, the military pledges to leave no soldier behind. As a nation, let it be our promise that when they return home, we leave no veteran behind.
"Today, we are delivering on that promise.
"I urge my colleagues to support this legislation."