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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 - Resumed

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. UDALL of New Mexico. Mr. President, I wanted to come down and talk about an amendment I am working on to the Defense authorization bill. Last week Senator Corker and I filed amendment No. 3049, which would create an open burn pit registry in the Defense Authorization Act.

Our veterans and Active-Duty members suffering from exposure to burn pits should not have to wait any longer. The Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee agrees and has passed the legislation after holding hearings. However, I understand there is currently opposition to passing this amendment via a managers' package.

I would note that we have already passed two amendments dealing with veterans yesterday, both the Pryor amendment No. 3291 dealing with veterans employment and training and the Reed of Rhode Island amendment No. 3165 dealing with housing assistance for veterans. Both of these were outstanding amendments and help maintain the trust we have made to our veterans and our current servicemembers whom we have an obligation to care for when they have completed their service.

In both Afghanistan and Iraq, open-air burn pits were widely used at forward operating bases. Disposing of trash and other debris was a major challenge. I believe, like the rest of my colleagues, that if we are forever in debt to our veterans for their service, we must be asking this question: How did these burn pits impact the health of our returning heroes? This amendment is a step toward finding the answers we owe them. It is supported by numerous groups, including Burnpits 360, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Association of the U.S. Navy, Retired Enlisted Association, the Uniformed Services Disabled Retirees, and the National Military Family Association.

I am hopeful that we can pass this amendment No. 3049 through a unanimous consent agreement, but I respectfully request a vote at this time if no such agreement can be made.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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