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Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act of 2007

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. HAGEL. Madam President, I thank both of my distinguished colleagues for their service to our country and for their leadership on one of the most important efforts we can make on behalf of those we ask to do so much for our country.

The reality is, today we are asking less than 1 percent of our society to bear all the burden, to carry that burden with tremendous sacrifice, not just for themselves but also a sacrifice called for from their families. They do it willingly, they do it because they love their country, and they care about the future of their country.

What this bill is about, as much as any one thing, is supporting our troops in a time of peace, just as we support our troops in a time of war. These are men and women who have earned this benefit. Every generation of veterans since World War II has been acknowledged by a grateful nation, acknowledged in many ways. Maybe the most important way is a set of educational benefits they have been given in appropriate recognition of their service to our country.

Just as Senator Webb noted, what we are doing is rotating these benefits forward into the 21st century so they are relevant to the realities of the costs of education today, giving these veterans the same kinds of opportunities and options that Senator Warner, all of our World War II veterans have had--our Korean war veterans in the Congress, and our Vietnam war veterans, all of them have had.

This is not a new program. This is not a welfare program. At a time when we have no difficulty finding the money to go to war, to place these men and women in war, we are having some debate over whether we have the resources, the commitment in this country to find the resources to do not only what is right but what our Nation has always done since 1944.

Is that the debate? If that is the debate, we should have a debate because it is about the prioritization of our people. These young men and women are expected to go to war, fight and die, many will come back with tremendous scars, ruined families, and then we disconnect? It is not enough to slap a bumper sticker on your car and say, ``I support the troops,'' or for us to stand in the Senate or the House and speak in abstractions about supporting the troops. This is about supporting the troops.

My goodness, what is a wiser investment in our society, in our future, in our country than giving these special men and women the same opportunities we had to make a better world, not just for themselves but for our country, through helping to educate these men and women.

We have missed some points in this debate so far. I hope the points I have covered briefly will come back into some clarity, in some framework of understanding by the American people as to what this is about because, as I note again, if this is about not having the resources to fulfill the commitments we have made for almost 70 years to America's veterans, if that is the case, then that debate needs to be ongoing throughout this Nation because I think the American people will want to say something about this, will want to have something to say about this, and they should. It is their Nation, their sons and daughters we send off to war.

This, as Senator Webb has noted, should be an effort to bring our country together, not divide our country, not divide us between Republicans and Democrats or between States. This should be some consensus of purpose to acknowledge these men and women who do so much, who bear all the burden. That is what this is about.

There will be more debate, and there needs to be more debate. I am as proud to be part of this effort with my colleagues from Virginia, Senator Webb and Senator Warner, with 57 other colleagues in the Senate, and almost 300 in the House, as I have ever been since I have been in the Senate on behalf of a piece of legislation. This should be an effort to unite our country, and I believe the American people will see it that way.

I appreciate very much an opportunity to express some of these points and for the continued leadership of my friend, JIM WEBB.


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