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Sen. Moran’s Opening Statement as New Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee

‘I will do everything I can to see that this committee remains that place where we put veterans well above the partisanship’

WASHINGTON – This week, U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) gaveled in the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee for the first time as chairman. He presented his vision for the committee, including one of his top priorities – addressing the veteran suicide epidemic. During the markup, the committee passed ten bills and one nomination.

“I will do everything I can to see that this committee remains that place where we put veterans well above the partisanship,” said Chairman Moran. “I don’t expect us to always agree on everything, but I don’t know any reason that this committee can’t be an agreeable place in which we work to find consensus and common ground – a point on which we can rally on every occasion.”

Click Here to Watch Sen. Moran’s Full Remarks  

Remarks as delivered:

“Welcome and thank you all for your presence today. We have what I hope will be a non-contentious and relatively short but meaningful markup today in this committee.  I’m appreciative to now chair the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and would like to recognize my predecessor and our former chairman, Johnny Isakson, and again commend and congratulate him on his tremendous service to the people of Georgia and the veterans across the country. I would also like to welcome Kelly Loeffler who has become the new United States Senator from Georgia. Welcome to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

“While I am complimenting and commending Senator Isakson, I would also like to express my gratitude for the friendship and working relationship that the Ranking Member Senator Tester and I have in this committee and others. Jon and I have the unusual circumstance of both serving on five committees. They happen to be the same five committees, so I have been unable to extricate myself from Jon Tester on most everything.

“While a lot of momentous, contentious and historic things go on in the United States Senate, as we’ve seen for the past few weeks, I hope this committee will continue to be a haven of bipartisanship, comradery and working together.

“In the times that are challenging for me as a United States Senator, I will put on my walking shoes – or running shoes – and go down to the Lincoln Memorial. If you make that trek, we all know you pass by the World War I Memorial, the Vietnam Wall and you come back by the Korean War Memorial. This is a reminder to me that while sometimes we forget what is important, those who served our country served for reasons unrelated to Democrat or Republican. I will do everything I can to see that this committee remains that place where we put veterans well above the partisanship.

“I don’t expect us to always agree on everything, but I don’t know any reason that this committee can’t be an agreeable place in which we work to find consensus and common ground – a point on which we can rally on every occasion.

“Senator Tester and I have had several meetings as I transitioned to chairman, and I have set out a number of priorities. At the top of the list for policy consideration is mental health and veteran suicide prevention. Our markup today will in large reflect that. I would tell you that the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act exhibits those issues is one that Sen. Tester introduced and I co-sponsored as his primary Republican sponsor nearly a year ago. This bill reflects the priority of these issues to us and reflects the desire to make certain that what we do can be done and in a way that can be supported by members of this committee.

“With that, I would say that an additional component of my desire for the way I chair this committee is that every member of the committee around this table have the opportunity to present their ideas and their legislation. I recognize my priorities are not necessarily everybody’s priorities, although I doubt that we have any disagreement about mental health and veteran suicide. The first bill on our agenda has now incorporated the amendments of many of you into the bill, so that not only are we talking about mental health and suicide, ideas from members of this committee are incorporated to make sure that their voices are heard.

“I look forward to working with all of you, trying to make certain that we do our best to make certain that those who served our country are cared for. I had some concern that my job as a chairman would be to ‘fix the VA’ or ‘fix every problem.’ We certainly are interested in working to make sure that the VA is improving its performance, but I think the goal that I’ve set for myself is that in every way we can, we take the veteran where he or she is in life and try to make their life better, allowing them to pursue their dreams the way they’ve allowed the rest of us in our country to pursue our dreams. I look forward to working to accomplish that goal.

“I also appreciate the relationship that we have with various veteran service organizations that are represented here today and across the country. We look forward to the input, suggestions and advice from those who served and those who represent those who served.

So this morning, let me now turn to Senator Tester for his opening statement. Afterwards, we’ll have a markup of 10 bills and one nomination. There is a general understanding of how this will proceed, but we will take each item as it comes.”

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