Weekly Democratic Address
December 29, 2017
Season’s Greetings, troops!
I’m Congressman Tim Walz, and I proudly serve the people of Minnesota’s First District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
I also have the honor of serving our veterans as the Ranking Member on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
On behalf of the entire Democratic Caucus, please allow me to extend our warm wishes to all of you – our soldiers, our sailors, our airmen and our marines – serving abroad and at home this holiday season, as well as to your families who sacrifice so much every day so that you can serve our country.
Many of you are currently serving overseas in defense of our democracy – from the Demilitarized Zone of Korea to Antarctica, to the remote island of Diego Garcia to the mountains of Afghanistan, and so many more places.
As a 24-year veteran of the Army National Guard and a retired Command Sergeant Major, I know what it’s like to serve away from your family and friends this time of year.
It’s not easy, but we want you to know that we are thinking about you this holiday season, not just as Democrats, but as Americans.
You are the reason why we are able to gather every year with our families and loved ones to break bread and keep our holiday traditions alive.
We are forever in your debt for the sacrifices you and your families make so that we may live freely here in the United States.
We also want you to know that while you are fighting for our freedoms, Democrats are working hard in the Congress to make sure that you have what you need to succeed.
Every year, the National Defense Authorization Act is an expression of our nation’s values that guides our military forward, and we have fought hard for you in the Defense Authorization that was signed into law earlier this month.
While the bill is by no means perfect, we are proud to have made sure that you have the tools, the training, and the end strength you need to carry out your missions; and the benefits, higher pay and recognition you deserve.
I am particularly proud that a measure I championed with Representative Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire was included in the final version. Together, we secured fairness in TRICARE health benefits for our National Guard and Reserve soldiers mobilized under 12304b authority, including the Minnesota National Guard Red Bulls of my hometown of Mankato, Minnesota.
While the fiscal year 2018 NDAA is now law, our work is far from done. Democrats will continue to fight for you in Congress, including for long-term funding that provides the certainty that you need to plan into the future.
We’re also fighting to make sure you have the benefits you deserve when your military service comes to an end.
That’s why, in addition to fiercely defending the VA from those who wish to privatize it, Democrats are leading the charge for the VA to begin researching medical cannabis. We believe our veterans living with chronic pain and PTSD deserve to know whether medical cannabis can better serve them, and VA research into this potential treatment is long overdue.
While Democrats on the VA Committee have our differences with our Republican colleagues, we are working tirelessly to find common ground and, as a result, we have been able to achieve real bipartisan progress for our veterans this Congress.
Working with my friend, Chairman Phil Roe, also an Army veteran, we’ve passed the Forever GI Bill into law, which helps to remove time restrictions on GI bill education benefits so that future eligible veterans can tap into them when the time is right in their lives; together, we’ve also passed VA appeals reform, which will modernize the process in order to reduce the number of veterans waiting on the VA for an appeals decision. We are proud of our bipartisan work.
Still, we don’t always see eye to eye with our friends on the other side of the aisle, but I’m confident that if we continue to work together in good faith, we’ll be able to work out our differences, including when it comes to VA care in the community and continue to improve VA on a bipartisan basis.
Americans have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season, and you – our brave service members – are at the top of our list. We will never lose sight of the fact that you provide us with the greatest gift of all every holiday season: freedom. In that spirit, Americans across this great nation are toasting you.
So, whatever holiday you celebrate, be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or otherwise, may it bring you joyous memories of years past and a hope for a brighter future.
To those who are currently serving overseas, get home safely! To those here at home, enjoy the time you have with your family. You deserve it!
From all of us here in the Democratic Caucus, we wish you and your families all a happy holiday and a very happy New Year!