Floor and Committee Statements

   Mr. ISAKSON. Mr. President, I am delighted to join Senator Tester on the floor as ranking member of the Veterans’ Committee, and he and I as chairman have worked together on many, many issues. And today, we are glad to come to the floor and tell the Senate how much we appreciate what they did last night in letting the unanimous consent motion pass to see to it that the Blue Water Navy legislation that we worked on for so many years became effective.

   I could take a long time explaining it, but basically it is very simple. Those who served in Vietnam and represented our country on the battlefields and at sea have been divided on the benefits they got for their service. Blue Water Navy folks did not get service because it was not contemplated that they would have Agent Orange exposure by being on a ship, whereas our veterans who were on the ground got benefits because they were on the ground, and it was assumed that they did get exposure to Agent Orange.

   The fact of the matter is, sailors on the ships could have been exposed to Agent Orange. So the veterans on our ships were really as equal in their opportunity to have gotten exposed to Agent Orange, so they should be equally open to getting the benefit.

   Because of Senator Tester’s work, the testament and work of every member, the committee – I can’t name anybody who didn't work on it at one time or another. Some negative, some positively – but all positive in the end because we were unanimous.

   We passed Blue Water Navy and put to bed issues that affected our veterans for a number of years.

   I just want to thank Senator Tester immensely for his efforts, particularly in the end of last year we had a real battle to get it passed. We thought we had it passed, but we didn’t at the last minute. It ended up in court and finally got a judge to rule our way and the veterans’ way, and yesterday the Senate – by unanimously adopting the House bill which passed a month ago, the Blue Water Navy benefits are now available.

   So I want to thank Senator Tester, Senator Blumenthal on the other side, Senator Murray just did a great job. On our side, Senator Boozman did a great job. The ranking member on our side who is sitting next to me, Senator Moran, did a great job.

   Importantly, I want to talk about the staff for just a minute. Adam Reece is our new executive director of my staff. He has just done a great job to get this through.

   From my staff, Amanda Maddox has worked hard to make it happen. Annabell McWherter, Jillian Workman, and Pat McGuigan did extraordinary work to see to it we got this done at the last minute and got it through.

   So, on behalf of all the staff – for all the staff, minority and majority – on behalf of our veterans who risked their lives every day and a day or two after D-day when I happened to be with the president at Normandy to see the reenactment of that jump, it warms my heart to know that the Senate today is memorializing benefits that were intended a long time ago to go to those veterans who now will get it.

   I thank everybody who worked on it, and I am encouraged by the positive vote.

   I yield the floor.