(Washington, DC) Senator Larry Craig, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, took to the floor of the Senate to commend incoming Secretary of Veterans' Affairs Jim Nicholson and praise outgoing Secretary Anthony Principi.
Nicholson has been serving as the United States Ambassador to the Vatican since 2001, and was nominated recently by President Bush to become the Secretary of Veterans' Affairs. He was unanimously confirmed to his new post today by the Senate. The VA is the nation's second largest federal agency, behind the Department of Defense, and has more than 230,000 employees.
Below are highlights from Sen. Craig's prepared comments given on the floor of the Senate:
?The President has asked Jim Nicholson to accept one of the more difficult jobs in Washington ? running the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In the best of times, this is a tough assignment. In times like the ones we are entering now ? times within which the rate of growth in VA's budget will likely slow but also within which the needs of service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan must, and will, be met ? it is a tougher assignment still. I am highly confident, however, that the President has found the right person for the job.?
?Veterans are fortunate, I think, that a man so well known to, and respected by, the President of the United States will serve as Secretary. I am pleased that the Committee on Veterans Affairs ? in its first official business meeting of the 109th Congress yesterday ? unanimously approved this nomination. I ask that my colleagues ratify that expression of judgment by the Committee by approving the nomination as quickly as possible. VA needs the steady hand that Jim Nicholson will provide.
?This is not to suggest, Mr. President, that VA has lacked a steady hand at the tiller. To the contrary, the stewardship as VA Secretary of former Naval officer Anthony J. ?Tony' Principi has been, by any standard, one of exceptional merit and distinction. It is a rare Secretary indeed who departs from that sensitive post with plaudits from the veterans service organizations, leaders from the Hill from both bodies and both parties, and the President he served ? but Tony Principi has managed just that feat.?