January 24, 2005
Contact: Jeff Schrade (202)224-9093
(Washington, DC) Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Larry Craig said he was extremely pleased today with the bi-partisan support that was shown for Ambassador Jim Nicholson's nomination to become the Secretary of Veterans' Affairs.
In an unusual move, the Committee's Ranking Member, Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), called for a vote before the nominee had been asked any questions. The motion was quickly seconded by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas), and after some debate, the Committee members present unanimously approved Nicholson's nomination.
"Today's action could not have happened without an improving climate of trust between Republicans and Democrats, and the trust that we all have in Ambassador Nicholson. Veterans issues are nonpartisan issues and to the extent possible, we on this committee will try to leave politics at the door when making decisions that will affect the men and women who have sacrificed to guard our nation's freedom," said Chairman Craig.
The Veterans' Committee vote taken today was left open ? meaning that Senators on the committee who were not present for the vote have until noon on Tuesday to vote on the nomination. Chairman Craig expects that a full vote to confirm Ambassador Nicholson as Secretary of Veterans' Affairs will probably occur on the Senate floor either late Tuesday or sometime Wednesday.
Chairman Craig noted that during the past four years the VA's budget has increased nearly 40 percent. "We are all committed to making sure that our nation's veterans are well taken care of in an effective and efficient manner," Craig said. "But these dramatic rates of increased spending are simply going to be hard to sustain. That's an economic reality."
Nicholson has been serving as the United States Ambassador to the Vatican, a post he has served in since 2001. He is a graduate of West Point and served 8 years active duty in the Army as a paratrooper and Ranger. In Vietnam he earned numerous medals for bravery and retired with the rank of full colonel after 22 years in the Army Reserve.
The VA has more than 230,000 employees and is the nation's second largest federal agency.