“Denis’s commitment to our nation’s veterans was clear during his time as President Obama’s Chief of Staff, when he made sure that every decision impacting our servicemembers, veterans, and their families was befitting of their sacrifices. Showing respect and gratitude for our nation’s veterans is not something he just prioritizes—it’s a value for him.”
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar today introduced Secretary of Veterans Affairs Nominee Denis McDonough at his confirmation hearing before the Veterans Affairs Committee and urged her Senate colleagues to support his confirmation. Klobuchar spoke about McDonough’s strong track record of advocating for our veterans, servicemembers, and military families and working across the aisle to pass meaningful policy and legislation on their behalf.
Thank you very much Mr. Chairman, and Ranking Member Moran, and distinguished members of this committee. Thank you for the good work you do, the bipartisan work you do, that’s a hallmark of this committee. I am proud today to introduce my friend and fellow Minnesotan, Denis McDonough, as President Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Today, Denis is joined by his wonderful wife Kari as well as two of his three kids.
Denis grew up in Stillwater, Minnesota, which is on the Wisconsin border, as opposed to our other great border, Senator Rounds, with South Dakota. And he is the grandson of Irish immigrants, the son of devout Catholic parents, and brother to 10 siblings. He attended St. John’s College in Collegeville, Minnesota, and in addition to graduating summa cum laude, he played safety on the very proud championship St. John’s football team.
I’ve been privileged to call Denis a friend for years and I know he will serve our country so well as the Secretary. As he has done his whole life, he will honor the promises our country has made to our veterans and their families.
Denis’s commitment to our nation’s veterans was clear during his time as President Obama’s Chief of Staff, when he made sure that every decision impacting our servicemembers, veterans and their families was befitting of their sacrifices. Showing respect and gratitude for our nation’s veterans is not something he just prioritizes—it’s a value for him.
He is an adept manager who understands how to tackle complex challenges throughout our government, which will be vital for the next Secretary. As we all know, and you have mentioned, Chair and Ranking Member, the VA is facing a number of challenges, from helping veterans to stay safe during the pandemic, to improving the quality of care for veterans around the country. And as you also know, great improvements have been made thanks to all of you and many others. These are not simple problems and these are not simple challenges, and they will require true leadership and vision, which have been again the hallmark of Denis’s time in public service.
I also know that he will work with you tirelessly to find bipartisan solutions, which has never been more important as we move our country forward.
So much of our work with our veterans is about keeping our promises and showing respect through not just in our words, but in our actions.
When you get to know Denis, for those of you who are just getting to know him, you will see the qualities of honor and loyalty in his commitment to his family, which also includes his family in Minnesota, I know this firsthand. You see it in how he has treated everyone he’s worked with, when he worked in the Senate, when he worked as President Obama’s Chief of Staff. You see it in that loyalty and he puts our country first.
During his distinguished career, Denis has approached each and every job with this spirit of respect, honesty, and collaboration and a willingness to make himself accessible to his colleagues and to his team. Members of the Committee, I know he will do the same with you in this job. He is deeply committed to supporting his workforce. One of the things I want to tell our veterans is I know he will do two things so well. He will listen, and then he will get things done for you.
One of my favorite stories about Denis involves this. We were having a lot of trouble in Northern Minnesota with mines closing down because of steel dumping from China. And Denis was President Obama’s chief of staff, and he went up to Northern Minnesota, I think it was very cold I will add, and met with about 50 people. It was this long, long table, and Denis sat and listened to every single one of them. And the very last person to speak was a guy named Dan Hill, a miner, an iron ore miner. And Dan told the story about how at his son’s preschool, when they graduated, the teacher had asked them “what do you want to be when you grow up?” And the kids were saying things like “an astronaut” and “a basketball player.” And Dan Hill’s son said "I want to be a miner,” -- Joe Manchin can relate to this -- “I wanna be a miner like my daddy." And then Dan, the miner, takes this steelworker T-shirt and he throws it down this long table to Denis. Saying the words, “make it come true, Mr. McDonough, make it come true.” And I’m sitting there next to Denis saying, “you were a football star, catch the t-shirt.” And he did. And he not only caught the t-shirt, but he put Dan back to work, and he put so many miners to work, because he came back to Washington, helped us pass legislation, and most importantly for this job, implemented things through the bureaucracy of government by getting many different cabinet secretaries and others to hold hearings and the like.
I tell that story because I believe in my heart this is the guy you’re gonna get as Veterans Affairs Secretary, who’s actually going to follow through and listen and get things done.
I’m going to end with the words of a poet who President Biden happens to love, Seamus Heaney, and given Denis’s Irish roots, I can’t think of a better person to quote at today’s hearing. Heaney once wrote: “Anyone with gumption and a sharp mind will take the measure of two things: what's said and what's done.”
He will not just say the words as your secretary, he will get things done.
I urge the Committee to support his nomination.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.