Madam Chair, thank you for presenting the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill today.
I appreciate the work that you and Ranking Member Carter have done this year.
You have addressed many critical issues that affect military installations and our nation’s veterans. You have reached across the aisle to fund many projects important to our Members.
This bill funds the military construction priorities that were requested by the Department of Defense, and it helps improve family housing for the military.
This bill also ensures our nation’s veterans are given the care they deserve and makes certain our veterans have a dignified final resting place, whether that is here on our own soil or overseas.
Unfortunately, we are only on our first day of markups, and I already have concerns about our path forward.
This bill is drafted using $12.5 billion dollars in emergency spending – funding that is outside of the budget caps established last August. Now is not the time to un-do a bipartisan, bicameral agreement that is less than a year old.
We all agree that veterans’ healthcare is a top priority. However, designating funding as an “emergency” is wrong at a time of record debt and deficits. This budgeting gimmick simply frees up funds to be spent on lower priority programs in other bills.
In addition, I have concerns about some policy provisions in the text, such as those that set conditions on military construction projects.
I want to work with my colleagues to resolve our differences as we move forward.
Before I close, I want to mention two outstanding Members of this subcommittee who have announced they are not running for re-election – Congresswoman Martha Roby and Congressman Will Hurd.
Martha Roby has been a tireless advocate for Alabama and her district over the decade she has served in Congress.
She has also been a passionate voice for women, often traveling to Afghanistan on Mother’s Day to promote the rights of women there and to visit our female troops serving in harm’s way apart from their own children.
Martha has been dedicated to our military and veterans. She exposed problems at the Central Alabama VA Health Care System, and she led efforts to stop devastating cuts that threaten military readiness.
Our Committee and the nation are better off because of her service, and we will miss her voice in the Congress.
Congressman Will Hurd is a fellow Texan and a national security expert. Our Committee will miss his good-natured, yet serious approach to solving the most challenging issues. Though, with Will’s background, he may still be here and none of us would even know it.
Will has worked to improve the care of those who fought for this great nation, seeking to improve our military installations and to reform the VA health system. He has had a special focus on electronic health records – a concern that I share.
I wish Martha and Will all the best, but I want them to know we are going to get every last ounce of work out of them before they leave the Congress at the end of the year.
In closing, I want to thank Betsy Bina on my staff – as well as the Majority staff – for their hard work on this bill.
Madam Chair, I yield back.
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