Today, Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, delivered the following opening statement, as prepared, at the start of the Committee’s markup of the Democrats’ partisan reconciliation package – which includes an additional $18 billion dollars for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA):
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
This is the second time this year that our Committee has received reconciliation instructions.
Reconciliation may be the answer to weak and ineffective Democrat control.
But, it is not the answer to the problems facing our country, our economy, or our veterans.
I said it before and will say it again – our constituents did not send us here to give only a passing glance as their hard-earned dollars go out the door.
Yet, for the second time in eight months, that is exactly what the Democrat Majority in D.C. is doing.
The bill we are considering today would hand V.A. $18 billion dollars.
That is in addition to the almost $40 billion dollars that V.A. received for COVID-relief – tens of billions of which hasn’t been touched.
It is also in addition to the $270 billion dollars in V.A.’s base budget – the largest base budget V.A. has ever received.
This bill was released on Saturday, giving Members only 48 hours outside of normal business hours to review it.
That is unacceptable.
Veterans are a wise investment.
Veterans are also taxpayers.
Veterans deserve support.
Veterans also deserve more than wasteful government spending.
And, more than an unnecessary and partisan reconciliation bill that they will pay for in higher taxes and skyrocketing inflation and that their grandchildren will still be paying for after they’re gone.
V.A. has serious infrastructure issues.
Republicans worked with Democrats in 2018 to pass a law to fix them.
That law is the Asset and Infrastructure Review – or, AIR – Act.
V.A. has spent three years collecting the data that the Department and the AIR Commission will use to fix V.A. medical facilities to better serve veterans.
We are awaiting AIR Commission nominations from the White House.
Making major investments in V.A.’s infrastructure outside of AIR would be a waste of time and taxpayer money.
That is not to mention that we sit here today while veterans are in crisis.
Two days ago was the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terror attack.
That tragic day led to two decades of war that veterans and their families have borne the brunt of.
Two weeks ago, those same veterans and families were left reeling as 13 of our own were killed during the Biden Administration’s failure in Afghanistan.
Hundreds of Americans have been abandoned in Afghanistan by this President.
Many more Afghan allies – the men and women that veterans served alongside and owe their lives to – have been abandoned in Afghanistan by this President.
Veterans – particularly those who served in Afghanistan – have been left questioning whether their service mattered.
Families – particularly those who lost loved ones in Afghanistan – have been left questioning whether their losses mattered.
The pain, grief, and trauma that has caused will leave scars that could last a lifetime.
We should be here today discussing that fact.
We should be laser focused on making sure veterans and families have what they need to heal.
That we are not doing that is a deep shame.
The Democrat Majority in D.C. should have to answer for it.
Several Republicans and I wrote to Chairman Takano two weeks ago asking for a hearing on how the Afghanistan crisis was impacting veterans.
I wrote to him again last week asking that we use the time we have today for that hearing.
Our requests have gone unanswered.
Make no mistake about it, today’s markup is nothing but a distraction.
This reconciliation package is unnecessary and I will oppose it.
However, this Committee will report text to comply with the instruction.
My fellow Republicans and I will offer several amendments today to:
• Support veterans and families suffering from the Biden Administration’s failure in Afghanistan;
• Make smart investments in V.A. infrastructure; and
• Save taxpayer dollars.
I hope our amendments are adopted.
Then, I hope we can start putting veterans and taxpayers before liberal wish lists and partisan politics, and finally grapple with the havoc the crisis in Afghanistan is wreaking on the veteran community.
I yield back.
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