Last night, Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, delivered the following remarks, as prepared, during the Rules Committee hearing on the Committee Print to replace H.R. 5376, the Democrats’ secretive spending spree bill:
Chairman McGovern and Ranking Member Cole, thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify today.
I am here representing the Republican Members of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee to discuss how this reconciliation package is the wrong answer for America’s veterans.
In the last 19 months, V.A. has received $243.3 billion, the largest base budget V.A. has ever had.
V.A. has also received nearly $40 billion in additional COVID-relief funds.
Tens of billions of dollars of that COVID-relief money has not been spent as we sit here today.
This bill would hand V.A. an extra $5 billion dollar blank check regardless of that fact.
That is unnecessary and wasteful, to say the very least.
V.A. most certainly has serious infrastructure issues.
Republicans acted on a bipartisan basis in 2018 to get the Asset and Infrastructure Review – or AIR – Act signed into law to fix those issues.
The AIR Act is already underway to modernize V.A. medical facilities across the country and better serve veterans.
Making significant infrastructure investments outside of AIR would be a waste of time and taxpayer dollars.
These reconciliation instructions moved through the V.A. Committee without any meaningful opportunity for input from the Minority or stakeholders in the veteran community.
The bill text for the V.A Committee markup was noticed on a Saturday afternoon.
The amendment filing deadline occurred on a Sunday afternoon.
My Republican colleagues and I offered 18 amendments.
None of those amendments were adopted, including those that would have:
• supported veterans in crisis;
• made smart investments in V.A. infrastructure; and
• saved taxpayer dollars.
Our markup occurred in the midst of the Biden Administration’s utter failure in Afghanistan.
It was just three weeks after 13 servicemembers were killed there.
It was just two weeks after hundreds of Americans and our allies were left behind in Afghanistan.
And, it was just two days after the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.
Those events devastated veterans, and their families, particularly those who served in Afghanistan or lost loved ones and battle buddies there.
Calls, chats, and texts to the Veterans Crisis Line were skyrocketing – and remain higher than usual even now.
My Republican colleagues and I begged Chairman Takano to focus the V.A. Committee on supporting veterans through the crisis in Afghanistan.
We had no higher priority then – or now – than letting veterans know that they are heard in Washington and their representatives in Congress have their backs.
House Democrats did not heed those calls.
Instead, they focused their attention on even more reckless spending.
Last week, an hour before this Committee met the first time on this package, the Democrats released a brand new Committee print that dramatically cut the V.A. provisions from $18 billion to $5 billion.
The Committee print we are discussing tonight is different from last week’s but keeps V.A.’s funding top-line amount at $5 billion.
Republicans have always questioned the need to provide V.A. with additional funding, given the massive appropriations and spending supplements that V.A. has received in the last two years.
But the fact remains that these changes occurred behind closed doors, without the opportunity once again for input from Republicans or stakeholders in the veteran community.
It is unclear what, if any, thought process was behind this other than meeting an arbitrary deadline and dollar amount.
In fact, there was a major mistake in the V.A. provisions of the text that this Committee was debating last week that had to be fixed in the text we’re debating now because someone confused $50 million with $150 million in the section pertaining to veterans’ records.
This proves what a partisan farce this has been all along – and just how sloppy this work is.
There are real consequences to veterans’ lives when we rush and make mistakes like that one.
I’m glad we had an unexpected week delay to correct that error but what other mistakes are in this massive bill that also address issues impacting immigration, the IRS, and healthcare that none of us have had a chance to even read yet?
This is not the way the founder’s intended us to legislate on important issues.
The American people deserve better than this late night sham.
This is no way to honor the brave men and women who’ve served.
Veterans are a wise investment but they also pay taxes.
Like all Americans, they deserve much more than wasteful government spending that they will pay for in higher taxes and skyrocketing inflation for generations to come.
With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
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