Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2008

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The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2008, separate from the fiscal year (FY) 2008 Defense Department appropriations bill, makes spending decisions for some Defense Department medical and construction expenses, VA construction, administration and medical programs and spending for a few related national and international agencies.[1]


Contents

Details

Under the bill, Veterans Affairs receives $37.1 billion with nearly $30 billion to improve access to and quality of medical services for all veterans. In addition, funding is included for new programs which address traumatic brain injury diagnosis and treatment and chiropractic care. Improved housing and extended benefits to spouses and children, as well as refurbishment of old and construction of new treatment facilities are also funded.[2]

A new initiative is undertaken to provide mental health treatment, as well as new centers to treat injuries to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, including traumatic brain injury.[3] Veteran benefits continue to be increased and the opportunity to identify and apply for those benefits is aided by spending for outreach programs to veterans and their families.[4]


Initial consideration

House

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas)[5], passed a vote of 409-2 on June 15, 2007. The two representatives that opposed the bill were John Campbell (R-Calif.) and Tom Feeney (R-Fla.).[6]


Senate

Following the August recess, the Senate passed the act in a vote of 92 - 1, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) being the only "Nay" vote.


Before passing the bill, the Senate amended it to to prohibit the Secretary of Veterans Affairs from rounding down to the next lower dollar amount any benefit payments for disability, dependency and indemnity compensation for veterans.[7]

The Senate also agreed to an amendment by Senator Coleman (R-Minn.) to add an additional $100 million to beef up security at the national political conventions. The amendment was agreed to 76 to 15.[8]

Other Senate amendments would transfer funds to improve training for VA psychologists, require a report on the quality of mental health services to veteran's and a report on access to medical services provided by the VA to veterans who live in remote rural areas. Additionally, amendments allowed for non-federal land in Aurora Colorado to be used to construct a VA medical facility there, up to $12 million for a study of South Texas veterans' inpatient and specialty outpatient health care needs in South Texas as well as a report on the reconstruction of the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in New Orleans.[9]

The VA was also directed to reconsider contracting out any job that could be performed by ten or fewer Federal employees. Contractors bidding for a job in excess of $5 million would have to certify their status regarding any Federal tax liabilities.[10]

Final passage

House

The House and Senate did not take up the bill again until May 2008.[11] On May 15, 2008, the House began to vote on the amendments added by the Senate, while adding its own amendments to be sent back to the Senate.

The House rejected the first set of amendments by a vote of 149-141.
Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: Americans for Democratic Action 2008 House Scorecard

Org. position: Nay

Description:

"Rep. Dave Obey (D-WI) motion agreeing to Senate amendments, with a House amendment to provide $162.5 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with $96.6 billion for fiscal 2008 and $65.9 billion for fiscal 2009. The bill did not include a timeframe for withdrawal."

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.adaction.org/pages/publications/voting-records.php)


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: National Journal 2008 House Scorecard

Org. position: Aye

Description:

"Restrict the use of Iraq war funds, with a December 2009 goal to withdraw U.S. combat troops. May 15. (227-196)"

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.nationaljournal.com/njmagazine/cs_20090228_4813.php)

The House later considered the bill with an amendment that provided more higher education funding for veterans and increased the length of unemployment benefits.


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: Americans for Democratic Action 2008 House Scorecard

Org. position: Aye

Description:

"Rep. Dave Obey (D-WI) motion agreeing to Senate amendments, with a House amendment to appropriate $21.2 billion for domestic programs, military construction and foreign aid. It would provide $4.6 billion for military construction and $5.8 billion for levee building in Louisiana. The amendment would also permanently expand education benefits for post-Sept. 11 veterans, with the cost offset by a surtax on wealthy taxpayers. It would temporarily extend Federal unemployment benefits and place a moratorium, through March 2009, on seven Medicaid regulations proposed by the Administration."

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.adaction.org/pages/publications/voting-records.php)

Scored vote

Scorecard: Drum Major Institute 2008 House Scorecard

Org. position: Aye

Description:

"In the first four months of 2008, the American economy lost 260,000 jobs. Unemployment benefits provide direct assistance to the current and aspiring middle-class Americans thrown out of work through no fault of their own during the economic downturn. Moreover, the unemployed are most likely to spend their unemployment benefits immediately, stimulating the larger economy by as much as $1.64 for every dollar spent. The “New GI Bill” measures are also important. After World War II, the education and other benefits of the original GI Bill allowed unprecedented numbers of returning soldiers to access a middle-class standard of living, but today the GI Bill covers only 60-70% of the cost of a four-year public university. This amendment would change that, permitting the equivalent of full scholarships to public institutions of higher learning to any recent service member who completed three years of service. Veterans could also choose to use the money at private institutions. Our nation owes the young people who have volunteered to fight for the United States a fair opportunity to enter the middle class."

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.drummajorinstitute.org/library/report.php?ID=63)

Scored vote

Scorecard: National Journal 2008 House Scorecard

Org. position: Aye

Description:

"Provide $21 billion in supplemental funding for domestic programs, including disaster aid for the Gulf Coast. May 15. (256-166)"

(Original scorecard available at http://www.nationaljournal.com/njmagazine/cs_20090228_4813.php


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: National Journal 2008 House Scorecard

Org. position: Aye

Description:

"Provide $165.4 billion in supplemental funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. June 19. (268-155)"

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.nationaljournal.com/njmagazine/cs_20090228_4813.php)

The House had its final vote on the bill on June 19, 2008.


Senate

The Senate took a preliminary vote on the bill on May 22, 2008, to agree to a motion about a House amendment related to higher education funding for veterans and increased unemployment benefits.


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: Drum Major Institute 2008 Senate Scorecard

Org. position: Aye

Description:

"In the first four months of 2008, the American economy lost 260,000 jobs. Unemployment benefits provide direct assistance to the current and aspiring middle-class Americans thrown out of work through no fault of their own during the economic downturn. Moreover, the unemployed are most likely to spend their unemployment benefits immediately, stimulating the larger economy by as much as $1.64 for every dollar spent. The “New GI Bill” measures are also important. After World War II, the education and other benefits of the original GI Bill allowed unprecedented numbers of returning soldiers to access a middle-class standard of living, but today the GI Bill covers only 60-70% of the cost of a four-year public university. This amendment would change that, permitting the equivalent of full scholarships to public institutions of higher learning to any recent service member who completed three years of service. Veterans could also choose to use the money at private institutions. Our nation owes the young people who have volunteered to fight for the United States a fair opportunity to enter the middle class"

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.drummajorinstitute.org/library/report.php?ID=87)

Scored vote

Scorecard: National Journal 2008 Senate Scorecard

Org. position: Aye

Description:

"Pass a $62 billion veterans benefits package and $21 billion for other domestic programs."

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.nationaljournal.com/njmagazine/cs_20090228_4813.php)

The Senate then rejected an amendment that included a suggested timeline for withdrawal from Iraq.[12]


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: National Journal 2008 Senate Scorecard

Org. position: Nay

Description:

"Express the sense of Congress that combat missions in Iraq should end"

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.nationaljournal.com/njmagazine/cs_20090228_4813.php)

The Senate then voted to concur with the House war spending provisions without including an Iraq withdrawal timeline.[12]


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: National Journal 2008 Senate Scorecard

Org. position: Aye

Description:

"Provide $162.5 billion in supplemental funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.nationaljournal.com/njmagazine/cs_20090228_4813.php)

Before voting on final passage, the Senate voted to waive the Budget Act with respect to the bill's funding.


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: National Journal 2008 Senate Scorecard

Org. position: Aye

Description:

"Waive budget rules to add $62 billion for veterans benefits and $21 billion for domestic programs to the $165.4 billion in supplemental funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.nationaljournal.com/njmagazine/cs_20090228_4813.php)

The Senate had its final vote on the bill on June 26, 2008.


Articles and resources

See also

References

  1. Robert McElroy, "Appropriations Military Construction/Veterans," TheWeekInCongress, June 15, 2007.
  2. Robert McElroy, "Appropriations Military Construction/Veterans," TheWeekInCongress, June 15, 2007.
  3. Robert McElroy, "Appropriations Military Construction/Veterans," TheWeekInCongress, June 15, 2007.
  4. Robert McElroy, "Appropriations Military Construction/Veterans," TheWeekInCongress, June 15, 2007.
  5. Robert McElroy, "Appropriations Military Construction/Veterans," TheWeekInCongress, June 15, 2007.
  6. Final Vote Results for Roll Call 498. Office to the Clerk- U.S. House of Representatives.
  7. Robert McElroy, "Appropriations Military Construction/Veterans," TheWeekInCongress, June 15, 2007.
  8. Robert McElroy, "Appropriations Military Construction/Veterans," TheWeekInCongress, June 15, 2007.
  9. Robert McElroy, "Appropriations Military Construction/Veterans," TheWeekInCongress, June 15, 2007.
  10. Robert McElroy, "Appropriations Military Construction/Veterans," TheWeekInCongress, June 15, 2007.
  11. OpenCongress' info page on H.R. 2642.
  12. 12.0 12.1 David Clarke and Liriel Higa, "War Bill Delayed Until After Recess", CQ Politics, May 22, 2008.

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