Patty in the News

The lawmaker who leads the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee pleaded Tuesday for passage of a $142 billion appropriations bill for veterans programs and military construction.

The bill, HR 2055, has been pending on the Senate floor since July 11, but actual work on the bill by considering amendments or voting on the measure has been delayed because of objections from some senators to doing any business until Congress resolves the federal debt and spending crisis.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the veterans’ committee leader since January, said veterans and service members who would be helped by programs funded in the bill have become pawns in a political debate because of Senate inaction.

“There is no question that we need to make smart decisions to tighten our belts and reduce our nation’s deficit and debt,” Murray said. “American families have done it and we owe it to them to get our fiscal house in order. But, there is also one group of Americans that we owe an even greater promise to, a group who we can never allow to become pawns or fall through the cracks or be forgotten altogether in these budget debates, and that is our men and women in uniform and veterans who have protected our nation for decades.”

The VA and military construction appropriations bill is the first of 13 funding bills that Congress needs to pass to keep the government running. The House passed its version of the bill, similar in details but with $2.6 million less in total spending, on June 14 on a 411-5 vote, and has been waiting for the Senate to catch up so negotiations can begin on preparing a final, compromise version.

“In the midst of whirlwind debate on deficit and debt, no matter how divided we may be over approaches to cutting our debt and deficit, or how heated the rhetoric goes, we have to keep our commitments to our veterans and service members, and we have to move this bill,” Murray said.

Murray said work on the bill is a “test.”

“Can we put politics aside for the good of our nation’s veterans and service members? Can we show that, despite our differences, we will work as diligently toward getting them the benefits and care they have earned?” she said.

There was no direct reply. Shortly after she spoke on the Senate floor, the Senate recessed for political party lunches to discuss legislative strategy, with no votes scheduled Tuesday on anything to do with the veterans and construction measure.

- Army Times