5:48 PM EDT

Alcee L. Hastings, D-FL 23rd

Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Chairman, I rise today to submit this amendment to the VA-HUD Appropriations bill. This amendment would appropriate an additional $1 million to the Veterans Health Administration.

I had another amendment that would come later, but I am not going to offer it in the interest of the time of all of the membership of this body, but I am determined to try and do something about the hypocrisy that sometimes abounds in this Congress.

I want to make it very clear that the gentleman from New York (Mr. WALSH), the chairman of the subcommittee; the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. MOLLOHAN); the gentleman from Florida (Mr. YOUNG), the chairman of the full committee; and the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. OBEY), the ranking member of the full committee, have done the very best that they can within the budgetary boundaries under which they must operate.

The arguments that we are making do not go, in the final analysis, to class warfare, they go to: What is it that motivates us as individuals to want to take care of the needs of this country? It is commonly said, ``The mark of a great country is not what it does for those with the most, but for what it does for those with the least.'' This bill clearly does not do enough, having argued that the persons who have the responsibility of perpetrating it have done what they can, but it does not mean

all of us did everything that we could.

Public housing is grossly underfunded in this bill. This underfunding harms the people who depend on Congress to help them live meaningful lives. Without it, many could be evicted from their homes and forced into the streets. Congress, this institution, I think, tends to forget that we are talking about real people, about real families; people who depend on all of us, all 435 here and the 100 in the other body, to do something about their problems, to look out for them and to work to ensure that

their lives are not wasted away in degradation and poverty.

It is not an abstract issue of refunding a few hundred dollars to people who do not really need the money. Let me address the gentleman from Florida, my dear friend and colleague, that said that not many would send theirs back. I would send mine back in the morning if I knew that it was going to provide for veterans; if I knew that it was going to provide for public housing in this country that is desperately in deterioration and in need of assistance from all of us.

Let me give as an analogy what transpired in the great State of Florida that I am a fifth generation person from. Living there all of these years, we came to a point where we decided 2 years ago that we were going to give the taxpayers, me, my mama, everybody else in Florida, $1 billion back, while our schools were deteriorating, while our election system was putrid, and while all of the circumstances surrounding those who are impoverished in our State were continuing to deteriorate. Ostensibly,

each one of us was supposed to get $260. I never got my check. What it was was hocus-pocus. It was a whole bunch of mysterious accounting; but yet, when the legislature convened this year, there was a $1 billion shortfall, and still the schools are crumbling, still the schools are overcrowded. Yes, the poor are desperate.

The gentleman from Wisconsin was correct. None of us need not make an apology at all about caring, and every man and woman in this institution cares about veterans. But how did we address them? We did not address them. According to the major veterans' organizations, this bill provides less than one-half the amount that is considered necessary to ensure decent health care for our Nation's veterans.

Veterans put their lives on the line. We come down here and say that all the time. They put their lives on the line for all of us; they left their families for us.

I traveled with my Republican colleagues very recently to Normandy and we stood there and saw what veterans have done on behalf of all of us, and there was not a man or woman among us, and it was a bipartisan group, that did not leave there teary-eyed, mindful that we were standing on the shoulders of those 9,000 people, including countless others, who gave us this right to come here and try to do something for everybody, not just for a handful of people in our country.

Yet, we are not willing to pay even half of what veterans should receive.

5:54 PM EDT

James T. Walsh, R-NY 25th

Mr. WALSH. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I am told that this allocation of $1 million was recently in a second or third analysis of the funds available. The Congressional Budget Office found approximately an additional $1 million that had not been spent. The gentleman has proposed that we spend it in veterans' medical care. I cannot think of a better place to put this found money, so we will accept the amendment.