|1:33 PM EDT||
Chet Edwards, D-TX 17th
Mr. EDWARDS. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Chairman, I am proud of the fact that under the new leadership in the Congress, in a period of 6 months, we will have increased veterans health care spending by over $10 billion compared to the funding level that existed in December of 2006.
Virtually every major veterans organization in America has applauded this bill for its $6 billion increase in veterans health care spending.
I salute any Member of this House who has worked or is working or will work to improve funding for veterans health care, but I must say to the gentleman, and perhaps in fairness to him he spoke to other Members of the House, but when I was working as chairman on the Subcommittee on Veterans Funding for a $3.4 billion increase in VA health care spending for the 2007 continuing resolution, I didn't hear from the gentleman.
When as chairman I worked to add $1.8 billion in the Iraq war supplemental for VA health care programs, I didn't hear from the gentleman.
When Mr. Wicker and I worked together on a bipartisan basis to put together the largest increase in VA health care spending in the 77-year history of the VA, I didn't hear from the gentleman any requests for an additional $22 million for VA medical services.
Here at the relatively last moment we get this amendment. While it is well intentioned and I salute and respect the gentleman for trying to increase funding for VA health care, we have been working for 6 months to provide more health care funding for the VA than any previous Congress in the history of the country. And with Mr. Wicker's bipartisan leadership, we have accomplished that so far.
The problem I have with this amendment is that it takes $50 million out of the BRAC 1990 account. Now, in this bill we provide $3.8 billion above the President's request for VA health care and benefits programs and only $207 million above the President's request for BRAC and military construction together.
I think it is very modest to ask for, given there is a $3.5 billion backlog to clean up former military sites all across America, in States such as California, Texas. And in a number of other States, Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, this BRAC 1990 money is needed to help these communities get back on their feet and take this former military land and use it for the benefit
of their communities and for economic growth in their communities.
So given we have had a $3.8 billion increase in veterans health care spending above the President's request in this bill, I think it is more than fair that we add an additional $50 million to a BRAC 1990 program that needs $3.5 billion.
So I am going to oppose the gentleman's amendment and encourage him to work with our committee on a bipartisan basis in the months ahead, just as the Members of the committee worked on a bipartisan basis to provide historic increases in veterans health care funding.
Mr. Chairman, I yield the balance of my time to Mr. Blumenauer.