PROVIDING FOR FURTHER CONSIDERATION OF H.R. 5122, NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2007 -- (House of Representatives - May 11, 2006)
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Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong opposition to this rule for consideration of H.R. 5122, the Fiscal Year 2007 National Defense Authorization Act.
There is no doubt that the bill before us today authorizes critical funding and programs for our troops, our Nation, and my home state of Connecticut. It authorizes billions for weapons systems vital to our Nation's security, such as the F-22A, Joint Strike Fighter and C-17 aircraft. It provides critical health care access to our National Guard and reserve by expanding their access to the TRICARE program and rejecting most of the Pentagon's proposed hike in TRICARE fees. For our men and women in Iraq, it authorizes billions for IED protection, body armor, up-armored Humvees and other equipment that will help keep them safe.
By most accounts, this bill appears to have been considered in a bipartisan manner by the House Armed Services Committee. Protecting and providing for our men and women in uniform is one of our most important duties as elected representatives. It should not and must not be a partisan issue.
It is therefore unfortunate that this bill has been brought to the floor by the majority leadership under a restrictive rule that prevents the House to considering several important and pragmatic amendments offered by Democrats that would have greatly contributed to our debate and this bill.
Today we are not allowed to consider the amendment by the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, Mr. SKELTON, which would have blocked a provision increasing pharmacy cost-share fees for our troops, their families, and military retirees. While rejecting most of the President's proposed fee increases for TRICARE, this bill increases the co-pay for generic drugs from $3 to $9, and the co-pay for brand name drugs from $6 to $16. These proposed increases may not amount to much on paper, but they add up to real money for a military family relying on their TRICARE coverage for their health care and prescription drug needs.
The last thing we should be doing in this bill is increasing the burdens placed on military families at a time when their loved ones are being routinely and repeatedly deployed abroad. Getting by is hard enough these days for these families, and increasing the costs for their health care is unacceptable. Despite wide opposition to TRICARE fee increases, a handful of Republicans on the rules committee last night denied this House the opportunity to consider the Skelton amendment on its merits and allow a straight up or down vote.
In addition, this rule blocks consideration of several other measures that address critical aspects of our national security. For example, an amendment that would have addressed the security implications of our dependence on foreign oil by expanding resources for the development of alternative energy sources, such as fuel cells, at the Defense and Energy departments was blocked. An amendment establishing a Truman Commission-style committee to investigate billions in contract abuses in Iraq will not see the light of day on the floor. A provision that would help to restore our reputation in the world by denying the use of taxpayer funds for the use of torture will not be debated. Finally, an important proposal to increase funding for one of our most critical national security challenges--the proliferation of nuclear weapons--was denied consideration today.
Mr. Speaker, the national security challenges we face today, and will face in the future, are simply too important to be left subject to partisan politics. It is unfortunate that this rule fails to reflect the cooperation and bipartisanship on these issues that our troops and our nation expect and deserve.
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