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Appointment of Conferees on H.R. 2361, Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Wisconsin for yielding me this time and for his leadership on behalf of our Nation's veterans, leadership which has sorely been lacking in this House.

This administration and this Congress has insulted our veterans community repeatedly in the last few months, insults which I hope we will remedy with today's motion. The head of the Office of Management and Budget actually had the nerve to testify before the Committee on the Budget that over the last 3 years the Veterans Administration had received $.5 billion more than it actually needed, more than it actually needed, when we have waiting lists which the gentleman outlined, when we have nursing and medical vacancies, when we have maintenance backlogs, when we have people waiting a year for an appointment for a dentist, and months and months for surgeries that are needed. OMB told the veterans that we have more than what was needed!

Then the Secretary of our Veterans Administration testified before committees of this Congress that we got it wrong because we had a bad mathematical model. We had a mathematical model that did not take into account the fact that there was a war going on and thousands of troops were coming back with significant injuries and with post-traumatic stress disorder. We did not know a war was going on, so we underfunded the VA. That is an insult to our Nation's veterans, that we did not know a war was going on, and we did not provide the money. Many are suffering today as a result of that decision.

And, Mr. Speaker, when we had a chance to help the veterans before our last recess, the chairman of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs said, we can only give $975 million, that that was the right number, while the Senate did $1.5 billion, which we are now instructing our House to accept today.

We could have had this money flowing to our veterans' centers weeks ago. This could have been signed by the President several weeks ago, yet in my hometown of San Diego, we have 1,000 people on a waiting list just to have their first appointment. We have maintenance backlogs and nursing shortages, and we cannot get them the money because we did not have the right numbers, said the veterans chairman.

Well, we had the right number all along, my colleagues. The Independent Budget, a professional document prepared by our veterans' service organizations, had the numbers exactly right. The mathematical model could have been tested against this, and we could have had the proper support for our Nation's veterans. So everybody who talked about our Nation's veterans when we had Memorial Day, when we had our July 4th celebrations, and we will hear it on November 11th as we have heard today, that we all support our veterans. Well, let us show it by the proper votes!

The Democrats in this Congress have tried at every level, on the Committee on the Budget, on the Committee on Appropriations, in the Senate, in the House, and we tried on the floor of this House to give the Independent Budget numbers the force of law, but we were voted down on pure party-line votes. So I hear that everybody supports our veterans, but when the votes come, the majority party is not supporting our Nation's veterans.

Let us pass this instruction motion. Let us honor our veterans and give the veterans the support they need, especially when they come home from war.


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