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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 3082, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2010

Location: Washington, DC



Ms. PINGREE of Maine. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

The gentleman from Arizona has made some eloquent points this morning. And I certainly hope if he really wants to resolve this issue, he will join me in supporting the bill that is in the House right now on public financing. Since both he and I come from States, Arizona and Maine, that have had great success with this system in removing some of the corruption from the process, I think that we could make a good team on that issue.

But, Mr. Speaker, we know that this point of order is not about unfunded mandates, as he mentioned--or, in fact, even about earmarks. It's about delaying consideration of this bill and ultimately stopping it altogether.

Since I do come from the State of Maine, where nearly one-fifth of our residents are veterans or active-duty members of our armed services, I know that this bill we are about to talk about today is extremely important, and passing this rule to allow for consideration of this bill and move forward on these issues around access to health care, making sure our veterans get the benefits that they deserve, is extremely important to the residents of my State and certainly people across this country.

I hope my colleagues will see through this attempt and will vote ``yes'' so that we can consider this legislation on its merits and not stop it with a procedural motion. The last thing that people want to see happening in the House of Representatives is endless conversation about things that have nothing to do with the issues before us but not moving forward with the things that we care about.

Those who oppose this bill can vote against it on the final passage. We must consider this rule. We must pass this legislation today.

I urge my colleagues to vote ``yes'' to consider this rule.


Ms. PINGREE of Maine. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

House Resolution 622 provides for consideration of H.R. 3082, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2010, under a structured rule.

For the past 8 years, our country has been engaged in two conflicts halfway around the world. The number of wounded military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan has put a financial strain on the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Veterans Health Administration estimates that they will treat more than 6 million patients in 2010, including over 400,000 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, the consistent training, deployment, and redeployment of our troops have put a significant burden on our military.

H.R. 3082 appropriates over $133 billion in fiscal year 2010 for military construction, veterans programs, and four related agencies. The bill provides $24.6 billion for construction and improvements to military bases, facilities, and housing units. The bill provides $450 million to accelerate the modernization of trainee housing and $2 billion to construct and maintain houses for military families.

The bill also provides $200 million in additional funding for the Guard and Reserves to address critical unfunded requirements as a result of prolonged and repeated deployments. Maine is home to thousands of Guard and Reservists who have made an invaluable contribution to our national defense, and I am proud to see funding included in this bill for them.

H.R. 3082 also renews our commitment to redevelop closed military bases and their surrounding communities. The bill provides $7.5 billion to implement the 2005 BRAC and $537 million to address an enormous backlog of environmental cleanup projects from the previous BRAC rounds. This funding is essential to communities across the country, including the town of Brunswick in my district, which is already experiencing economic difficulties from the closing of Naval Air Station Brunswick.

While the investments in military construction are vital, they are only a small portion of this bill. More than 80 percent of the bill's funding in this legislation is devoted to veterans programs. The bill provides over $108 billion for veterans' medical care, claims processors, and facility improvements. H.R. 3082 increases appropriations by 14 percent or $12.9 billion over the current level. This bill includes $45 billion

for the Veterans Health Administration, with increased funding for mental health services, assistance programs for homeless veterans, and innovative services for veterans in rural areas.

The bill also provides $85 million for States to build and renovate extended care facilities and $3 billion to fund new technological initiatives which will increase processing time and improve electronic record keeping.

Perhaps most importantly, the bill provides for a significant and historic change in the way we fund health care of our veterans. H.R. 3082 provides $48.2 billion in advance appropriations for fiscal year 2011 for the medical services, medical facilities, and medical administration accounts.

While the Congress has always taken on the challenges of this country, these issues have not always been shielded from partisan battles and political delays. This Congress in the past few weeks has been no exception, but there are some issues which should not be subject to politics and doubt. There is no doubt that the men and women of the armed services have bravely served our country. They have fought without question and without debate, and in doing so, they have sacrificed time with their families, risked their own well-being, and all too often they have sacrificed their lives. By providing advance appropriations for the health care of our veterans, we can take the steps to ensure that these benefits are not subject to politics as usual.

I strongly support this rule, which provides for consideration of this essential and important bill.


Ms. PINGREE of Maine. Mr. Speaker, I just want to point out as we're closing that there has been a tremendous amount of conversation on the floor today about the open rule, about the process here. And I want to point out to the Members that even under an open rule, nearly two-thirds of the amendments that were submitted to the Rules Committee were in violation of House rules and would have been subject to points of order. They wouldn't have been able to proceed on the House floor. In fact, the majority of amendments you have heard about this morning from my good friend from Minnesota, from my colleague from Georgia, those are amendments that would have been in violation of House rules, would have been subject to a point of order. And while they made good points about why they wanted to have their amendments moved forward, the fact is, that wouldn't have happened today anyway, even if we had been under an open rule.

Let me say one last thing. My colleague from Texas mentioned that a few of us who are new here, who haven't been through the appropriations process under open rules--and I will say as a new Member of this body, most of the bills that come to the floor come under structured rules. There may have been a tradition in the past of appropriations bills coming under more of an open rule, but I balance that with the remarks of our colleague from the Appropriations Committee, Mr. Obey, who talked to us this morning about the tremendous amount of work we're expected to get done. I can tell you, from my constituents back in the State of Maine, they say to me, you know, you've got a lot of work to do on renewable energy, on health care. We want to see you move forward on those issues. We want to see appropriations bills, like the one we're talking about today, that are going to provide vital services for our veterans. We want to see those get done. We want to see the Members of Congress get their work done. We don't want to listen to you with hours of endless debate, particularly on things that would be subject to points of order and wouldn't even be allowed to be discussed. We want to see you get your work done.

As a very proud member of the Rules Committee, I have the opportunity to listen to a tremendous number of the amendments that come before us; and I feel very good about the way we're moving forward with our work and about the challenges that we are facing for the American public and all that is before us and the importance of getting our work done.

I do want to remind us today that in spite of all the other conversation that has gone on, this particular rule is a vital step forward towards improving our military infrastructure and ensuring the quality care of our veterans and their families, making sure it is worthy of their sacrifice. That is why we are here on the floor this morning to talk about our veterans, to talk about military construction, to talk about making sure that we are there for them.

My home State of Maine has one of the highest populations of veterans in the country. In a State of not even 2 million people, Maine is home to over 155,000 veterans, nearly one-fifth of our population. These men and women have served without question, without politics and certainly without delay. We must make a promise to them and to all of our veterans that we will do the same. We must provide them with health care and the benefits they deserve without question, without politics and without delay. Passing H.R. 3082, we will begin to keep that promise. I urge a ``yes'' vote on the previous question and on the rule.


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