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VA Major Construction Authorization and Expiring Authorities Extension Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. MICHAUD. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I'd like to thank my colleagues for the hard work and effort on this very important bill as well.

Each year, as we assess the construction needs of the Department of Veterans Affairs, we do so with the safety and health of our veterans in mind, as well as fulfilling our statutory requirements to authorize major medical facility projects. This is a responsibility that we do not take lightly.

H.R. 6375, the VA Major Construction Authorization and Expiring Authorities Extension Act of 2012, would authorize approximately over $377 million for major medical facility projects. Specifically included is the authorization for a mental health building at the VA Medical Center in Seattle, Washington, and for a spinal cord injury facility at the VA Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. Mr. Speaker, these authorizations provide the Department of Veterans Affairs the ability to provide state-of-the-art health care and services to our Nation's veterans wherever they choose to live.

I would like to take a few moments to comment on section 102, which provides the authority for the renovation of the surgical suite and the operating rooms at the VA Medical Center in Miami, Florida.

Earlier this year, it was brought to the committee's attention that VA was going to need additional authorization to finish the renovation of the operating suites in Miami. It is my understanding that, during the design phase of the original projects, an assessment was conducted, and the recommendation was to completely close down the surgical suite because of infection control and safety issues related to construction. Because of these, two smaller Miami projects were combined, and the cost exceeded the monetary threshold of $10 million that governs the need to seek congressional authority. Working in a bipartisan manner, with the concerns for the safe continuation of surgery in the Miami VA Medical Center always first and foremost in our minds, we have included this project so that VA can move forward without delay.

In addition to major facility projects, H.R. 6375 provides for the extension of certain expiring authorities. I am pleased to strongly support the extensions of the programs that directly affect some of our most vulnerable veterans--the serious mentally ill and homeless. Finally, Mr. Speaker, we have also included an extension of VA's contract authority with private providers of compensation and pension exams.

I support these provisions, but I also want to ensure that we remain vigilant in our oversight of this authority. As such, I am pleased to see 1-year extensions of these authorities, and I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 6375.

I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. MILLER of Florida. Mr. Speaker, we have no more speakers on this particular piece of legislation.

Mr. MICHAUD. Mr. Speaker, in closing, I would encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this particular piece of legislation, which is very important for our veterans.

I would be remiss, though, if I didn't say that, like my colleague from New York earlier, I am disappointed that we are leaving Washington when we have a lot of work to do, such as the middle class tax cuts, the farm bill, the Violence Against Women Act, and responsible deficit reduction, as well as my bill that addresses the issue of our military, members of which are supposed to be clothed from head to toe with American-made clothing. The fact that the administration is not complying with the Berry amendment is very disappointing. Hopefully, we will be able to address these issues before the end of the year so that we can take care of a lot of the concerns that my constituents have brought forth.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.


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