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Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I do not intend to object to the request of the Senator from Washington, and I do not object to the policy provision of this bill at this time. But I strongly object to the Senator seeking to fund these new veterans benefits out of the Department of Defense budget that funds the needs of our military men and women serving in combat overseas.
The cost of Senator Murray's bill, provided by the Congressional Budget Office, is $568 million over 5 years. To cover that cost, Senator Murray proposes to strip $568 million from wartime funding for troops in Afghanistan over the next 5 years without even considering the impact of that cut on their safety and security. This is preposterous. This bill assumes that Congress will still be passing emergency spending bills for Afghanistan 5 years from now, and somehow our troops will be able to bear the risk of having hundreds of millions siphoned from their critical needs for a program that has nothing to do with the war they are currently engaged in. Every dollar requested in the defense budget for our combat forces will be needed to keep them adequately equipped, armed, and engaged in defeating the enemy and coming home with honor.
The proposed offset for this new program is an irresponsible budget gimmick designed to shift the funding burden for these new benefits from VA to DOD. Funding for the DOD Overseas Contingency Operations fund is within the jurisdiction of the Armed Services Committee, and should be considered by the full Senate, rather than slipped into a reported bill at the last minute without debate or discussion.
I also am surprised that Senator Murray, a vocal supporter of improving the welfare of our troops, would actually propose cuts to funding for our combat troops without even assessing the impact of those cuts. The job of making that assessment lies within the Armed Services Committee's jurisdiction, and I will seek to ensure that the Senate has an opportunity to make that assessment before passing any legislation that attempts to shift defense dollars from the direct combat needs of our Armed Forces to any new benefits or policies.
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