EMERGENCY SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2005
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Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, this amendment is cosponsored by Senator Durbin, Senator Coleman, Senator Dole, Senator Kennedy, Senator Salazar, and Senator Corzine. This amendment is designed to improve the health care access for those children who have lost a parent on active military duty.
To understand the need for this amendment, we have to look at the current status of the law, to understand the problem, to understand why we need to change it. Currently, the dependent child--children of a deceased service member--will receive medical benefits under the TRICARE prime, for 3 years after that service member has died, at no cost. But following that period, the dependent child may continue to receive TRICARE prime at the retiree dependent premium rate available to children until the age of 21, or 23 if enrolled in school. But they have to pay for it.
Also, if a dependent child's military parent dies, that child moves down on the food chain, in terms of availability of services. What that means is that if, for example, there is a doctor's appointment opening, an Active-Duty dependent would get preference to schedule that appointment over the dependent child whose parent has died in service.
Let me state that again. Let me make sure my colleagues understand me. To take one example, if there is a doctor's appointment opening and your parent is alive, you get preference over a child whose parent was killed in Iraq or killed in Afghanistan.
That is simply not fair. That is not right. I don't think any Member of the Senate, who really understands that, would say that is right. Our amendment would change that. What our amendment will do is put the surviving children of service members killed in service to our country in the same position as if their parent would have lived and continued to serve in the military. It puts them in no better position, but it puts them in the same position. That is all this amendment does. That is the right thing to do.
What our amendment would do simply is to extend TRICARE prime to every dependent child of a deceased service member at no cost--the same thing as if the parent would have lived--until the dependent's age of 21, or 23 if the dependent attends college. It is the same as if the service member were still alive.
Maintaining this level of TRICARE coverage guarantees the surviving dependents will continue to have access to some of the best doctors this country has to offer and would receive adequate health care and treatment.
This is the right thing to do, it is fair, and it is just. I believe it is what the American people, if they understood the issue, if the issue was explained to them, would clearly want us to do. To do any less for the surviving children of our service members who have been killed in service to our country is simply not right.
I ask unanimous consent that two letters of support be printed in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
RESERVE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION
OF THE UNITED STATES,
Washington, DC, April 11, 2005.
Hon. MIKE DEWINE,
DEAR SENATOR DEWINE: The Reserve Officers Association, representing 75,000 Reserve Component members, supports your amendment to the emergency supplemental appropriation, SR 109-052, to increase the period of continued TRICARE coverage of children of members of the uniformed services who die while serving on active duty for a period of more than 30 days.
The Department of Defense (DoD) has relied heavily on the Guard and Reserve to provide almost half of the troop support for Iraq and Afghanistan and this does not even take into consideration the number of members who have volunteered for duty during this time. It has been announced that this level of Reserve Component support has become the norm.
Your bill will provide a limited entitlement, in keeping with business case principles, that allows a member to serve their country knowing that their family will be taken care of if they give the ultimate sacrifice--their life.
The Active and Reserve Components, are entering into a new phase of protracted warfare and we need to update our outdated personnel practices to reflect this new environment. Congressional support for our nation's military men and women in the Guard and Reserve is and always will be appreciated.
Robert A. McIntosh,
Major General (Ret), USAFR, Executive Director.
NATIONAL MILITARY FAMILY ASSOCIATION,
April 10, 2005.
Senator MIKE DEWINE,
DEAR SENATOR DEWINE: The National Military Family Association (NMFA) is a national nonprofit membership organization whose sole focus is the military family. NMFA's mission is to serve the families of the seven uniformed services through education, information, and advocacy. On behalf of NMFA and the families it serves, I would like to thank you for introducing important amendments in The Emergency Supplemental Wartime Appropriations Act, to enhance benefits for survivors of those servicemembers who have made the supreme sacrifice for their Nation.
NMFA strongly believes that all servicemembers deaths should be treated equally. Servicemembers are on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Through their oath, each servicemember's commitment is the same. The survivor benefit package should not create inequities by awarding different benefits to families who lose a servicemember in a hostile zone versus those who lose their loved one in a training mission preparing for service in a hostile zone. To the family, there is no difference. Your amendment would extend the death gratuity increase proposed by the Administration to survivors of all active duty deaths, not just those that are combat related.
NMFA also supports the amendment you propose to extend the TRICARE Prime medical benefit to any dependent child of a deceased servicemember at not cost until the age of 21 or 23 if enrolled in school. This is a benefit that would have been available to these children had their servicemember parent lived and remained on active duty. The freedom from worrying about copays and deductibles when a child needs to see a doctor is very important for the surviving parent.
Thank your for your support and interest in military families. If NMFA can be of any assistance to you in other areas concerning military families, please feel free to contact Kathy Moakler in the Government Relations Department at 703.931.6632.
Candace A. Wheeler,
Chairman/Chief Executive Officer.
Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, one letter is from the Reserve Officers Association and one is from the National Military Family Association.
I wish to share an excerpt from the letter from the ROA. Regarding health care benefits, it reads in part as follows:
Your bill will provide a limited entitlement in keeping with business case principles that allows a member to serve their country knowing that their family will be taken care of if they give the ultimate sacrifice--their life.
We owe the families of those who have lost loved ones in active duty our gratitude and our support. It is time to do a better job of caring for these families. It is time to ensure that this Congress does what is right. I ask my colleagues to stand with me and with my other colleagues to support these families and do our part as they have done theirs.
As I said, I am joined in this amendment by Senators DURBIN, COLEMAN, DOLE, KENNEDY, SALAZAR, and CORZINE. We believe this is the equitable thing to do, it is the fair thing to do, and it is the right thing to do.
Again, to repeat: All it does is put this child who has lost a parent in Iraq, who lost a parent in Afghanistan, who has lost a parent in service to our country, in the same position that child would have been if that parent would have continued to serve in the military and would have continued to live.
Today, without this amendment, that child is discriminated against. After 3 years, that child has to pay for his or her own premium, that family has to pay the premium and, not only that, even if they pay the premium, they are put in a different position than if the parent would have lived. The child of a person in the military who lives is in a better position than a child of a person in the military who is deceased, and that is wrong. This amendment corrects that.
I ask unanimous consent that this amendment be set aside for the moment.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so ordered.
AMENDMENT NO. 342
Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, I now ask that my amendment No. 342 be called up.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The clerk will report.
The legislative clerk read as follows:
The Senator from Ohio [Mr. DeWine], for himself, and Mr. Bingaman, Mr. Coleman, Mr. Nelson, Mr. Martinez, Mr. Corzine, Mr. Chafee, Mr. Dodd, Mr. Durbin, Mr. Alexander, Mr. Martinez, Mr. Smith, Mr. Specter, Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Lautenberg, and Mr. Obama, proposes an amendment numbered 342.
Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that reading of the amendment be dispensed with.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so ordered.
The amendment is as follows:
(Purpose: To appropriate $10,000,000 to provide assistance to Haiti using Child Survival and Health Programs funds, $21,000,000 to provide assistance to Haiti using Economic Support Fund funds, and $10,000,000 to provide assistance to Haiti using International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement funds, to be designated as an emergency requirement)
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Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, this amendment is cosponsored by Senators BINGAMAN, COLEMAN, NELSON, CORZINE, DOLE, CHAFEE, DODD, DURBIN, ALEXANDER, MARTINEZ, SMITH, SPECTER, KENNEDY, LAUTENBERG, and OBAMA. It will provide additional emergency assistance to Haiti. Unfortunately, the fact is that the bill before us now contains virtually no additional economic assistance to Haiti, the poorest country in our hemisphere.
Haiti today is on the brink of collapse. Elections are scheduled in November, but there is grave social unrest and horrible poverty that is spinning Haiti back into its previous cycles of violence and instability. Haiti is our neighbor to the south, about an hour and a half plane trip from Miami. Twice in the last decade, American marines, American troops, have had to go to Haiti.
There is an interim government in Haiti, a government that was supported and is supported and backed by the United States and by the international community, but the situation is very precarious. That interim government is scheduled to give way to a permanent government after elections that are now scheduled for November of this year. There is an international peacekeeping force in Haiti, but there is significant violence, and the government is, quite frankly, tottering.
Money is needed in this emergency supplemental for emergency reasons in Haiti. We cannot wait for the normal appropriations process. First of all, money is needed for the elections. The United States will have to contribute toward these elections. We will have to take the lead, and other countries, of course, will participate, if elections are going to be held.
Those elections were not scheduled when the last appropriations bill went through this Congress. No one could have totally foreseen what the exact situation would have been in Haiti when the last appropriations bill was approved by this Congress. The violence has continued. The international peacekeeping force has not been as aggressive as some of us would have liked to have seen it, and therefore violence has continued. Some of the pro-Aristide forces are responsible for some of the violence, and some of the old regime people dating back to Baby Doc are responsible for some of the violence. The situation is not good.
Some of this money, quite frankly, needs to be used for humanitarian assistance. Some of the money needs to be used to train the police. Some of the money needs to be used to deal with the unemployment situation.
My colleagues and I--a long bipartisan list that I have read with seven Republicans have sponsored this amendment--are working with the chairman of the subcommittee and with the chairman of the full committee to see what funds might be available and what we might be able to work out with regard to this amendment.
If the United States does not stay engaged in Haiti, the day will not be far off when there will be more chaos in Haiti than there already is, and the government may fall. American troops may be back in Haiti at great cost to us, potential lives as well as money, and we may once again see more people flooding toward the United States. This will be money that is very well spent, and, quite frankly, I believe we have no choice but to spend this money.
I ask unanimous consent that this amendment be set aside.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, I wish to talk now about two other amendments, one of which has already been offered and one which will be offered that I have cosponsored.
Haiti is not the only emergency need that cannot wait another 6 or 9 months for funding. I wish to first talk about an amendment that Senator Kohl and I sponsored and that Senator Cochran has been very helpful in regard to.
Our amendment provides additional emergency money for food aid. The President in his budget requested $150 million in additional emergency food aid in this bill. Quite frankly, we need to do more. Accounts have been drained, and over 17 million people are in need of emergency food aid in the world. That is a very conservative estimate.
Last week, the United Nations World Food Program announced that it would be forced to cut rations to Darfur to make their supplies last. As Senator Frist so eloquently spoke just a few moments ago, the people in this part of the world suffered through genocide, and now they will starve. In addition, the U.S. Agency for International Development has been forced to cut programs in Sudan and Angola, Nicaragua, Rwanda, Ghana, Eritrea--all food programs.
We know, of course, about the high-profile food aid emergencies, such as the people affected by the tsunami in Southeast Asia and the people in Darfur, but what we really do not hear so much about is the need for food as a result of the locust infestation that swept through Africa last year, devastating crops, and what we do not hear about is the devastating floods in Bangladesh that leave women and children without any means of survival. We cannot tell these 17 million starving people of the world to wait. We can't tell them to wait for the regular appropriations cycle because, frankly, by then, for them at least, it will be too late.
When this amendment comes to the floor, the amendment sponsored by Senator Kohl and me, I urge my colleagues to support this amendment to provide this emergency food. It is lifesaving. It will make a difference. Lives are, in fact, saved.
Finally, I am cosponsoring an amendment offered by Senator Corzine, together with Senators BROWNBACK and DURBIN, that would provide $93.5 million to address the crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Again, I thank my colleague, Senator Frist, who has on many occasions been to Sudan and has personally done humanitarian work there, and who has been so very active on the floor of the Senate as well. I thank him for his eloquent words a few minutes ago and for his great leadership.
I also thank my other colleagues who have taken the lead in this area and for their comments on the floor about this particular amendment and the dire situation in Darfur. They have been deeply committed to helping this troubled region of our world, and I commend them for their work.
The amendment would provide $52 million in assistance for the African Union. The African Union is trying to stop the genocide, and we have a moral obligation to support their mission.
This amendment also addresses the overwhelming humanitarian crisis in Darfur--providing $40.5 million for international disaster assistance. The United Nations International Children's Fund estimates that they only have access to 5 to 10 percent of Darfur and only can get into 5 or 10 percent, and they have access only to one-third of the millions of people living in the region. Children's lives depend on our vote on this amendment.
This amendment is budget neutral.
I urge all of my colleagues who have raised their voices on the floor in opposition to the crimes being committed in Darfur to vote for this amendment and to vote for the accompanying amendment containing the Darfur Accountability Act. The genocide in Darfur must end, and it must end now.
I understand that we cannot address every problem in the world in this particular bill and that some things will have to wait for the regular appropriations cycle, but the things that I have come to the floor to talk about this morning simply will not wait. Lives are at stake if we do not address them in this bill, and lives will, in fact, be lost. Each one of the items that I have talked about is a matter of crisis, a matter of emergency.
They need to be included in this bill.
I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.