Wednesday, September 19, 2012

ROA Tackles Healthcare with VA Committee Chairman

The Reserve Officers Association was one of 18 associations invited to meet early Tuesday morning with House Veterans Affairs committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL.) along with three other members of Congress for a roundtable discussion of the most pressing issues impacting US veterans. While many challenges were addressed, including the high rate of suicide among Reservists, improving mental health treatment, and Reserve unemployment, ROA championed two important issues: alternative treatments for Traumatic Brain Injury and improving the reliability of Reserve access to TRICARE providers.

House passes 6 month Budget Resolution

To avoid a budgeting controversy that has plagued Congress in past years, the House of Representatives voted on September 13 on a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government for the next six months.  Expected to pass in the Senate as well as the House, this CR funding will permit Congress to leave a week earlier to return to campaigning for the upcoming election in November.

Only a few non-contentious provisions were added on to 2011 funding levels that would be permitted under the CR.  Above the line riders included funding for nuclear and cyber security, fighting wildfire, border security, and funding for next year’s presidential inauguration.  Off line discussions were held between House and Senate leadership to ensure easy passage. The House passed the budget measure 329 to 91. 

“This bill is very restricted in its scope, does not contain extensive or controversial policy riders and protects critical funding for our national defense,” said House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) in an article in CQ Today.

Ironically, the Senate CR vote may slide into the weekend, because Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) is filibustering any legislation, until Senate leadership permits a vote on a bill to stop sending aid to Pakistan is brought to the floor.  Sen. Paul also seeks the release of Dr. Shakil Afridi, who assisted U.S. intelligence in locating Bin Laden.

Funding at 2011 levels, the CR also allows the Pentagon to continue to fund the overseas contingency operation in Afghanistan and extend purchasing authorities in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Appropriators wrote several provisions to block Pentagon cost cutting by retiring aircraft.  The Senate will consider its defense authorization bill in November after Congress returns following the election.

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) was not successful in seeking language to address sequestration as an amendment to the CR.  The Senator had hoped to build bipartisan support for at least a three month delay, reports CQ Today. Any change in the Senate would require the House to re-vote before final passage of the CR.“Do you really have any confidence that a lame duck [session] will address it?” Senator McCain said to the Capitol Hill publication. 

A sequestration report that was due from the White House by September 7th was released last Friday, but the report didn’t provide the details being sought by Congress on how various federal agencies plan to make sequestration budget cuts.