(Lehigh Valley, PA) Representative Charlie Dent (PA-15), Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MILCON/VA), released the following statement regarding the Omnibus Spending bill after President Trump announced he would sign it into law:
“This Omnibus Appropriations bill passed by the House and Senate, and now signed into law by President Trump, provides necessary resources and stability to our military and our veterans, enhances border security provisions, supplies increased funding for medical research through the National Institutes of Health, and combats the current epidemic of opioid abuse.
Ideally, the House would proceed through Regular Order and pass Appropriations Bills individually. In actuality, the funding contained in the Omnibus was appropriated in individual bills that were each reported out of committee, sent to the floor, debated and ultimately passed by the House. This was the case with the MILCON/VA bill passed by the Appropriations Subcommittee, which I chair.
The Veterans Affairs portion of the Omnibus fulfills the Congress’s commitment to our nation’s veterans with total discretionary funding of $81.5 billlion for the Department of Veterans Affairs – a $7.1 billion, or 9.5 percent, increase over 2017. These funds provide important medical services to veterans as well as disability compensation, post 9/11 education benefits, and a host of insurance and lending programs. Of note, we are able to provide $782 million for the new electronic health record contract that will allow the exchange of veterans’ health records with DOD and community providers. In addition, consistent with the budget caps agreement, $2 billion is provided in medical infrastructure assistance – non-recurring maintenance, minor construction, and grants for State veterans retirement homes. The $2 billion gives us the rare opportunity to completely eliminate the backlog of approved State home applications.
Further, we provide long overdue support to our military and their family members, with a $2.4 billion or 31 percent, increase (for a total of $10.1B) for Military Construction. With that funding, $708 million is provided for 12 medical facilities, $249 million for DOD schools, and $8.2 billion for military construction projects in the U.S. Additionally, we are able to provide $585 million in unfunded requirements requested by the Services, as well as significant increases in planning and design for active and reserve construction and unspecified minor construction. The bill also includes $750 million in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding – more than doubling the 2017 level.
This bill was in no way perfect, but letting the perfect be the enemy of the good has only increased the frustration that Americans have with Congress. I am pleased that President Trump has signed it into law.”
CONTACT: Shawn Millan (610) 770-3490