During the last government shutdown, lawmakers feared veterans were days away from not receiving their disability checks.
Hoping to prevent a similar predicament, members of a House committee pressed Thursday for full funding for the Veterans Affairs Department’s discretionary budget a year ahead of schedule.
Currently, only the department’s health care services are funded a year in advance.
“This committee is again trying to look down the road and provide advanced appropriations authority for the remaining 14 percent of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ discretionary budget,” said Rep. Michael Michaud, the ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, at a hearing about the department’s budget request.
The Veterans Affairs Department is asking for $164 billion for its total 2015 fiscal year budget, a 6.5 percent increase over the current fiscal year.
Members on both sides of the aisle and multiple outside groups back giving advanced appropriations to the department. Proponents argue that it would give the department and veterans greater certainty, particularly in regard to making benefits payments during a government shutdown.
But efforts to get advance funding for the rest of VA’s budget have stalled. Michaud and committee Chairman Jeff Miller introduced the Putting Veterans Funding First Act, which passed the House Veterans Committee but has languished before the full body.
A similar push was included in Sen. Bernie Sanders’s wide-ranging veterans legislation, but that bill failed to pass a procedural vote, and the bill is essentially on hold as the Vermont independent tries to garner more Republican support.
During Thursday’s hearing, Florida Democrat Rep. Corrine Brown backed giving the department full advance funding and asked Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to weigh in.
Although Shinseki didn’t reject the idea, he stressed that advance appropriations wouldn’t let the department avoid all of its problems if the government shuts down again.
“We still have to go to the Social Security agency to validate other disabilities payments. We have to go IRS to validate threshold income levels,” Shinseki said. “…This is a bigger discussion in some aspects than just the VA budget.”
Instead, Shinseki reiterated a familiar Obama administration talking point: “What would be most helpful to VA, [is] for “¦ the federal government to get a budget every year.”
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"House GOP leaders on Tuesday night pitched a new strategy to avert a looming government shutdown that includes children's health funding and the delay of ObamaCare taxes. Lawmakers need to pass a short-term stopgap bill by midnight Friday, when money for the federal government runs out. The latest GOP plan would keep the government’s lights on through Feb. 16, and be coupled with a six-year extension of funding for the popular Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The continuing resolution or CR would also delay ObamaCare's medical device and Cadillac taxes for two years, and the health insurance tax for one year starting in 2019."
"A key Senate negotiator and White House official on Tuesday expressed little hope for an immigration deal this week but nonetheless predicted that Congress can avoid a government shutdown." Marc Short, the White House Capitol Hill liaison, said he's optimistic about a deal on DACA overall, but not this week. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn also said he doubts an agreement can be made before week's end.
"Homeland Security Kristjen Nielsen confirmed that President Trump used 'tough language' in an Oval Office meeting last week over immigration policy, but she said she did not hear him describe some African countries and Haiti as 'shithole countries,' as has been reported." When pressed she, also said she "didn't know" whether Norway was a predominately white country.
"Chances of a government shutdown grew Monday as Republicans concluded that they would be unable to reach a long-term spending accord by the Friday deadline. GOP leaders are now turning to a short-term funding measure in hopes of keeping agencies open while talks continue, but Democratic leaders say they are unlikely to support any deal that does not protect young illegal immigrants. Aides to key negotiators from both parties planned to meet Tuesday in an effort to rekindle budget talks, setting up a Wednesday meeting of the leaders themselves. If they cannot agree, the government would shut down at midnight Friday for the first time since 2013."
“'As a junior foreign service officer, I signed an oath to serve faithfully the president and his administration in an apolitical fashion, even when I might not agree with certain policies. My instructors made clear that if I believed I could not do that, I would be honor bound to resign. That time has come,' Feeley said, according to an excerpt of his resignation letter read to Reuters."