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Veterans Affairs Budget Bill Passes Advances in House But Faces Uncertainty in Senate and the White House

Monday, August 3, 2020

The largest budget spending package in history passed in the House of Representatives last Friday. The package’s success in the Senate faces an uncertain future and even worse odds if it comes across the desk of President Donald Trump.

The pushback from the Senate and Trump will likely have to do with the language in the spending bill that directly blocks Trump from transferring funds to build a border wall. Additionally, certain provisions have been outlined for the renaming of military bases currently honoring confederate leaders. Both topics will likely be strongly opposed in the Senate in the coming weeks of negotiations.

Friday’s vote was largely partisan in the House, with a final vote count of 224-189. Ahead of the vote Steny Hoyer, House Majority Leader, urged his Republican colleagues to work through differences and avoid a potential partial shutdown at the start of the next fiscal year, Oct. 1.

Nevertheless, Hoyer acknowledged the vast uncertainties the bill will face going forward. “The bill ensures we provide resources to support our veterans, so critical and across the board, thought to be a moral responsibility,” he said. “Sadly, it will in all likelihood join the more than 275 other House bills languishing in the Republican-controlled Senate.”

Though the bill contains measures likely to be fought by the republican-controlled Senate, it roughly matches the amount of funds that White House officials had requested in February. It also includes approximately $105 billion in discretionary spending in fiscal 2021, 13% more than current levels.

While other federal agencies have seen big cuts in recent years, they’ve enjoyed substantial yearly increases. This increase would continue a trend for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The proposed increase would make the VA the second largest federal agency behind the Department of Defense.

Proponents of the increased budget argue its importance in contributing to the adequate medical care of veterans. “Amid a global pandemic, we also made unprecedented VA medical system investments to ensure that every veteran has access to the top-notch health care that they deserve, including historic spending for women veterans, mental health, suicide prevention, research, and homeless prevention,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., head of the veterans panel for the House Appropriations Committee.

Approximately, $90 billion of the bill is set aside specifically for VA medical care. Within that budget, mental health care and women’s health programs would increase in budget by 9% and 11%, respectively.

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