Saturday, July 02, 2016

Latest on the Military and VA Construction Bill

This just in from our good friends at the Fleet Reserve Association:
"MilCon/VA Appropriations Bill without Agent Orange Provision Fails in Senate
A final Conference Committee Report to resolve the differences between the House and Senate Military Construction and Department of Veterans Affairs (MilCon/VA) appropriations bills failed to get the required 60 votes in the Senate after it was approved in the House.  The bill also includes emergency funding to combat the Zika virus. The original bill that passed the House (H.R. 4974) included an FRA-supported amendment that would extend presumptive service-connection for conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure to Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans. The final bill drafted by a conference committee dropped the Agent Orange provision. FRA wants to thank the Shipmates that used the Action Center that generated nearly 5,000 e-mail messages for this bill. House staff has indicated that many of the provisions in the MilCon/VA Appropriations bill will probably be included in an omnibus appropriations bill with many, if not all of the other 11 appropriations bills. FRA will continue searching for methods to move the Agent Orange/Blue Water Navy presumption issue forward. Members can continue to weigh in on this issue through the FRA Action Center ( action.fra.org/action-center )"
Essentially the Senate rejected what the joint House-Senate Conference Committee sent back to the Senate.  Here are the rules according to Congress.gov:
"If a conference report is rejected by one of the Houses, it so notifies the other body by message and usually requests another conference; however, it may merely notify the second body of its action without requesting a further conference, leaving further steps to be taken by the other House. Endorsements showing these various legislative steps, and when taken, are made on the engrossed bill."  
At this point in time, the Majority leader of the Senate, Senator McConnell of Kentucky, has not said what action he will take on the bill.  Note also, the conference committee stripped the Blue Water Navy amendment from the bill, so IF Senator McConnell sends the bill back to the House. it will revert to the original version the House already passed, which contains the BWN Amendment.  If McConnell requests another conference committee, that committee, made up of members of both Houses of Congress will have another try at ironing out differences in the bill the House passed with what the Senate wants to see.  The Conference committee will revisit the bill anew, and hopefully a different decision will be made regarding Section 522 [the BWN Amendment].  Then it will go before the Senate again.  We'll have to see if Representative Gibson [D-NY] and Representative Dent [R-PA] can provide enough influence to the House conferees to maintain section 522 in the conference report.

If Senator McConnell does not request a conference committee to review the bill, then the House has only the formality of resubmitting the bill back to the Senate for full consideration.  It will go through the Appropriations committee in the Senate, and they moved it pretty quickly last time.  I cannot see this going to another conference committee.  And Congress needs to move it pretty quickly to get it done before the recess.  Failure to act on the bill before the recess, will simply mean it waits until Congress resumes after the recess.

Regardless, we must keep the pressure up especially in the Senate via the FRA's Action page.  And once again, if you are not a member of the FRA, you should be.  Join this proud, fine, hard working organization today!  Click here for info on membership

VNVets

”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Obama Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

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