veterans-affairs

Appropriators feel the squeeze of budget caps as veterans health funding grows
Nondefense programs could soon see spending cuts unless Congress makes adjustments

“It’s going to be a challenge,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Appropriators and stakeholders have begun coming to grips with the reality of narrow funding increases under next year’s budget caps, as politically sacrosanct veterans health care spending continues to grow and eat into what’s left for all other nondefense programs.

Last summer’s two-year budget deal front-loaded its spending cap increases into the first year, allowing about 4 percent more for discretionary spending in fiscal 2020. In fiscal 2021, increases are capped at less than 0.4 percent, or $5 billion, despite fixed costs for veterans health care that are likely to require substantially more.

Lawmakers unveil two mega spending packages
Health taxes to be repealed, tobacco age raised in year-end deal

From left, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., along with Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, not pictured, announced on Thursday that they had reached a deal on a spending agreement before government funding runs out at the end of this week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated Dec. 16 at 6:05 p.m.

House appropriators filed two mega spending packages for floor consideration Tuesday after hammering out last-minute details over the weekend.

‘Embrace the suck,’ Ernst and McSally tell young women considering military
Republican senators reflect on their ‘boot camp’ experience

Republican senators Martha McSally and Joni Ernst share a message for young women considering entering the military. (Sen. Joni Ernst’s Twitter)

Veterans Day is a significant time to honor those who have fought to serve the country. And while Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Martha McSally of Arizona did just that, the two military veterans also took time to address future generations of servicemembers, particularly young women.

In a video posted to Twitter Monday evening, the Republican senators gave advice to young women considering entering basic training, or “boot camp,” which is known to require significant physical and psychological stamina.

Former VA nominee Ronny Jackson eyes run for Congress
Jackson withdrew from consideration amid misconduct allegations he called ‘completely false’

Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, a onetime nominee for Veterans Affairs secretary, is considering running for Congress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson is considering a run for Congress in Texas, two sources familiar with his plans said Friday.

Jackson was the chief White House physician in 2018, when President Donald Trump nominated him to be Veterans Affairs secretary. But Jackson withdrew his name from consideration amid allegations that he abused alcohol and mishandled prescription drugs, although he said at the time the charges were “completely false and fabricated.”

Senators want more Hill opportunities for wounded veterans
McCain-Mansfield program would create two-year Senate fellowship similar to House

Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama is proposing a fellowship program in the Senate for wounded veterans.  (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sens. Doug Jones and Mike Rounds want to expand a program started in the House that gives wounded veterans an opportunity to work in congressional offices.

The two introduced a resolution just before Veterans Day that would establish the McCain-Mansfield Fellowship, a two-year program giving each Senate office a “wounded warrior” to serve as a fellow in a state or Washington, D.C. office.

Democratic impeachment holdout touts legislative focus over inquiry he’s not backing
South Carolina’s Joe Cunningham spent recess discussing climate change, infrastructure, trade

South Carolina Rep. Joe Cunningham, here examining a turtle excluder device while touring a shrimp boat in Mount Pleasant, S.C., on Monday, is one of seven House Democrats not supporting the impeachment inquiry. (Lindsey McPherson/CQ Roll Call)

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Rep. Joe Cunningham spent his final day of a two-week district work period here Monday talking to local fishermen about adjusting to climate change and to a conservation group about banning offshore drilling — top issues for constituents of his coastline district.

Cunningham, the first Democrat to represent the 1st District in more than a quarter century, did not talk about the House’s impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, except to answer reporters’ questions about why he has not endorsed it. The constituents he interacted with Monday did not broach the topic with him, although some complimented him generally for how he’s navigating a political tightrope.

Florida lawmakers continue clash with VA Secretary Wilkie over evictions
Members say offices in VA facilities were closed because Wilkie took offense to grilling from Mast in April hearing

From left, Reps. Brian Mast, R-Fla., Darren Soto, D-Fla., and Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., conduct a news conference Friday in the Capitol Visitor Center on the eviction of Congressional offices from Veterans Affairs Department facilities. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A bipartisan group of Florida House members led by GOP Rep. Brian Mast continues to clash with Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie over their eviction from offices in VA facilities.

The lawmakers have claimed Wilkie directed VA hospitals in Florida to remove members from small constituent service offices in their facilities as payback for a grilling Wilkie received from Mast at a congressional oversight hearing earlier this year.

Rolling Thunder gets new life, new focus, new name
Advocacy group AMVETS says it will also address veterans suicide as well as POW/MIA awareness to 33rd annual Memorial Day ride

A motorcyclist rides in the 32nd Rolling Thunder in Washington in May. Previous organizers said in December that the 2019 ride would be the last. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The annual military veterans motorcycle run from the Pentagon parking lot to the Vietnam Memorial on the National Mall will continue next Memorial Day weekend under the leadership of a different veterans organization.

Military veterans advocacy group American Veterans (AMVETS) has taken the torch of organizing the motorcycle rally after Rolling Thunder, a group that honors prisoners of war and missing in action service members, decided last year that it would no longer sponsor the event after 32 years.

House drug price negotiation plan could apply beyond Medicare
Draft plan would have government set prices based on those in other wealthy countries

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has been heavily involved in House Democrats' drug price plan. A spokesman emphasized that it's still a work in progress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A comprehensive drug price bill being developed by House Democrats would give private insurers the benefit of government-negotiated prices, according to a summary of the measure obtained by CQ Roll Call.

Under the Democrats’ draft plan, the government would set prices based on what is paid in other wealthy countries, according to the summary. That is similar to how a proposal by the Trump administration would work.

Jerry Moran in line for Senate Veterans’ Affairs gavel

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., is in line to chair the Veterans’ Affairs Committee after Johnny Isakson resigns. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The news of Sen. Johnny Isakson’s pending resignation will have consequences when it comes to committee rosters, most prominently with Kansas GOP Sen. Jerry Moran the next in line to be chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee. 

Moran should be a familiar figure to veterans service organizations and other groups involved in policy, since he is a former chairman of the Military Construction-VA subcommittee of Appropriations. Senate Republicans tend to adhere to seniority rules, and Moran is the next lawmaker in line for the job. He also does not have any other full committee chairmanships, meaning there won’t be as much of a domino effect.