May 18, 2016
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers gave the following statement in support of H.R. 4974, the fiscal year 2017 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill, on the House floor today:
"Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 4974, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill for FY 2017.
"I’m proud to speak today on the first bill of the 2017 appropriations cycle. Shepherding through appropriations legislation is the constitutional duty of the Congress.
"Passage of these bills in a timely fashion is in the best interest of this nation – it will help provide for our national security, the stability of our economy, and give certainty to all Americans who count on the federal government’s programs and services.
"I believe this bill in particular starts off this process on the right foot.
"H.R. 4974 is a balanced, bipartisan piece of legislation that provides critical funding for our troops, their families, and our veterans.
"We have made a commitment to our servicemen and women that we will care for them during and after their service, and this bill helps fulfill that promise.
"In total, this legislation provides $81.6 billion in discretionary funding for Department of Defense infrastructure and quality-of-life programs, as well as for the Department of Veterans Affairs. This represents a $1.8 billion increase above current levels.
"This increase is directed to Veterans Affairs programs, which receive a 3 percent bump above Fiscal Year 2016 levels.
"Of the total $73.5 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs, $52.5 billion will support the VA’s medical services – funding that will treat 7 million patients this year. In particular, I want to highlight funding increases that will address mental health care, suicide prevention, Hepatitis C treatment, and homelessness.
"The increase will also help the VA tackle some of its greatest challenges – reducing the disability claims backlog, and continuing the modernization of the electronic health record system to ensure no gaps in care occur as our current troops become veterans.
"This bill also provides funding to support our active-duty military and their families, whether they are at home or abroad. Funding for hospitals, educational facilities, and housing tells our service members that they have the full backing of their government as they lay their lives on the lines for this nation.
"Beyond these quality-of-life programs, military construction funding is prioritized to respond to threats arounds the globe, including Russia, the Middle East and North Africa.
"While overall funding is increased in this bill, the Committee took many steps to ensure that every cent of taxpayer money is spent responsibly and with good purpose. We made difficult decisions to find savings wherever possible. The bill also includes good-government provisions that increase oversight for the VA – helping to stop waste and improve service for our veterans.
"This is a very good bill – one I am proud to support today. I want to thank the Chairman of the Subcommittee, Congressman Dent, for his leadership. I also want to thank the Ranking Member, Congressman Bishop, and the rest of the Subcommittee for their teamwork and effort in bringing this bill to the floor today. Lastly, I want to thank the staff for the many hours they put into helping usher this bill to the floor today. Caring for our troops and veterans is a great responsibility, and the subcommittee and our staff have not taken that responsibility lightly.
"I urge my colleagues to support this responsible, balanced bill, and I yield back."