A picture of Senator Tim Johnson
Tim J.
Former Democrat SD
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    Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013—Motion to Proceed—Continued

    by Former Senator Tim Johnson

    Posted on 2013-03-12

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    JOHNSON of South Dakota. Mr. President, the bill Chairwoman Mikulski and Senator Shelby have compiled is an excellent example of how hard work, cooperation, and good-faith negotiating can produce results in a body which is too often paralyzed by gridlock. The combined omnibus and CR, while not all I would wish for, is a balanced approach to keeping the government functioning through the remainder of the fiscal year while avoiding the specter of a government shutdown.

    The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill is one of five bills in this package, and it reflects the agreement reached between the Senate and the House last fall. The Senate bill is identical to the House-passed MILCON-VA bill, and it sends a strong message of support to our Nation's vets and military families, including previously appropriated advances for vets' medical care. The fiscal year 2013 bill provides a total of $144.8 billion for military construction, family housing, the VA, and four related agencies, including Arlington National Cemetery. Of that amount, $71.9 billion is discretionary funding. This includes $10.6 billion for military construction, $61 billion for the VA, and $347 million for related agencies.

    This bill deserves the full support of the Senate. The alternative is a continuing resolution which is out of step with current requirements or a crippling government shutdown. A CR would be disastrous for military construction. The CR prohibits new starts, which would block execution of 97 percent of the fiscal year 2013 military construction program. As a result, more than 250 MILCON projects in 42 States, the District of Columbia, and overseas which are funded in the bill before us would be put on indefinite hold in the CR.

    For the VA, a CR would not provide advance funding for fiscal year 2014 for vets' health care. Advance funding is an important tool to protect funding for vets' health care from the very predicament we find ourselves in today.

    Another small but important program in this bill which would be scuttled by a CR is funding for needed cemetery expansion at Arlington National Cemetery. All of these problems are solved in this omnibus package.

    Our Nation's vets, our military troops and their families, have made and are continuing to make great sacrifices in defense of this Nation. The bill before us recognizes and honors that commitment by funding a wide array of programs essential to the health and well-being of both vets and military families.

    I urge the Senate to support this bill.

    I yield the floor, and I note the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

    The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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