This week, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives rejected three key amendments to help our troops and veterans, one to expand health care for National Guard and Reservists, a second to increase our investments in veterans' health care, and a third to assist veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It is unthinkable as we approach Memorial Day that Congress would not take every opportunity to demonstrate our gratitude to those who have sacrificed so much for our nation," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said. "Now is the time for a grateful nation to honor their service."
Last night, the House rejected a motion by Rep. Gene Taylor (news, bio, voting record) of Mississippi that would have expanded health care for our National Guard and Reservists and their families. Today, Republicans in the House blocked consideration of an amendment by Congressman David Obey of Wisconsin that would have provided an additional $2.6 billion for veterans' health care, and voted against a separate amendment by Congressman Charlie Melancon of Louisiana that would have provided an additional $53 million for veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It is shameful that Republicans refused these critical efforts," Pelosi said. "I only hope that after all of the Memorial Day speeches are done, Congress will strive to do more to live up to our lofty words. That is our moral obligation as we honor those who have fallen on this Memorial Day."
"Democrats will continue to celebrate, honor, and remember these courageous and faithful men and women by improving veterans' health care to meet the needs of our returning soldiers, providing health care to our National Guard and Reservists, and tending to the needs of the thousands of soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan," Pelosi said.
Fact Sheet on Three Troops and Veterans Amendments
- Taylor Amendment on TRICARE for Reservists
Last night, Republicans in Congress defeated an amendment by Gene Taylor of Mississippi to provide full TRICARE benefits to all members of the Guard and Reserve and their families. This was offered as a motion to recommit the Defense Authorization bill, and was narrowly defeated by a vote of 211 to 218. Currently, the Guard and Reserve are covered by TRICARE only when they are mobilized for active duty.
Under the Taylor amendment, all members of the Guard and Reserve could buy into TRICARE for an affordable monthly premium. A 2003 report by the General Accounting Office showed that 20 percent of all Reservists do not have health insurance, and 40 percent of Reservists aged 19 to 35 lack health coverage. According to the latest Defense Department data, 18 percent of activated Reservists have no medical coverage. More than 433,000 members of the National Guard and Reserves have been called up for active duty over the last two and one-half years, not all Guardsmen and Reservists have access to TRICARE. The Taylor amendment was adopted by the Armed Services Committee by a vote of 32 to 30. However, after the mark-up, Chairman Hunter used a technicality to remove the amendment from the bill.
- Obey Amendment on Veterans' Health Care
Today, House Republicans blocked consideration of amendment by Congressman David Obey of Wisconsin by a vote of 194 to 223. The amendment would have provided an additional $2.6 billion for veterans' health care, which would have resulted in an appropriation of $3.2 billion over President Bush's budget request. The Obey amendment would make certain no qualifying veteran is denied VA health care and would also accommodate new veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The total would include $300 million for mental health services to meet the growing needs of Iraqi veterans, as well as $200 million for prosthetics and amputee care and programs. The coalition of AMVETS, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, and Veterans of Foreign Wars all endorsed the Obey amendment.
- Melancon Amendment on Needs for Returning Soldiers
Today, Republicans rejected by a vote of 213 to 214 an amendment by Congressman Charlie Melancon of Louisiana to provide an additional $53 million for urgently needed funding for items critical for veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These funds would have been used for combat-related trauma care centers, telemedicine initiatives for trauma care centers, VA medical and prosthetic research, survivors of those who die from service-connected deaths, and for processing claims for compensation and pension benefits.
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Contact: Brendan Daly or Jennifer Crider, 202-226-7616, both of the Office of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi