Legislative News is AUSA Government Affairs Directorate's
weekly electronic newsletter, and is published
every Monday when Congress is in session.
In this issue:
DEFENSE SPENDING BILL HITS A SNAG
- Defense Spending BIll Hits a Snag
- Lawmakers, Staffers Attend AUSA Breakfast
- House Subcommittee Approves Veterans' Legislation
The legislative process 101: Once a bill is reported out of a House committee, it then goes to the Rules Committee who will determine the particulars of debate for the bill—how much time will be allowed for debate, whether amendments can be offered, and other matters. The committee will produce a rule which must be passed by the House.
The Defense Appropriations Bill was scheduled to go to the House floor for approval this week. House Republican leaders intended to limit debate and only allow certain amendments to be offered to the bill. However, that plan was shelved when some Republican members, angry that they could not offer certain amendments, elected to join the Democrats and kill the rule. The amendments included ones that would target the National Security Agency’s phone surveillance program and U.S. military aid to Egypt's government and to Syria's rebels. The members said they'd rather sidetrack the bill than pass it without getting these votes.
Accordingly, the plan to move this week is in jeopardy. If the GOP leadership fails to reach an accord with its members, the bill will certainly be postponed until after the August recess which starts on Friday.
LAWMAKER, STAFFERS ATTEND AUSA BREAKFAST
AUSA hosted Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., key congressional staff members, and top Army and industry leadership at its Institute of Land Warfare (ILW) breakfast last week.
The featured speaker, LTG William Phillips, Director of the Army Acquisition Corps, outlined the impact the current budget crisis is having on Army acquisition, readiness and modernization. He urged that the Congress return to the normal appropriations and authorization process and come to some resolution on the sequestration.
LTG Phillips also gave the audience a detailed explanation of how the Army is working smarter to streamline the appropriations process and save money.
HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE APPROVES VETERANS’ LEGISLATION
The House Economic Opportunity Veterans Affairs Subcommittee approved several measures last week that address education and work benefits for veterans.
Among the approved bills was one introduced by Rep.Bill Young, R-Fla., that would extend benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill to children of military members who succumb to combat-related wounds after a medical discharge, was approved. The program currently provides education and housing assistance to veterans with at least 90 days of service after Sept. 10, 2011, and is available only to children of soldiers who die while serving on active duty. AUSA strongly supports this measure.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., offered a bill (HR 1842) that would permit a court to stay mortgage proceedings against a servicemember while he or she is eligible for hostile-fire or imminent-danger pay. Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., the subcommittee ranking member, said that the legislation would “provide increased protection against home foreclosure for veterans, specifically veterans who are serving in a combat theater.” To be covered under the bill, a servicemember would need to notify creditors when he or she is eligible for hostile-fire or imminent-danger pay. Additionally, the bill also would apply up to one year after a servicemember is medically discharged or placed on convalescent status.
The approved package of bills also included those that would:
* Clarify that separately accredited educational institutions in the same state may consolidate information on veterans enrolled in their programs into one report. (HR 331)
* Permit veterans in a part-time educational program to receive retraining assistance if they are enrolled for at least 16 seat-time hours. (HR 1357)
* Extend the Veterans’ Advisory Committee on Education for two years and include veterans of the post-9/11 operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. (HR 2011)
* Extend homeless veterans reintegration programs for five years. (HR 2150)
* Authorize the Veterans Affairs Department to choose GI benefits for a veteran if the veteran initially elects benefits that are clearly against his or her interests. (HR 2481)
What’s next: The slate of bills will go to the full Veterans’ Affairs Committee for approval.