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Hopefully, spending bills will move quickly through Congress

Monday, February 08, 2016

The busy season on Capitol Hill is here, and your Government Affairs team is leaning forward in the saddle.

The new Speaker of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has vowed to move spending bills through the House of Representatives on an earlier schedule than has been the norm over the last decade.

He has also reached out to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., with hopes that Democrats won’t block spending bills from reaching the Senate floor for action.

While this is encouraging, we will watch whether actions follow words in this presidential election year.

February and beyond

The first two weeks of February were critical for our Army.

The Commission on the Future of the United States Army released its long anticipated report on Jan. 28, and the president released the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Request on Feb. 9.

As Congress digests these two documents, they will hear testimony from our Army’s key leaders.

The hearings will last through the spring, and if Ryan is able to keep his commitment, the relevant committees will begin their mark-up in March, two months earlier than usual.

This is only possible because the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, enacted last October, set the budget topline numbers for Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017.

If the House is able to pass a budget resolution, the committees will then be given their allocation from the total and can begin their work.

The AUSA Government Affairs team is hopeful that the House will be able to move authorization and appropriations bills using "regular order" and send the bills to the Senate before the seven-week Congressional recess in July and August.

However, the history of the last 50 years tells us that this has only happened a few times during a presidential election year.

It seems the temptation to score political points against the opposing party becomes too strong to resist, and then progress on bills stops.

While Army leaders are in the spotlight giving testimony, your AUSA leadership and Government Affairs team will be working on Capitol Hill to advocate for soldiers.

During January, AUSA met with several senior Department of Defense, Joint and Army leaders to understand the official position the Army will take with regard to improving and protecting the Military Healthcare System.

The House and Senate Armed Services Committees have vowed to address reforming military health care this year, and AUSA has met with key professional staff members to express the ideas and concerns of our members.

As the contentious issues of 2016 are revealed, AUSA will take a stand and ask for your help to weigh in.

This will be an important year for our chapters to increase their awareness of what is going on in Washington, D.C., and your Government Affairs team will help keep you informed.

When Congress is in session, we publish a "Legislative Update" each week on our website, allowing members to keep up to date as events unfold.

I encourage you to check it out!

See you on the high ground.

John Gifford, Director, Government Affairs