Friday, May 01, 2015
Hartzler: I fought hard for our troops in budget talks
It was a hectic week in Washington as the House and Senate came together to agree upon a budget for 2016. I am particularly pleased to see that we kept our priorities straight and sufficiently funded our country’s defense forces. I believe that our first priority in Congress should be to provide for the common defense. I fought hard as this budget was coming together to make sure our troops had the resources necessary to address both the expanding threats of today and the potential threats of tomorrow. Additionally, this budget balances without raising taxes, cuts $5.5 trillion in spending, calls for a fairer and simpler tax code, and it calls for the repeal of Obamacare, and I am happy to see it pass and to have been part of crafting this vital legislation.
Along with passing a budget, the House started the appropriations process. The last time appropriations have started this early in the year was in 1974! For reference, in 1974 “Happy Days” was just starting its run, Hank Aaron surpassed Babe Ruth’s homerun record, and St. Louis Cardinals’ Lou Brock was named Sportsman of the Year. It’s been a while, but I am pleased the House is operating under regular order.
The first of the two appropriations bills we passed this week was the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill. As I mentioned, we owe a great deal to the men and women who have stood in harm’s way for our freedom, and this bill ensures that our nation's veterans, servicemen and women, and their families have the benefits and resources they have earned and deserve. In fact, it increases discretionary funding for veterans programs by 5.6 percent from last year. Notably, this bill provides more funding and staff to help speed up VA claims processing and reduce the backlog. This is a balanced bill, providing rigorous Congressional oversight to ensure we are taking care of those who have nobly taken care of us.
The second appropriations bill we passed was the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill. In addition to funding critical national and regional waterways and ensuring the safety and reliability of our nuclear stockpile, this bill helps so many Missourians by prohibiting implementation of the EPA’s flawed “Waters of the U.S.” rule. This is a second strategy we are employing to stop this intrusive rule by defunding the EPA’s ability to carry out the rule, should the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act, a bill I co-sponsored, not pass. I am pleased our appropriations bill passed. Rest assured, I will continue to oppose such federal overreach at every turn.
Additionally, after over 18 hours of rigorous debate and voting, the House Armed Services Committee, of which I am a member, passed the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2016 to provide funding for our national defense. Among much-needed reform measures and other waste-cutting provisions, the NDAA also brings some great opportunities back home to Missouri.