Senate Proceeds to Consider Veterans Affairs Funding Bill

Democratic Filibuster Abandoned on FY2016 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate on Thursday agreed to consider the FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Bill (HR.2029) which provides important funding for veterans’ benefits and programs and makes funding available to equip, support and house military personnel.

The measure, reported by the Senate Committee on Appropriations in May, is the first to overcome Democratic filibusters of all FY2016 funding bills. Senators will now begin to consider a substitute amendment to HR.2029 that adjusts funding to comport with the two-year Balanced Budget Act of 2015 (PL.114-74).

The substitute amendment recommends a total of $79.7 billion in discretionary funding, a more than $2.1 billion increase over the committee-reported bill. This amount is $7.9 billion above the FY2015 funding level and $1.0 billion over the President’s FY2016 budget request.

“I am pleased that the Senators will, for the first time in two years, be allowed to debate, amend and vote on an individual appropriations bill. There was no reason this important legislation should have been filibustered. It is a bipartisan bill that will provide necessary funding to support our veterans and their families,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.).

“We are one step closer to putting veterans first and partisanship aside,” said Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), chairman of the Senate MilCon-VA Appropriations Subcommittee. “This bipartisan bill funds veterans’ care at record levels – $1.1 billion above what the president requested. With this bill it is my hope that we can confront the systemic retaliation against the medical personnel who try to protect veterans.”

Overall, the substitute recommends $8.2 billion for military construction and $71.2 billion in discretionary funding for veterans programs, a $1.9 billion over the committee’s mark for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The increase of $1.9 billion is for VA Medical Services, increasing the total to $50.7 billion for the treatment and care for approximately 6.9 million veterans in FY2016.

The substitute would provide a total of $101 million for the Arlington National Cemetery, a $30 million increase over the committee-approved bill.

An effort to bring the FY2016 MilCon-VA Appropriations Bill to the floor for consideration was filibustered in September by Democratic Senators. The motion to proceed vote today was unanimous, 93-0.

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