The House passed two FY 2015 appropriations bills – the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill and the Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill.
The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill fulfills our moral and legal obligation to our veterans, ensuring they have quality medical care, job and training programs, and other benefits they have earned. This bill increases discretionary spending for veterans programs by $1.58 billion above last year, providing $64.7 billion for our country’s veterans.
Additionally, this legislation protects active-duty service members by providing $6.6 billion for construction of military family housing, military facilities, DoD education facilities and Guard and Reserve facilities. It is imperative that the federal government provide adequate resources for our men and women in uniform and that it stand by our veterans by fully embracing the belief that promises made must be promises that are kept. I am pleased the bill invests $45 million to address a number of issues of importance to veterans, especially the backlog in claims, and to allow the VA to continue serving 6.7 million patients. It is unacceptable for veterans to have to wait months or years to receive a determination on their status. We must conquer this tragedy.
Finally, the bill requires both DoD and the VA to implement a system to share medical data in a timely and accurate manner. The VA will be held accountable by restricting funding until it ensures that its system will be compatible with DoD’s records. Additionally, funds are included for the modernization of the VA electronic health record system, which will help with the process of getting veterans the designation they need.
The Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill funds Congress and the agencies that support Congress. The bill maintains the FY 2014 funding levels for the House – holding the line on spending. Members of Congress are asked to tighten their belts, by continuing their pay freeze that has been in place since 2010. In fact, overall funding for the House has been reduced by 14 percent since Republicans gained control in 2011. It is my belief that because hardworking American families must live within their means, Congress must do the same.
On another matter this week, my House Budget Committee colleagues and I discussed the fight against poverty and efforts to expand economic opportunity for all Americans. Clearly, there is plenty of room for improvement over the failed policies of the past. The status quo is not working and more of the same will not solve any problems. It is imperative that we learn what helps enable Americans to find solutions that will benefit them and future generations. I was pleased to take part in the beginning of an important conversation that must be extended beyond Washington to communities across the country.
On still another matter, I had the pleasure last weekend of announcing the winners of the Congressional Art Competition that featured artwork from high school students in Missouri’s Fourth Congressional District. The first prize winner is Taylor Ellebracht of Boonville, who attends Boonville High School, for her work titled, “Misty.” The second place ribbon was awarded to Megan Carpenter of Elkland for her art titled “Draped American Flag.” Third place honors went to Megan Schmeling of Martinsburg for her artwork titled “Grampa’s Farmall.”
Forty-four entries were submitted by some of our district’s very talented young artists. I’m sure it was no easy task for our judge to decide on the three finalists and eventually choose the first place prize winner. I congratulate Taylor Ellebracht who captured the first place ribbon using colored pencil to provide the viewer with a beautiful close-up of her family dog.
The winning entry will hang in the Capitol in Washington for one year and will join artwork from other Congressional districts across the country. Winners of the second and third place ribbons will have the opportunity to display their artwork in the Fourth District offices in Harrisonville and Columbia for visitors to enjoy over the next year. Come by and see the great work!
I look forward to welcoming Taylor to Washington for the ceremony unveiling winning entries from throughout the country. There were so many superb contributions. I congratulate all of our district’s talented students who entered this contest.
Finally, young people from Girls Inc. visited Capitol Hill this week to “shadow” Members of Congress and to learn a little more about what the representatives of the people do when they are in Washington. My “shadow” was Kyaria Glover of Brooklyn, NY.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Kyaria and wish her the best in school and in life.
Have a great week.