Support for America’s Veterans and Troops Should be Bipartisan
Today, House Republican Leader John Boehner gave a regrettably partisan speech before the American Legion in which he continued to criticize President Obama’s Iraq, security, and veterans’ policies, even as the President is keeping his promise to bring home all combat troops from Iraq and strongly supporting our troops.
Leader Boehner’s partisan rhetoric is an attempt to distract the American people from the failed Republican record on troops and veterans—and their plans to put tax cuts for the wealthy ahead of the needs of our troops and Veterans.
Last week in his economic speech in Ohio, Leader Boehner said we need to go back to 2008 spending levels on all non-defense discretionary spending. The Boehner Republican budget could result in a cut of $13 billion in veterans’ health care and other benefits, even as the needs of our returning soldiers continues to grow.
President Obama and Congress, under Democratic leadership, have taken historic action in support of our troops and veterans such as:
Enacting historic investments in veterans’ health care and services, and ensuring that funding one year in advance to prevent political or legislative delays
Expanding economic opportunities for returning soldiers
Unfortunately, despite Mr. Boehner’s rhetoric, Congressional Republicans have voted against a number of key measures to meet our solemn obligation to our troops and veterans, voting:
Against Providing Our Troops with Equipment They Need: Voted against providing our troops in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan with everything they need during the remainder of FY 2009, such as $1.9 billion more than requested for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to protect our troops.
Against Stop Loss Payment for Troops: Voted against providing special $500 payments for every month that 185,000 service members and veterans were forced to serve under stop-loss orders since September 11, 2001.
Against Support for Our Troops: Republicans voted against restoring our nation’s military readiness by funding the Army’s and Marine Corps’ equipment reset requirements, giving the military a 3.4 percent pay raise, and expanding and strengthening health care services.
Against Extending the New GI Bill for Children of Fallen Soldiers: Republicans voted against extending the New GI Bill college benefits to all children of service members who have died on active duty since 9-11-01.
Against Veterans Job Creation and Economic Help: Republicans voted against providing businesses with a $2,400 tax break for the hiring of an unemployed veteran, a $250 one-time payment to nearly 2 million disabled veterans receiving benefits from the Veterans Affairs Department as part of the make-work-pay tax credit, and $1.2 billion for veterans’ medical facilities repairs throughout the country.
Against Activated Military Reservists: Republicans voted against ensuring that activated military reservists do not suffer a pay cut by providing a tax credit for small businesses employers who continue to pay their National Guard and Reserve employees when they are called up to serve.
Looking back at Congressional Republicans’ record during President Bush’s term in office:
The Bush Administration’s poor planning for the Iraq war failed to provide essential equipment to protect our troops, with these shortages resulting in many unnecessary deaths and injuries. For example, it took more than 18 months after the Iraqi invasion for the Pentagon to provide body armor to all American soldiers. Soldiers and their families were forced to purchase their own body armor.
Republicans voted against a $1,500 bonus for troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan while voting for a pay raise for themselves. [H.R. 3289, Vote #554, 10/17/03. Rejected 213-213]
The Bush Administration cut off veterans’ health care for veterans who make as little as $26,000 a year in the lead up to the Iraq War, which resulted in more than 1.6 million veterans being denied VA health care over four years.
As the Iraq War began, House Republicans voted to cut $14 billion from veterans’ health care and $14 billion from veterans’ benefits, including veterans’ pensions, compensation, and education. This could have denied health care to 168,000 veterans, or cut the number of VA nurses by 8,700. [H Con. Res 95, 2003 Vote #82, 3/21/03]
Republicans ousted Rep. Chris Smith from his chairmanship of the Veterans Committee because he was too strong a proponent for our veterans. “Veterans groups were incensed this week when word surfaced that Smith might be replaced. The Veterans of Foreign Wars sent a letter to House Speaker Hastert Monday expressing ’intense opposition’ to any efforts to remove the chairman. … Smith challenged GOP leaders and the Bush administration over funding proposals for veterans, and was one of 10 Republicans to oppose the budget resolution last year.” [Congress Daily, 1/6/05]
Republicans voted for the FY 2007 budget that hurts America’s veterans, including cuts in health care totaling $6 billion and as much as tripling TRICARE health care costs for military retirees under 65. [HCR376, 5/18/2006, Vote# 158]