McConnell to Senate Democrats: Don’t Block Funding for America’s Veterans
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor urging Democrats to support the national defense authorization bill and funding for Veterans Affairs:
“With each passing day the American people are reminded of the peril attached to the Obama Administration’s inflexible determination to conduct American foreign policy based on campaign promises made in 2008.
“These goals — unilaterally withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan based on fixed deadlines, ending the war on terror and some of the critical tools used to pursue Al Qaeda, closing the secure detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, withdrawing from our deployed forward presence, slashing investment in our conventional armed services, and pursuing nuclear agreements with Russia and Iran at any cost — have remained constant although the world has changed right in front of our Commander in Chief.
“And yesterday, we saw the Obama Administration threaten to veto the national defense authorization bill, which recently passed the Senate by a large bipartisan margin of 71 to 25. It passed the House by a big bipartisan margin too.
“This is the legislation that sets out military policy and authorizes funds for our military annually. It’s always one of the most important bills we consider each year, but it’s especially important now. The number of threats currently facing us is staggering.
“The last month, and week, have brought glaring reminders of that.
“We’re now seeing Russian forces deploy to Syria to preserve the Assad regime. Though Moscow may try to cast this as some counter-terrorism campaign, let’s be clear: Russia’s offensive is designed to protect Assad’s Alawite stronghold and Russian military installations while driving out the moderate opposition and compelling coordination of Syrian airspace with the coalition. Russia aims to forcefully insert itself into the middle of coalition operations, to gain insights into the plans of the United States, and to secure a seat at the table.
Meanwhile, our moderate Syrian allies stand appalled that the United States has ceded its leadership position in the broader Middle East.
“And of all the promises made by this administration, withdrawing from Afghanistan by a date certain, seems to ignore the attack upon Kunduz by the Taliban, and the desperate efforts of “President Ghani to secure the gains of the coalition and his country’s future. How can the administration be pondering a withdrawal of the force when the Taliban’s offensive persists and the campaign against Al Qaeda has not yet achieved its defeat.
“So many different threats face us — from Russia and Iran to Syria and ISIL, even China — as do so many different means of attack: conventional, cyber, or terror.
“And now the Obama Administration is talking about vetoing America’s national defense bill?
I’ll have more to say about the national defense bill in coming days. But this is about more than one bill.
“It’s the latest in an increasingly worrying pattern.
“Just last week, Democrats voted again to block funding for our military.
“Democrats had voted for that military funding bill in committee. They’d issued press releases praising it. But then they blocked the Senate from even debating it.
“Now, they appear ready to give the same treatment to our veterans.
“Democrats voted for the veterans funding bill in committee. They issued press releases praising it. But now, they seem prepared to block the Senate from even debating this bill too.
“It’s all part of some half-baked Democrat scheme to get more money for the IRS and Washington bureaucracies.
“I agree, it makes no sense.
“I agree, it’s extreme.
“I agree that it needs to stop now.
“The veterans funding bill before us would do right by the men and women who’ve given everything to protect us -- and who’ve suffered so much under the failings of this administration
“This is the bill that supports veterans by funding the health care and the benefits they rely on.
“This is the bill that supports military families by funding the housing, schools, and health facilities that serve them.
“The veterans legislation before us provides support for women’s health, for medical research, and for veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury.
“It provides funding for design work at a new VA Medical Center in Louisville, for educational facilities at Fort Knox, and for a special operations headquarters at Fort Campbell.
“It also contains important reforms aimed at supporting veterans in the wake of a true national disgrace — the VA scandal. The reforms funded in this bill will allow for greater national and regional progress in reducing VA claims backlogs, and they will deploy important protections for whistleblowers too.
“We have an all-volunteer force in this country. The young men and women who sign up to defend our nation don’t ask for a lot, but our nation certainly asks a lot of them. These heroes shouldn’t have to worry that their benefits, or health care, or the housing and support their families need might not be there.
“There is a long tradition in the Senate of bipartisan support for our troops, our veterans, and their families.
“We saw that bipartisan tradition on full display just a few months ago, when Republicans and Democrats came together in the Appropriations Committee to pass bipartisan legislation to fund our troops and support our veterans.
“We ask a lot of the men and women who serve. They don’t need a bigger IRS or political games like the Democrats’ self-described ‘filibuster summer' -- they need our care and support.
“It’s our turn to give back. Let’s turn back to that bipartisan tradition now, so we can.”
Related Issues: NDAA, Veterans, Appropriations, Senate Democrats, Russia, Syria, America's Military