Amendment Text: H.Amdt.1153 — 110th Congress (2007-2008)

There is one version of the amendment.

Shown Here:
Amendment as Offered (07/31/2008)

This Amendment appears on page H7751 in the following article from the Congressional Record.



[Pages H7749-H7775]
  MILITARY CONSTRUCTION AND VETERANS AFFAIRS APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2009

  The Committee resumed its sitting.

                              {time}  2200

  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will read.
  The Clerk read as follows:

                      Departmental Administration

                       general operating expenses

       For necessary operating expenses of the Department of 
     Veterans Affairs, not otherwise provided for, including 
     administrative expenses in support of Department-Wide capital 
     planning, management and policy activities, uniforms, or 
     allowances therefor; not to exceed $25,000 for official 
     reception and representation expenses; hire of passenger 
     motor vehicles; and reimbursement of the General Services 
     Administration for security guard services, and the 
     Department of Defense for the cost of overseas employee mail, 
     $1,801,867,000: Provided, That expenses for services and 
     assistance authorized under paragraphs (1), (2), (5), and 
     (11) of section 3104(a) of title 38, United States Code, that 
     the Secretary of Veterans Affairs determines are necessary to 
     enable entitled veterans: (1) to the maximum extent feasible, 
     to become employable and to obtain and maintain suitable 
     employment; or (2) to achieve maximum independence in daily 
     living, shall be charged to this account: Provided further, 
     That the Veterans Benefits Administration shall be funded at 
     not less than $1,473,753,000: Provided further, That of the 
     funds made available under this heading, not to exceed 
     $75,000,000 shall be available for obligation until September 
     30, 2010: Provided further, That from the funds made 
     available under this heading, the Veterans Benefits 
     Administration may purchase (on a one-for-one replacement 
     basis only) up to two passenger motor vehicles for use in 
     operations of that Administration in Manila, Philippines.

                     information technology systems

       For necessary expenses for information technology systems 
     and telecommunications support, including developmental 
     information systems and operational information systems; 
     including pay and associated cost; for the capital asset 
     acquisition of information technology systems, including 
     management and related contractual costs of said 
     acquisitions, including contractual costs associated with 
     operations authorized by section 3109 of title 5, United 
     States Code, $2,492,066,000, plus reimbursements, to be 
     available until September 30, 2010: Provided, That none of 
     these funds may be obligated until the Department of Veterans 
     Affairs submits to the Committees on Appropriations of both 
     Houses of Congress, and such Committees approve, a plan for 
     expenditure that: (1) meets the capital planning and 
     investment control review requirements established by the 
     Office of Management and Budget; (2) complies with the 
     Department of Veterans Affairs enterprise architecture; (3) 
     conforms with an established enterprise life cycle 
     methodology; and (4) complies with the acquisition rules, 
     requirements, guidelines, and systems acquisition management 
     practices of the Federal Government: Provided further, That 
     within 30 days of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of 
     Veterans Affairs shall submit to the Committees on 
     Appropriations of both Houses of Congress a reprogramming 
     base letter which provides, by project, the costs included in 
     this appropriation.

         Amendment No. 11 Offered by Mr. Garrett of New Jersey

  Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the 
desk.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. Is there objection to returning to that point in 
the reading?
  There was no objection.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
  The text of the amendment is as follows:

       Amendment No. 11 offered by Mr. Garrett of New Jersey:
       Page 36, line 5, after the dollar amount, insert ``(reduced 
     by $18,018,000)''.
       Page 41, line 22, after the dollar amount, insert 
     ``(increased by $18,018,000)''.

  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, I often come to the floor, 
and I often preface my remarks when I have an amendment, saying that I 
come to the floor tonight with a commonsense amendment. Quite candidly, 
I think that is more than apropos when I speak about what I'm here to 
speak about tonight.
  My amendment simply does this: It seeks to increase the funds for 
State veterans homes, and it does so in the amount of $18 million. From 
where does it get the money? Well, it does so by reducing the 
administrative expenses by a mere less than 1 percent, and that's a 
critical number, less than 1 percent. We believe that within that over 
billion dollar line that there is more than enough aptitude for going 
in and for finding less than 1 percent of additional funds that we 
could take out and put to a worthy cause such as toward our State 
veterans homes.
  Today, there are 126 State extended care facilities. They're extended 
across all 50 States and in Puerto Rico as well. These veterans homes 
care for nearly 30,000 of our Nation's heroes. The number of veterans 
requiring care will continue to increase as servicemembers return from 
Iraq and Afghanistan.
  Currently, there is a backlog, a huge, extensive backlog of projects 
waiting for funds. Now, many of these projects on this waiting list are 
critical for providing veterans with a healthy and secure environment. 
In fact, of the almost 200 projects waiting for Federal funds, nearly 
half of them are classified as priority 1.

[[Page H7750]]

  I believe it is our duty to see that these facilities are able to 
provide the highest quality of care for the lives of those who have 
made the sacrifices for our Nation. After all, you can't really just 
call these things ``institutions'' anymore. These really are the homes 
where our veterans will spend out the days of their lives.
  The staffs of these homes work hard to honor our veterans and to 
ensure that their last years are spent in comfort. I've had the 
pleasure now of working with folks back at the Paramus Veterans Home in 
my district in Bergen County, New Jersey. I've frequently visited with 
them and with their relatives who would come and visit, and local 
veterans organizations around the area would also come in, and they 
would work with them. These service organizations have worked hard to 
raise matching funds for these types of essential projects at these 
facilities. Likewise, they do across the Nation and, I'm sure, in each 
of your districts as well.
  I would also like to make one other point. That is, in the Senate 
bill, in the Senate MilCon-VA Appropriations bill, they designate 
$1.779 billion for general operating expenses while the House version 
designates $1.801 billion. So we appropriate a little bit more than the 
Senate does. So that 1 percent cut from the appropriations line for the 
general operating expenses would still leave more money in the final 
version of the bill than the Senate version currently has. We know we 
have different numbers here so that, when it gets to conference, those 
numbers have to come into an equilibrium of some sense. We're up here. 
The Senate is over here. This will bring us closer to that equilibrium.
  In addition, our colleagues over on the Senate Appropriations 
Committee have approved $250 million for the State veterans homes while 
the House budget only puts in $165 million. So my amendment would 
simply reduce this discrepancy by increasing the funding for State 
veterans homes by $18 million. In other words, we're in the House at 
$165 million. The Senate is at $250 million. We're just trying to bring 
the House number up a little bit closer to where the Senate is, which 
probably will happen once it gets into conference committee, because 
those numbers have to work together.
  So I'm just suggesting that a tiny, less than 1 percent cut in the 
administrative operations would allow us to provide our country's 
heroes with a better quality of life, and I think that's what we owe 
all of them. I hope that we can find a way to work together across the 
aisle to honor our vets and to make sure that they receive excellent 
care in all of their facilities.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to this 
amendment.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Let me begin by saying to my colleague from New 
Jersey (Mr. Garrett) that I salute his focus on the importance of 
increasing the funding for State extended care facilities, long-term 
care for America's veterans. That is exactly why, as the chairman of 
this subcommittee, I have worked on a bipartisan basis with our other 
subcommittee members and with Mr. Wamp, the ranking member, to increase 
by 94 percent above President Bush's request of funding for this 
program, 94 percent above the President's request. So I have no problem 
with the intent of what he is trying to accomplish, because we've been 
working on this very issue for months this year, and the bill product 
is proof of the success of that effort.
  The reason I strongly oppose the gentleman's amendment is that it 
would take funding out of the very account that is needed to address 
one of our veterans' and veterans service organizations' highest 
priorities in the entire VA budget, and that is to reduce the 
unconscionable backlog of veterans who are waiting to have their claims 
processed, including a backlog for combat wounded veterans to have 
their benefit cases considered.
  Right now, there are nearly 400,000 veterans waiting to get their 
claims processed. What this amendment would do is take enough money out 
of that budget that would require the VA to cut 250 claims processors. 
Maybe that sounds like a rounding error to some, but to America's 
veterans, to 390,000 of them to be exact who are waiting for the 
processing of their benefits they earned by service and even by their 
sacrifice to our country, that's a significant cut, and it would do 
great harm to one of the highest priorities of our veterans service 
organizations.
  Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Would the gentleman yield at this point?
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. I'd like to finish first.
  So I wish the gentleman would withdraw the amendment and that we 
would continue to work in good faith as we already have this year, and 
that's evidenced by the 94 percent increase above the President's 
request for these.
  I cannot go along with cutting funding that could lead to the loss of 
250 claims processors that would link them to an already 6-month delay. 
For 6 months our veterans are having to wait to get their claims 
considered.
  Our servicemen and -women, Mr. Chairman, didn't delay when Uncle Sam 
sent them to combat. They went to all parts of the Earth and into 
harm's way when our country asked them to do so. They didn't ask for a 
6-month delay. For the National Guardsmen, the 500 I met last Sunday 
afternoon in my hometown of Waco, many of whom are going back to Iraq 
for their second and third tours of duty, they didn't wait 6 months 
when their country called on them to duty, and I don't think it's right 
to ask 390,000 veterans to wait 6 months.
  We desperately need to get that waiting time down, and I think, 
though well intended and for a good cause--and it is well intended and 
it is a good cause--that this amendment that I have strongly supported 
could do harm to 390,000 veterans. That's why I rise in strong 
opposition to this amendment.
  If I have some time remaining, I'd be glad to yield to the gentleman.
  Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
  It appears that we're on the same page on this, but let me just make 
this one suggestion:
  While the 250 positions are out there and while there's a waiting 
list out there for that group, there's also, as I've suggested, around 
200-some-odd projects or more, actually, over half of which are on a 
critical category 1 list. So we have two important lists that have long 
waiting lists that have to be addressed.
  My suggestion is that, if this were to pass and if we were to reduce 
the funds by $18 million, there's nothing in the amendment that says to 
the administration take the $18 million out of this over $1.4 billion 
line and take it from the 250. You and I would have to agree that they 
must be able to find some other area to take it from than these 250.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. I would point out, Mr. Chairman, the gentleman 
never identified where he would cut the money from specifically, and 
this is the account that funds our claims processors that are 
desperately needed. I'd be happy to continue to work with the gentleman 
in a good faith, bipartisan effort to look for every dollar we can find 
for extended care facilities, but let's not take that out of the hide 
of nearly 400,000 veterans who have been waiting 6 months to get their 
benefits started.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Garrett).
  The question was taken; and the Acting Chairman announced that the 
noes appeared to have it.
  Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. Pursuant to clause 6 of rule XVIII, further 
proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentleman from New Jersey 
will be postponed.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will read.
  The Clerk read as follows:

                      office of inspector general

       For necessary expenses of the Office of Inspector General, 
     to include information technology, in carrying out the 
     provisions of the Inspector General Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. 
     App.), $87,818,000, of which $5,000,000 shall be available 
     until September 30, 2010.

                      construction, major projects

       For constructing, altering, extending, and improving any of 
     the facilities, including parking projects, under the 
     jurisdiction or for the use of the Department of Veterans

[[Page H7751]]

     Affairs, or for any of the purposes set forth in sections 
     316, 2404, 2406, 8102, 8103, 8106, 8108, 8109, 8110, and 8122 
     of title 38, United States Code, including planning, 
     architectural and engineering services, construction 
     management services, maintenance or guarantee period services 
     costs associated with equipment guarantees provided under the 
     project, services of claims analysts, offsite utility and 
     storm drainage system construction costs, and site 
     acquisition, where the estimated cost of a project is more 
     than the amount set forth in section 8104(a)(3)(A) of title 
     38, United States Code, or where funds for a project were 
     made available in a previous major project appropriation, 
     $923,382,000, to remain available until expended, of which 
     $10,000,000 shall be to make reimbursements as provided in 
     section 13 of the Contract Disputes Act of 1978 (41 U.S.C. 
     612) for claims paid for contract disputes: Provided, That 
     except for advance planning activities, including needs 
     assessments which may or may not lead to capital investments, 
     and other capital asset management related activities, 
     including portfolio development and management activities, 
     and investment strategy studies funded through the advance 
     planning fund and the planning and design activities funded 
     through the design fund, including needs assessments which 
     may or may not lead to capital investments, and funds 
     provided for the purchase of land for the National Cemetery 
     Administration through the land acquisition line item, none 
     of the funds appropriated under this heading shall be used 
     for any project which has not been approved by the Congress 
     in the budgetary process: Provided further, That funds 
     provided in this appropriation for fiscal year 2009, for each 
     approved project shall be obligated: (1) by the awarding of a 
     construction documents contract by September 30, 2009; and 
     (2) by the awarding of a construction contract by September 
     30, 2010: Provided further, That the Secretary of Veterans 
     Affairs shall promptly submit to the Committees on 
     Appropriations of both Houses of Congress a written report on 
     any approved major construction project for which obligations 
     are not incurred within the time limitations established 
     above: Provided further, That none of the funds appropriated 
     in this or any other Act may be used to reduce the mission, 
     services, or infrastructure, including land, of the 18 
     facilities on the Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced 
     Services (CARES) list requiring further study, as specified 
     by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, without prior approval 
     of the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of 
     Congress:  Provided further, That of the amount appropriated 
     in this paragraph, $798,852,000 shall be for the site 
     specific projects, and in the amounts, specified under this 
     heading in the report of the Committee on Appropriations of 
     the House of Representatives to accompany this bill.

                      construction, minor projects

       For constructing, altering, extending, and improving any of 
     the facilities, including parking projects, under the 
     jurisdiction or for the use of the Department of Veterans 
     Affairs, including planning and assessments of needs which 
     may lead to capital investments, architectural and 
     engineering services, maintenance or guarantee period 
     services costs associated with equipment guarantees provided 
     under the project, services of claims analysts, offsite 
     utility and storm drainage system construction costs, and 
     site acquisition, or for any of the purposes set forth in 
     sections 316, 2404, 2406, 8102, 8103, 8106, 8108, 8109, 8110, 
     8122, and 8162 of title 38, United States Code, where the 
     estimated cost of a project is equal to or less than the 
     amount set forth in section 8104(a)(3)(A) of title 38, United 
     States Code, $991,492,000, to remain available until 
     expended, along with unobligated balances of previous 
     ``Construction, minor projects'' appropriations which are 
     hereby made available for any project where the estimated 
     cost is equal to or less than the amount set forth in such 
     section: Provided, That funds in this account shall be 
     available for: (1) repairs to any of the nonmedical 
     facilities under the jurisdiction or for the use of the 
     Department which are necessary because of loss or damage 
     caused by any natural disaster or catastrophe; and (2) 
     temporary measures necessary to prevent or to minimize 
     further loss by such causes.

                 Amendment No. 28 Offered by Mr. Buyer

  Mr. BUYER. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
  The text of the amendment is as follows:

       Amendment No. 28 offered by Mr. Buyer:

       Page 41, line 14, before the period insert ``: Provided 
     further: That $7,000,000 of the amount appropriated in this 
     paragraph shall be for the installation of alternative 
     fueling stations at 35 medical facility campuses''.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Indiana is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. BUYER. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment that would provide $7 
million of the amount appropriated in the Department of Veterans 
Affairs' VA Minor Construction account. These moneys shall be used for 
the VA to install alternative fueling stations at 35 of its medical 
facility campuses across the country. This is one of many measures that 
can be taken to address the impact of the rising energy prices and to 
alleviate our Nation's dependence on foreign oil.
  We have an energy crisis in this country, and unfortunately, some are 
not taking action before we leave on this August break. The House will 
recess, and we'll go 5 weeks, and we'll not be taking up meaningful 
energy legislation, but we have an opportunity tonight.
  It was in 2007 that President Bush issued executive order 13423, 
``strengthening Federal environment, energy and transportation 
management,'' mandating a reduction of the amount of petroleum 
consumption for Federal transportation.
  In compliance with the President's order, the VA has taken steps to 
install E-85, ethanol fueling stations, at six VA medical centers--in 
Altoona, Pennsylvania, in Augusta, Georgia, in Cleveland, Ohio, in 
Danville, Illinois, in Little Rock, Arkansas, and most recently in San 
Francisco, California.
  I would think that Speaker Pelosi would want other VA facilities in 
other States and members' districts to have the very same fueling 
stations that are available at the San Francisco VA medical center in 
her own congressional district.
  According to the VA, it has nearly 11,000 vehicles that collectively 
travel more than 100 million miles a year. The VA acquired over 1,000 
Alternative Fuel Vehicles in FY 2007, and 99 percent of these are 
flexible fuel vehicles that can use E-85. The installation of 
alternative fuel stations at more VA sites would have a huge impact on 
the reduction of greenhouse gases and in the amount of petroleum 
consumed. Based on recent discussions with the Department, I am 
confident that, if funding is provided, the VA could install 
alternative fueling stations at the 35 additional sites.
  Mr. Edwards knows full well that he is about $662 million above the 
President's request and nearly $361 million more than in FY 2008.
  So, again, in facing the tremendous energy challenge in this Nation, 
we must act collectively in a bipartisan fashion to reduce our 
dependence on bad actors around the world that control our energy 
supplies. There are more than a dozen alternative and advanced fuels in 
production and that used today, one of which is E-85, an 85 percent 
ethanol mixture, which in the United States is based primarily on corn. 
Investing in the use of alternative transportation fuel services is one 
way to help increase the supply of American-made fuel.
  I think Mr. Edwards and I would agree we're anxious to get to 
nonedible fiber--cellulosic ethanol.
  This use of renewable domestic energy sources will contribute to an 
enhancement of energy security, and it will reduce the reliance on 
foreign oil. The installation of alternative fueling stations on VA 
campuses will reduce greenhouse emissions and the VA's gasoline costs, 
and it will provide funds for direct health care services for the men 
and women who have taken the oath to defend the freedoms and our way of 
life.
  I urge my colleagues to support the amendment.
  I yield to the gentleman.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Let me just commend Mr. Buyer for not only his 
leadership on veterans affairs over the years but for this amendment. I 
think this is a reasonable, responsible amendment, and I'll be glad to 
support it.
  Mr. BUYER. I thank the gentleman.
  I yield back the balance of my time.

                              {time}  2215

  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Buyer).
  The amendment was agreed to.
  Mr. WAMP. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Tennessee is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. WAMP. I do want to point out, in follow-up support to the 
gentleman's amendment, about how important it is for us to advance 
alternative sources just across the board throughout the military. The 
Military Construction bill is kind of a small piece, frankly, of the 
energy utilization across the entire Department of Defense, but it is 
something that we clearly should come together on.

[[Page H7752]]

  The military is a tremendous user of energy, we all know that. There 
is no question that we can do better there. And this was an excellent 
amendment offered by a gentleman who's got just tremendous history here 
with the Veterans Committee and a great patriot. So I think we want to 
encourage all of those type uses as we move forward.
  We're coming together here on the bill tonight, I think we're making 
great progress. Over the next 2 to 3 hours I think we can get through 
the rest of the sections of this bill. Certain Members are working out 
agreements as I speak right now, and so we're trying to draft this 
language. And I'm kind of keeping the ball rolling now, as you can 
tell, so that we can get this language drafted. I think we're making 
the progress that we need tonight.
  Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. BUYER. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Indiana is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. BUYER. I would like to thank Chairman Chet Edwards. I would like 
to thank Zach Wamp. And to my good friend from Texas that I've worked 
with for many years, we have a challenge in front of us with regard to 
an amendment. And the challenge is that I've prepared an amendment that 
$150 million, Mr. Chairman, would be dedicated under the minor 
construction account--for which there's a lot of dollars here--for the 
installation of appropriate solar electric energy roof applications.
  Now, we had several meetings, Chairman Edwards, with a lot of 
lawyers, and the lawyers were looking at the applications of the rules 
and the processes. The interesting thing is, when we drafted the 
amendment--we're having the conversation that you said we didn't have 
time to do in private, so we're having to do it in public. So I have to 
do it now before we actually get into the details of the amendment.
  So when I did the amendment, we put it at the end, on page 41 here, 
line 14. Now, when I put it there on the applications of solar, my 
assumption is that when you then look at all the general authorities, 
section 316, that's about colocation authority; section 2404, that's 
administration; 2406 is acquisition; 8102 is also acquisition--one is 
acquisition of land, 2406; 8102 is acquisition of medical facilities; 
8103, that's minor construction. All these other sections have nothing 
to do with solar.
  So my assumption, Mr. Chairman, when I put this in here, I did not 
put at the end of the amendment ``at VA medical facilities.'' My 
assumption is that, well, we're not going to put it on tombstones, 
we're not going to put it in a parking lot, and it doesn't apply 
anywhere else.
  But when I talked with the lawyers, they're like, you know, Steve, 
you just can't do it like that. And you need to actually have at the 
end the words ``at VA medical facilities.'' So now I've got myself in a 
bit of a jam.
  Now, Mr. Edwards, we can do this several ways: I could offer the 
amendment. I could then present all the arguments of solar and what the 
VA is presently doing in the 16 sites that they're proceeding with. And 
if you say, well, but I don't like the amount, I could do a UC, we 
could agree to a particular amount, we could add the language. We go to 
conference. If you say, nope, we're not going to have anything, okay. 
Well, what could I do? I could look at your language--which is general 
language--and say, well, that's fine; whatever you do at conference, 
that's fine with me. I'll just go down and I'll work with the 
Secretary. I'll negotiate with the Secretary and I'll take whatever 
those monies are and we'll do it that way.
  But what I want to do with you, Chairman Edwards, is that you and I 
have worked together a lot over the years. And you and I are in 
agreement when it comes to alternative sources of energy. So let's be 
practical. If you want to say to me, Steve, don't do $150 million; 
lower the amount, add the language, we'll work this out in conference 
and we'll work with the Secretary, that's how we work these things out.
  I yield to the gentleman from Tennessee.
  Mr. WAMP. Well, I was prepared to perfect your amendment, if it's 
ruled in order, with the words ``at VA medical facilities'' to make 
sure that it complied with the letter of the law. But I think it's an 
outstanding amendment. And I would like to see it see the light of day, 
but I understand there may be a point of order reserved.
  Mr. BUYER. I would like to reclaim my time and now have a 
conversation with the chairman. You said you wanted to have one.
  I'm going to give great deference here, which way do you want me to 
go?
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Well, the gentleman talked a few minutes ago 
about how we've worked together; and I think 10 minutes ago was an 
example of that where I accepted the gentleman's $7 million amendment.
  On this one, I think the gentleman's explanation about all the 
problems that have occurred are the perfect reason why I have real 
concerns about an amendment that already has technical problems in it, 
an amendment that could deal with up to $150 million coming out of 
minor construction projects, which are so important for our VA 
hospitals and clinics, I think this just isn't the right way to handle 
an amendment of that magnitude.
  I think the gentleman knows me well; and I will work with him and Mr. 
Wamp in all good faith and see, as we go to conference, if there are 
places we can find reasonable funding sources for solar applications. 
But taking $150 million, for example, would be 15 percent of the VA's 
minor construction project. And the very intent of that funding is to 
prevent in the VA system what Americans were outraged at in the Army 
hospital system at Walter Reed.
  Mr. BUYER. Reclaiming my time, when I make the UC to add ``at VA 
medical facilities,'' what amount do you feel is reasonable?
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The time of the gentleman from Indiana has 
expired.
  (By unanimous consent, Mr. Buyer was allowed to proceed for 1 
additional minute.)
  Mr. BUYER. I yield to the chairman.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. And the gentleman's question is what amount is 
reasonable?
  Mr. BUYER. What amount do you think is reasonable?
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Well, what's not reasonable, I would say to the 
gentleman, is trying to decide at 10:25 at night an amendment that has 
already had technical difficulties, an amendment we haven't had a 
hearing on in our subcommittee--we had 20 hearings over 100 hours, this 
issue never came up.
  So my intention is to object to the unanimous consent request, but in 
good faith, just as I showed a few minutes ago on the $7 million 
amendment, let's continue to work together and see if we can find a 
way. I think having solar panels at VA facilities is something that can 
be an excellent idea, but this isn't the way to bring about that 
policy.
  Mr. BUYER. I reclaim my time. I will offer the amendment, we'll go 
through the procedures, we'll talk about solar, and we'll work with you 
as we go to conference. If it's not there, I'll just go right down 
Pennsylvania Avenue and I'll work with the administration and we'll get 
the number necessary to fund the 16 sites. That's how the town works.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The time of the gentleman has expired.


                 Amendment No. 29 Offered by Mr. Buyer

  Mr. BUYER. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
  The text of the amendment is as follows:

       Amendment No. 29 offered by Mr. Buyer:
       Page 41, line 14, before the period insert ``: Provided 
     further: That $150,000,000 of the amount appropriated in this 
     paragraph shall be for the installation of appropriate solar 
     electric energy roof applications''.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I reserve a point of order on the 
gentleman's amendment.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. A point of order is reserved.
  The gentleman from Indiana is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. BUYER. Mr. Chairman, my amendment would provide $150 million of 
the amount appropriated in the Department of Veterans Affairs minor 
construction account for the installation of solar electronic roof 
applications.
  Qualified solar technologies to be considered included, but not 
limited to,

[[Page H7753]]

distributed thin-film solar, amorphous crystalline, nano photovoltaic, 
and technology systems. What we're trying to do is harness the energy 
of the sun.
  Alternative and renewable sources, such as solar power--whether it's 
wind, geothermal, hydrogen, biomass--all of these are extremely 
important. They play an important role in addressing rising energy 
prices and alleviate our Nation's dependence on foreign oil.
  We have an energy crisis in this country. Peak oil is approaching 
year 2037. We need to rebalance the Nation's portfolio. And in order to 
do that, we increase our Nation's energy supply to bridge ourselves 
beyond the alternative energy future in which we seek. We must begin to 
act and to take decisive measures to address the impact of high energy 
costs on the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  VA medical centers consume large amounts of energy, especially for 
advanced technologies such as CAT scans, MRIs, that are necessary to 
provide state-of-the-art medical technologies.
  Between 2005 and 2007, VA's energy costs increased by 20 percent. 
Last year, the VA identified 16 potential sites for solar projects. 
It's in Calverton, New York; Gustine, California; Phoenix, Arizona; 
Fresno, California; West Los Angeles, California; Loma Linda, 
California; Long Beach, California; Dallas, Texas; Palo Alto, 
California; Sheridan, Wyoming; Reno, Nevada; Tucson, Arizona; Syracuse, 
New York; Buffalo, New York; West Haven, Connecticut; and Albany, New 
York. Yes, I am on the floor asking that we fund 11 Democrat districts 
and five Republican.
  Last year, when they identified these, they did feasibility studies 
with regard to these 16 sites. This summer, the VA plans to move 
forward to install rooftop solar systems at two sites, Loma Linda and 
Dallas.
  Solar technologies, they diversify our energy supply, they reduce our 
dependence on imported fuels, improve our air quality, and offset 
greenhouse gases.
  And I'm also interested that, as we move toward American-made energy 
solutions, that we buy solar systems that are made in America, not ones 
that are made in China or in Germany or in other places. We should do 
it here.
  At this point, I would like to clarify the amendment. I ask unanimous 
consent that at the end of my amendment, after the word 
``applications,'' insert the following: ``At VA medical facilities.''
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Indiana?
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I object.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. Objection is heard.
  Mr. BUYER. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to strike the amount 
of $150 million and insert the amount of $75 million.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Indiana?
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Yes, I object.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. Objection is heard.
  Mr. BUYER. Mr. Chairman, it is important that we continue to invest 
now to reduce the energy costs into the future. The opportunity to 
employ this technology at the VA, the second largest department within 
the Federal Government, is now.
  Now, I had hoped that we could have done this tonight. I'll continue 
to work with you, Mr. Chairman.
  To the country, this isn't a good message to send. I will speak with 
the Secretary in the morning. I will work with him. I will let him know 
that you're sending down $662 million above the President's request, 
$361 million more than FY08. And because he has, right now, these 16 
projects, I believe there's more than sufficient funds here to move on 
solar applications.
  I would have hoped that we could have done this in a bipartisan 
fashion; that is really unfortunate. And I will work with the Secretary 
to ensure that alternative sources of energy are used in the VA.
  With that, I yield back my time.

                              {time}  2230

  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. Does the gentleman continue to reserve his point 
of order?
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Yes, I do.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I think anyone who has listened 
to this debate over the last few minutes at 10:30 at night understands 
this isn't about partisanship at all. But I think what the American 
people would object to is going from $150 million to $75 million to 
whatever other number that we might pull out of our hat this late in 
the evening on a measure that wasn't considered for 1 minute in the 19 
hearings we held covering over 100 hours.
  I salute the gentleman, my friend and colleague. I salute the 
gentleman for his goal of trying to encourage the VA, and I want to 
encourage the Department of Defense as well, to use solar energy, to 
lessen our energy costs and our dependence upon foreign energy 
supplies. That is a worthwhile goal.
  But, Mr. Chairman, appropriation bills are about setting priorities. 
And let me tell you my priority, and I'm proud to defend this priority. 
My priority is that I never want one American veteran to ever have to 
live in the unconscionable conditions that Army soldiers had to live in 
at Walter Reed Annex 18 last year. The American people were deeply 
offended by what they saw.
  So our committee has worked on a bipartisan basis in good faith to 
see that we plus-up the minor construction accounts in the VA to 
provide the kind of renovation so that we don't see that kind of 
nightmare occurring in the VA system that occurred in the Army medical 
system. And despite the worthiness of the gentleman's goals, even 
though it's so late at night and talking about sums such as $150 
million, the fact is that loss of money for minor construction could 
cause the VA to have to cancel 25 to 30 significant construction 
projects to help provide better care, more modernized facilities for 
our veterans. So that is why I object to this amendment.
  And I do look forward to working with the gentleman. If he wants to 
work in good faith, that will be my commitment to him. But it ought to 
be on a carefully thought-out process, weighing not only the pluses of 
his laudable goals but the minuses of where he would take that money 
from. That's the right way to handle the American taxpayers' dollars.
  Mr. WAMP. Will the chairman yield?
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. I yield.
  Mr. WAMP. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to compliment you on your 
statement. And, again, we are bipartisan partners here. But I would 
point out that had we not had the preprinting requirement that was 
talked about earlier that we're living under, the fluidity of modifying 
amendments or amounts on the floor is part of the way that the 
appropriations process works.
  We do have a great bill. But the neat thing about appropriations is 
when you bring a great bill to the floor, the Members of the House, all 
of them, do have the ability to make changes or make improvements or 
make suggestions, and, frankly, that is what the gentleman is trying to 
do. So I want to make that point, and to say that it's not late. We can 
start talking about how late it is, but this bill has been ready for 
the floor for 35 days. So as far as I'm concerned, we are not late 
tonight. We have got plenty of time to debate these things. So I don't 
want to--especially these gentlemen, the chairman and ranking member 
from the Veterans Affairs Committee who want to bring these ideas to 
the floor on an appropriation bill, that's kind of the nature of an 
appropriations process. It is an open process. We do have a great bill. 
I don't think it's a perfect bill not subject to amendment by the 
Members of the House.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, let me just point out that the 
Rules Committee allowed any Member to offer any amendment to this bill 
with the only request that it be preprinted in the Congressional Record 
so the public and veterans organizations could see what those 
amendments would be. And this kind of confusion at this time of night 
is probably a good example of why that was a smart rule to require that 
kind of preprinting.
  With that, I yield to the gentleman from Wisconsin.

[[Page H7754]]

  Mr. OBEY. I thank the gentleman. Let me simply say I would never 
apologize for having a rule which requires all Members of the House to 
be aware ahead of time what amendments they will be asked to consider. 
It seems to me that the proper time to raise the questions raised by 
the gentleman who seeks to offer the amendment is before the bill ever 
hits the floor. It seems to me that if the authorizing committee or any 
member thereof has some ideas that they would like to see included in 
the appropriation bill that the best way to work in the legislative 
body is to talk to people ahead of time about it so that we don't have 
to make these horseback, half-baked judgments at 10:30 in the evening.
  Mr. BUYER. Will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Surely.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The time of the gentleman has expired.


                             Point of Order

  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I make a point of order against 
the amendment because it provides an appropriation for an unauthorized 
program and therefore violates clause 2 of rule XXI.
  Clause 2 of rule XXI states in pertinent part:
  ``An appropriation may not be in order as an amendment for an 
expenditure not previously authorized by law.''
  Mr. Chairman, the amendment proposes to appropriate funds for a 
program that is not authorized. The amendment therefore violates clause 
2 of rule XXI, and I ask for a ruling from the Chair.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. Does anyone wish to be heard on the point of 
order?
  Mr. BUYER. I would like to speak on the point of order.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman is recognized.
  Mr. BUYER. First, it's very unfortunate that solar would be kicked 
out on an attempt of a technicality. Let me go right to the point of 
order.
  The amendment refers to title 38, U.S. Code, Section 8103. It 
provides VA the authority to ``construct'' and ``alter.'' So you can 
see that in the very first line; so 8103(a)(1) ``may construct or alter 
any medical facility.'' Now, it's any medical facility as the Secretary 
considers necessary for use of the site. Section 8101 of title 38, 
United States Code, defines the term ``alter'' with respect to medical 
facility means to repair, remodel, improve, or extend. So this section 
8103 is general authority. Specific authority would come under--and 
this is minor construction. So under general authority, the Secretary 
has great discretion. With regard to specific authority, it would come 
under Section 8104. That would be designations of CBOCs, anything above 
$10 million comes under Section 8104.
  What I refer to, and this is what the Parliamentarians make sure 
everybody has, it's the House Practice guide, the Guide to the Rules, 
Precedents, and Procedures of the House. So when I go to page 84, the 
authorization from specific statutes in this paragraph, Mr. Chairman, 
so this was page 84, and it's entitled under Authorization From 
Specific Statutes Or General Existing Law; so what I have done is refer 
to the general law, not the specific. This is the general law. 
``Authorization for a program may be derived from a specific law 
providing authority for that particular program or from a more general 
existing law,'' which means organic law, or ``authorizing 
appropriations for such programs.''
  So what's happened over the years, it's not like the Armed Services 
Committee, Chairman Edwards.
  Mr. Chairman, we don't bring that annual VA authorization bill. So 
what has happened over the decades, Mr. Chairman, is that we have 
always relied on the 8103 as the general authority provision.
  Now, if you say, well, Steve, when you look at this amendment, when 
you look at the amendment, because you don't put ``VA facility'' at the 
end, well, then we might interpret that as applications to all other 
sections. Mr. Chairman, that's why I said the mistake that was made 
was, was that all of these other sections don't even apply to solar. 
There's only one of these sections that would apply to solar, and that 
is the medical facilities section, and that is the 8103.
  So my appeal to you is that by putting this solar amendment here at 
the end of the paragraph, there is only one section here in which it 
applies to, and that's section 8103.
  So when the chairman said you don't have the authorization, I would 
appeal to the Chair that general authority exists within the minor 
construction statute for us to do this, and that would be my argument 
on the point of order.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I would just say briefly I think 
the Chair has received plenty of advice on this point of order, and now 
I would like to ask for a ruling from the Chair.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Chair is prepared to rule.
  The proponent of an item of appropriation carries the burden of 
persuasion on the question of whether it is supported by an 
authorization in law.
  Having reviewed the amendment and entertained argument from both 
parties on the point of order, the Chair is unable to conclude that the 
item of appropriation in question is authorized in law. Specifically, 
the amendment is not confined to medical facilities.
  The Chair is therefore constrained to sustain the point of order 
raised by the gentleman from Texas under clause 2(a) of rule XXI.
  Mr. BUYER. I move to appeal the ruling of the Chair.
  Mr. Chairman, I will withdraw my motion to appeal the ruling.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The appeal is withdrawn.
  The Clerk will read.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       grants for construction of state extended care facilities

       For grants to assist States to acquire or construct State 
     nursing home and domiciliary facilities and to remodel, 
     modify, or alter existing hospital, nursing home, and 
     domiciliary facilities in State homes, for furnishing care to 
     veterans as authorized by sections 8131 through 8137 of title 
     38, United States Code, $165,000,000, to remain available 
     until expended.

          grants for construction of state veterans cemeteries

       For grants to assist States in establishing, expanding, or 
     improving State veterans cemeteries as authorized by section 
     2408 of title 38, United States Code, $45,000,000, to remain 
     available until expended.

                       Administrative Provisions

                     (including transfer of funds)

       Sec. 201.  Any appropriation for fiscal year 2009 for 
     ``Compensation and pensions'', ``Readjustment benefits'', and 
     ``Veterans insurance and indemnities'' may be transferred as 
     necessary to any other of the mentioned appropriations: 
     Provided, That before a transfer may take place, the 
     Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall request from the 
     Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress the 
     authority to make the transfer and such Committees issue an 
     approval, or absent a response, a period of 30 days has 
     elapsed.

                     (including transfer of funds)

       Sec. 202.  Amounts made available for fiscal year 2009, in 
     this Act or any other Act, under the ``Medical services'', 
     ``Medical support and compliance'', and ``Medical 
     facilities'' accounts may be transferred among the accounts 
     to the extent necessary to implement the restructuring of the 
     Veterans Health Administration accounts: Provided, That 
     before a transfer may take place, the Secretary of Veterans 
     Affairs shall request from the Committees on Appropriations 
     of both Houses of Congress the authority to make the transfer 
     and an approval is issued.
       Sec. 203.  Appropriations available in this title for 
     salaries and expenses shall be available for services 
     authorized by section 3109 of title 5, United States Code, 
     hire of passenger motor vehicles; lease of a facility or land 
     or both; and uniforms or allowances therefore, as authorized 
     by sections 5901 through 5902 of title 5, United States Code.
       Sec. 204.  No appropriations in this title (except the 
     appropriations for ``Construction, major projects'', and 
     ``Construction, minor projects'') shall be available for the 
     purchase of any site for or toward the construction of any 
     new hospital or home.
       Sec. 205.  No appropriations in this title shall be 
     available for hospitalization or examination of any persons 
     (except beneficiaries entitled to such hospitalization or 
     examination under the laws providing such benefits to 
     veterans, and persons receiving such treatment under sections 
     7901 through 7904 of title 5, United States Code, or the 
     Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance 
     Act (42 U.S.C. 5121 et seq.)), unless reimbursement of the 
     cost of such hospitalization or examination is made to the 
     ``Medical services'' account at such rates as may be fixed by 
     the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
       Sec. 206.  Appropriations available in this title for 
     ``Compensation and pensions'', ``Readjustment benefits'', and 
     ``Veterans insurance and indemnities'' shall be available for 
     payment of prior year accrued obligations required to be 
     recorded by law against the corresponding prior year accounts 
     within the last quarter of fiscal year 2008.

[[Page H7755]]

       Sec. 207.  Appropriations available in this title shall be 
     available to pay prior year obligations of corresponding 
     prior year appropriations accounts resulting from sections 
     3328(a), 3334, and 3712(a) of title 31, United States Code, 
     except that if such obligations are from trust fund accounts 
     they shall be payable only from ``Compensation and 
     pensions''.

                     (including transfer of funds)

       Sec. 208.  Notwithstanding any other provision of law, 
     during fiscal year 2009, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs 
     shall, from the National Service Life Insurance Fund (38 
     U.S.C. 1920), the Veterans' Special Life Insurance Fund (38 
     U.S.C. 1923), and the United States Government Life Insurance 
     Fund (38 U.S.C. 1955), reimburse the ``General operating 
     expenses'' and ``Information technology systems'' account for 
     the cost of administration of the insurance programs financed 
     through those accounts: Provided, That reimbursement shall be 
     made only from the surplus earnings accumulated in such an 
     insurance program during fiscal year 2009 that are available 
     for dividends in that program after claims have been paid and 
     actuarially determined reserves have been set aside: Provided 
     further, That if the cost of administration of such an 
     insurance program exceeds the amount of surplus earnings 
     accumulated in that program, reimbursement shall be made only 
     to the extent of such surplus earnings: Provided further, 
     That the Secretary shall determine the cost of administration 
     for fiscal year 2009 which is properly allocable to the 
     provision of each such insurance program and to the provision 
     of any total disability income insurance included in that 
     insurance program.
       Sec. 209.  Amounts deducted from enhanced-use lease 
     proceeds to reimburse an account for expenses incurred by 
     that account during a prior fiscal year for providing 
     enhanced-use lease services, may be obligated during the 
     fiscal year in which the proceeds are received.

                     (including transfer of funds)

       Sec. 210.  Funds available in this title or funds for 
     salaries and other administrative expenses shall also be 
     available to reimburse the Office of Resolution Management of 
     the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Office of 
     Employment Discrimination Complaint Adjudication under 
     section 319 of title 38, United States Code, for all services 
     provided at rates which will recover actual costs but not 
     exceed $34,158,000 for the Office of Resolution Management 
     and $3,278,000 for the Office of Employment and 
     Discrimination Complaint Adjudication: Provided, That 
     payments may be made in advance for services to be furnished 
     based on estimated costs: Provided further, That amounts 
     received shall be credited to ``General operating expenses'' 
     and ``Information technology systems'' for use by the office 
     that provided the service.
       Sec. 211.  No appropriations in this title shall be 
     available to enter into any new lease of real property if the 
     estimated annual rental is more than $300,000 unless the 
     Secretary submits a report which the Committees on 
     Appropriations of both Houses of Congress approve within 30 
     days following the date on which the report is received.
       Sec. 212.  No funds of the Department of Veterans Affairs 
     shall be available for hospital care, nursing home care, or 
     medical services provided to any person under chapter 17 of 
     title 38, United States Code, for a non-service-connected 
     disability described in section 1729(a)(2) of such title, 
     unless that person has disclosed to the Secretary of Veterans 
     Affairs, in such form as the Secretary may require, current, 
     accurate third-party reimbursement information for purposes 
     of section 1729 of such title: Provided, That the Secretary 
     may recover, in the same manner as any other debt due the 
     United States, the reasonable charges for such care or 
     services from any person who does not make such disclosure as 
     required: Provided further, That any amounts so recovered for 
     care or services provided in a prior fiscal year may be 
     obligated by the Secretary during the fiscal year in which 
     amounts are received.

                     (including transfer of funds)

       Sec. 213.  Notwithstanding any other provision of law, at 
     the discretion of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, proceeds 
     or revenues derived from enhanced-use leasing activities 
     (including disposal) may be deposited into the 
     ``Construction, major projects'' and ``Construction, minor 
     projects'' accounts and be used for construction (including 
     site acquisition and disposition), alterations, and 
     improvements of any medical facility under the jurisdiction 
     or for the use of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Such 
     sums as realized are in addition to the amount provided for 
     in ``Construction, major projects'' and ``Construction, minor 
     projects''.
       Sec. 214.  Amounts made available under ``Medical 
     services'' are available--
       (1) for furnishing recreational facilities, supplies, and 
     equipment; and
       (2) for funeral expenses, burial expenses, and other 
     expenses incidental to funerals and burials for beneficiaries 
     receiving care in the Department.

                     (including transfer of funds)

       Sec. 215.  Such sums as may be deposited to the Medical 
     Care Collections Fund pursuant to section 1729A of title 38, 
     United States Code, may be transferred to ``Medical 
     services'', to remain available until expended for the 
     purposes of that account.
       Sec. 216.  Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the 
     Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall allow veterans who are 
     eligible under existing Department of Veterans Affairs 
     medical care requirements and who reside in Alaska to obtain 
     medical care services from medical facilities supported by 
     the Indian Health Service or tribal organizations. The 
     Secretary shall: (1) limit the application of this provision 
     to rural Alaskan veterans in areas where an existing 
     Department of Veterans Affairs facility or Veterans Affairs-
     contracted service is unavailable; (2) require participating 
     veterans and facilities to comply with all appropriate rules 
     and regulations, as established by the Secretary; (3) require 
     this provision to be consistent with Capital Asset 
     Realignment for Enhanced Services activities; and (4) result 
     in no additional cost to the Department of Veterans Affairs 
     or the Indian Health Service.

                     (including transfer of funds)

       Sec. 217.  Such sums as may be deposited to the Department 
     of Veterans Affairs Capital Asset Fund pursuant to section 
     8118 of title 38, United States Code, may be transferred to 
     the ``Construction, major projects'' and ``Construction, 
     minor projects'' accounts, to remain available until expended 
     for the purposes of these accounts.
       Sec. 218.  None of the funds available to the Department of 
     Veterans Affairs, in this Act, or any other Act, may be used 
     to replace the current system by which the Veterans 
     Integrated Services Networks select and contract for diabetes 
     monitoring supplies and equipment.
       Sec. 219.  None of the funds made available in this title 
     may be used to implement any policy prohibiting the Directors 
     of the Veterans Integrated Services Networks from conducting 
     outreach or marketing to enroll new veterans within their 
     respective Networks.
       Sec. 220.  The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall submit 
     to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of 
     Congress a quarterly report on the financial status of the 
     Veterans Health Administration.

                     (including transfer of funds)

       Sec. 221.  Amounts made available under the ``Medical 
     services'', ``Medical support and compliance'', ``Medical 
     facilities'', ``General operating expenses'', and ``National 
     Cemetery Administration'' accounts for fiscal year 2009, may 
     be transferred to or from the ``Information technology 
     systems'' account: Provided, That before a transfer may take 
     place, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall request from 
     the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress 
     the authority to make the transfer and an approval is issued.
       Sec. 222.  Amounts made available for the ``Information 
     technology systems'' account may be transferred between 
     projects: Provided, That no project may be increased or 
     decreased by more than $1,000,000 of cost prior to submitting 
     a request to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses 
     of Congress to make the transfer and an approval is issued, 
     or absent a response, a period of 30 days has elapsed.

                     (including transfer of funds)

       Sec. 223.  Any balances in prior year accounts established 
     for the payment of benefits under the Reinstated Entitlement 
     Program for Survivors shall be transferred to and merged with 
     amounts available under the ``Compensation and pensions'' 
     account, and, hereinafter, receipts that would otherwise be 
     credited to the accounts established for the payment of 
     benefits under the Reinstated Entitlement Program for 
     Survivors program shall be credited to amounts available 
     under the ``Compensation and pensions'' account.
       Sec. 224.  Section 1710(f)(2)(B) of title 38, United States 
     Code, is amended by striking ``September 30, 2008,'' and 
     inserting ``September 30, 2009,''.
       Sec. 225.  Section 1729(a)(2)(E) of title 38, United States 
     Code, is amended by striking ``October 1, 2008,'' and 
     inserting ``October 1, 2009,''.

  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas (during the reading). Mr. Chairman, I ask 
unanimous consent that the remainder of title II be considered as read, 
printed in the Record, and open to amendment at any point.
  The CHAIRMAN. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from 
Texas?
  There was no objection.


                         Parliamentary Inquiry

  Mr. WAMP. Mr. Chairman, point of parliamentary inquiry.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman will state his point of inquiry.
  Mr. WAMP. Will you restate how far you've read?
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. Page 51, line 11.
  Mr. WAMP. No objection.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. Are there any amendments?


          Amendment No. 9 Offered by Ms. Jackson-Lee of Texas

  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the 
desk.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
  The text of the amendment is as follows:

       Amendment No. 9 offered by Ms. Jackson-Lee of Texas:

[[Page H7756]]

       At the end of title II (page 51, after line 11), insert the 
     following new section:
       Sec. 226. (a) The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall 
     increase the number of medical centers specializing in post-
     traumatic stress disorder in underserved urban areas, which 
     shall include using the services of existing health care 
     entities, pursuant to the authority in section 1703 of title 
     38, United States Code.
       (b) At least one of the existing health care institutions 
     used by the Secretary pursuant to subsection (a) shall be--
       (1) located in an area defined as a HUBzone (as that term 
     is defined in section 3(p) of the Small Business Act (15 
     U.S.C. 632(p)) on the basis of one or more qualified census 
     tracts;
       (2) located within a State that has sustained more than 
     five percent of the total casualties suffered by the United 
     States Armed Forces in Operation Enduring Freedom and 
     Operation Iraqi Freedom; and
       (3) have at least 7 years experience and significant 
     expertise in providing treatment and counseling services with 
     respect to substance abuse, alcohol addiction, and 
     psychiatric or stress-related disorders to populations with 
     special needs, including veterans and members of the Armed 
     Forces serving on active duty.

  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I reserve a point of order on the 
gentlewoman's amendment.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The point of order is reserved.
  The gentlewoman from Texas is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I rise to offer and withdraw 
an amendment on this particular bill.
  The amendment has to do with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, 
calling upon them to increase the number of medical centers 
specializing in posttraumatic stress disorder in underserved urban 
areas, which shall include using the services of existing health care 
entities pursuant to the authority in section 1703.
  This particular amendment has to do with ensuring the cooperation 
with existing health care institutions used by the Secretary pursuant 
to subsection (a).
  I would like to see these facilities located in an area defined as a 
HUBZone and as well in an area that covers rural areas. I would like to 
see, according to my amendment, that these facilities would be located 
within a State that has sustained more than 5 percent of the total 
casualties suffered by the United States Armed Forces in Operation 
Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

                              {time}  2245

  I am very pleased that, under the leadership of Chairman Edwards, 
longstanding leadership, that the legislation that we have before us 
includes more dollars for mental health and substance abuse, and as 
well some $3.8 billion, and also it includes $200 million to address 
the question of fee-based services in the Veterans' Affairs medical 
system. It also has additional money, $5 billion, for medical 
facilities and $165 million for extended care.
  My amendment was to recognize the plain facts of combat, as we have 
seen more and more soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan 
wounded not only physically but mentally. Most of these soldiers have 
seen--94 percent of the soldiers in Iraq have reported receiving small 
arms fire, 86 percent of soldiers in Iraq reported knowing someone who 
was seriously injured. Some similar numbers we are finding in 
Afghanistan because we have seen an increased amount of combat in 
Afghanistan.
  And so, Mr. Chairman, my concern is to ensure that we have the right 
kind of facilities for our soldiers that are returning. So I offer this 
amendment because I thought it was very important to include hospitals 
like Riverside General Hospital, the only historically black hospital I 
believe remaining in the United States, founded and organized by a 
World War II veteran, or family of a World War II soldier.
  I would hope that as we move toward the conference, since this 
amendment is now being withdrawn as I conclude my remarks, I am hoping 
that we will be able to work with the committee and ensure that we have 
the opportunity to make this work.
  I'd like to yield to the chairman, if I could. I'd like to yield to 
the gentleman about the amendment that I have that has to do with 
providing post-traumatic stress disorder facilities in collaboration 
with existing facilities.
  I think this is a good amendment. I am offering and withdrawing it in 
cooperation with the committee. I won't go down to 1600 Pennsylvania 
and work with the White House, but I would like to work with this 
committee and this chairman, and thank him for his leadership, as well 
as Chairman Filner, who has been more than powerful, if you will, on 
the issues of veterans.
  This has to do with putting these facilities in historically 
underserved areas and, as I indicated to you, Riverside Hospital has an 
initial grant. We are having some difficulty in making sure they get 
their moneys from the last time. But I think we need more of these 
facilities.
  I yield to the gentleman.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. I want to thank the gentlewoman from Texas, my 
colleague. She has been a champion for fighting for more funding in the 
VA for mental health care services for our veterans. Because of that, 
and the support of others in this House, which she has been a real 
leader in this effort, we will have added $900 million above the last 
year funding level for specialty mental health care services for our 
veterans.
  The VA will have a great deal of discretion in how to spend that 
money. I would imagine the importance of the VA health care center in 
Houston and the number of veterans there, that it should be one of the 
beneficiaries of this funding.
  I know because of this being an appropriation bill, there were 
technical reasons why there was a point of order that potentially 
lodged against this amendment. But that point of order will not keep us 
from working closely together to fulfill your goal of seeing that we 
have first-class quality mental health care services for veterans in 
underserved areas and urban areas across our country.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. If I could reclaim my time and say that the 
underpinnings of this amendment has to do with existing satellite 
facilities such as Riverside Hospital that could be in collaboration. I 
would be very grateful if I could work with the chairman and full 
committee, and I want to acknowledge the chairman of the full committee 
in looking at that as we go into conference, as to whether or not we 
can at least ensure that those facilities will be looked at.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. We look forward to that.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Thank you very much.
  Mr. Chairman, I rise to speak in support of the bill and in favor of 
my amendment. I also rise to express my sincere appreciation to Mr. 
Edwards, the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Veterans 
Affairs and Military Construction, and the Chairman of the Veterans 
Affairs Committee, Mr. Filner, for all they have done and continue to 
do to make real President Lincoln's admonition that ``we care for him 
who has borne the battle, and for his widow and orphan.''
  In particular, I wish to commend Chairman Edwards, for the 
leadership, commitment, and foresight he has demonstrated on the issue 
of PTSD and the overall mental health of our nation's veterans. Like 
Mr. Edwards and Mr. Filner, I am committed to improving the lives of 
thousands of veterans who have risked their lives for our nation, and I 
believe my amendment plays a crucial role in ensuring that veterans 
suffering from PTSD receive the medical treatment they desperately 
need.
  Mr. Chairman, thank you for this opportunity to explain my amendment 
to H.R. 6599, the ``Veterans Affairs and Military Construction 
Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year of 2009.'' As a Member of Congress 
from Texas, a state which has sustained more casualties in the ongoing 
conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq than all but one other, I am pleased 
to offer this amendment. This amendment is intended to address the 
urgent need for more post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment 
and counseling facilities servicing veterans living in some of the more 
distressed areas of our country.
  Mr. Chairman, according to Webster's, dignity is ``the quality or 
condition of being esteemed, honored or worthy.'' We can never do 
enough to honor our wounded veterans. Studies have shown that 30 
percent of troops deployed to Iraq suffer from depression, anxiety, or 
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, when wounded troops 
return home, the treatment they receive is more befitting a second 
class citizen than a hero. This is a shame and a great stain on our 
nation.
  How these problems could be overlooked or neglected by this 
Administration is unfathomable. The very leaders that these brave young 
men and women rely let them down. The message that incidents like 
Walter Reed Medical Center sends to our troops is

[[Page H7757]]

that we do not care enough. But that is not the message we wish to 
send. The Veterans Administration and Military Construction 
Appropriations Act of 2009, H.R. 6599, will go a long away toward 
correcting this misapprehension. All Members of the House are indebted 
to our colleague, Mr. Edwards of Texas, for his masterful leadership in 
shepherding this landmark legislation to the House floor. For the more 
than 29,000 brave men and women who have been wounded in Iraq and 
Afghanistan, help is on the way. And the over 4,000 heroes who have 
given the last full measure of devotion will always be in our hearts 
and prayers.

  Mr. Chairman, my amendment requires the Secretary of Veterans Affairs 
to increase the number of medical facilities specializing in post-
traumatic stress disorder located in underserved urban areas. Access to 
post-traumatic stress disorder treatment is especially important since 
veterans living in such areas are less likely to be diagnosed and 
treated for post-traumatic stress disorder.
  Mr. Chairman, PTSD is one of the most prevalent and devastating 
psychological wounds suffered by the brave men and women fighting in 
far off lands to defend the values and freedom we hold dear.
  For those of us whose daily existence is not lived in harm's way, it 
is difficult to imagine the horrific images that American servicemen 
and women deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other theaters of war see 
on a daily basis. In an instant a suicide bomber, an IED, or an 
insurgent can obliterate your best friend and right in front of your 
face. Yet, you are trained and expected to continue on with the 
mission, and you do, even though you may not even have reached your 
20th birthday.
  But there always comes a reckoning. And it usually comes after the 
stress and trauma of battle is over and you are alone with your 
thoughts and memories. And the horror of those desperate and dangerous 
encounters with the enemy and your own mortality come flooding back.
  PTSD was first brought to public attention in relation to war 
veterans, but it can result from a variety of traumatic incidents, such 
as mugging, rape, torture, being kidnapped or held captive, child 
abuse, car accidents, train wrecks, plane crashes, bombings, or natural 
disasters such as floods or earthquakes.
  People with PTSD may startle easily, become emotionally numb 
(especially in relation to people with whom they used to be close), 
lose interest in things they used to enjoy, have trouble feeling 
affectionate, be irritable, become more aggressive, or even become 
violent. They avoid situations that remind them of the original 
incident, and anniversaries of the incident are often very difficult. 
PTSD symptoms seem to be worse if the event that triggered them was 
deliberately initiated by another person, as in a mugging or a 
kidnapping. Most people with PTSD repeatedly relive the trauma in their 
thoughts during the day and in nightmares when they sleep. These are 
called flashbacks. Flashbacks may consist of images, sounds, smells, or 
feelings, and are often triggered by ordinary occurrences, such as a 
door slamming or a car backfiring on the street. A person having a 
flashback may lose touch with reality and believe that the traumatic 
incident is happening all over again.
  Mr. Chairman, the fact of the matter is that most veterans with PTSD 
also have other psychiatric disorders, which are a consequence of PTSD. 
These veterans have co-occurring disorders, which include depression, 
alcohol and/or drug abuse problems, panic, and/or other anxiety 
disorders.
  The current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq are the most continuous 
combat operations since Vietnam. Soldiers in Iraq are at risk for being 
killed or wounded themselves, are likely to have witnessed the 
suffering of others, and may have participated in killing or wounding 
others as part of combat operations. All of these activities have a 
demonstrated association with the development of PTSD. One study 
indicated that 94 percent of soldiers in Iraq reported receiving small-
arms fire. In addition, 86 percent of soldiers in Iraq reported knowing 
someone who was seriously injured or killed, 68 percent reported seeing 
dead or seriously injured Americans, and 51 percent reported handling 
or uncovering human remains. The majority, 77 percent of soldiers 
deployed to Iraq reported shooting or directing fire at the enemy, 48 
percent reported being responsible for the death of an enemy combatant, 
and 28 percent reported being responsible for the death of a 
noncombatant.
  My amendment recognizes that these soldiers are first and foremost, 
human. They carry their experiences with them. Ask a Vietnam Veteran 
about the frequency of nightmares they experience, and one will realize 
that serving in the Armed Forces leaves a lasting impression, whether 
good or bad. My amendment ensures that ``no soldier is left behind.'' 
By directing the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to increase the number 
of medical facilities specializing in PTSD that are located in 
underserved urban areas, and conducting a concurrent study on 
increasing access to PTSD treatment at these facilities those soldiers 
will never feel forgotten or taken for granted. These soldiers can be 
certain that Members of Congress will ensure that they receive the 
necessary treatment to guarantee that their adjustment back into 
society is a successful one.
  As the war in Iraq continues to drag on, and with our country 
continuing to send military personnel to Afghanistan, the military has 
been overwhelmed with returning soldiers suffering from mental health 
problems. Earlier this month, Col. Elspeth Ritchie, psychiatry 
consultant to the Army surgeon general, stated ``as the war has gone 
on, PTSD and other psychological effects of war have increased. The 
number of (mental health workers) that was adequate for a peacetime 
military is not adequate for a nation that's been at war.''
  Mr. Chairman, according to surveys conducted of troops in Iraq, 15-20 
percent of Army soldiers have demonstrated signs of post-traumatic 
stress. Symptoms of this serious disorder include nightmares, 
flashbacks, emotional detachment, dissociation, insomnia, loss of 
appetite, memory loss, clinical depression, and anxiety. One year after 
returning from combat, approximately 35 percent of soldiers are seeking 
some kind of mental health treatment. Among soldiers still stationed in 
Iraq and Afghanistan, many incidents of abuse, including killings and 
rapes by U.S. soldiers, have been attributed to ethics lapses caused by 
the strain of combat.
  Mr. Chairman, last Thursday, the Department of Defense released a 
report that stated ``current efforts fall significantly short'' in 
providing help for troops. Further, this report found that ``[t]he 
psychological health needs of America's military service members, their 
families and their survivors pose a daunting and growing challenge to 
the Department of Defense.''
  I urge adoption of my amendment. And I thank the Chairman for his 
fine work in bringing this exceptional legislation to the House floor 
where it should receive an overwhelmingly favorable vote.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. I ask again, Mr. Chairman, unanimous 
consent at this time to withdraw the amendment, but keeping in mind 
that veterans and returning soldiers need service and they need to have 
the kind of service for PTSD. And I hope that we will be able to 
accomplish that.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. Without objection, the amendment is withdrawn.
  There was no objection.


             Amendments No. 18 and 19 Offered by Mr. Filner

  Mr. FILNER. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to consider my 
amendments 18 and 19 en bloc for the purpose of debate.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. Without objection, the Clerk will designate the 
amendments.
  There was no objection.
  The text of the amendments is as follows:

       Amendment No. 18 offered by Mr. Filner:
       At the end of title II of the bill, (page 51, after line 
     11), add the following new section:
       Sec. 226.  Appropriations made available in this title for 
     ``Medical services'' shall be used by the Secretary of 
     Veterans Affairs, in an amount not to exceed $250,000,000, to 
     establish a community grant program to provide rehabilitative 
     services to veterans and servicemembers with post-traumatic 
     stress disorder or traumatic brain injury. The Secretary of 
     Veterans Affairs may enter into cooperative agreements with 
     States and localities in order to inform veterans and 
     servicemembers of programs and benefits under this grant 
     program.
       Amendment No. 19 offered by Mr. Filner:
       At the end of title II of the bill (page 51, after line 
     11), add the following new section:
       Sec. 226.  Appropriations made available in this title for 
     ``Medical services'' shall be used by the Secretary of 
     Veterans Affairs, in an amount not to exceed $10,000,000, to 
     establish, in cooperation with the Secretary of Defense, a 
     heroes' homecoming pilot program to evaluate the 
     effectiveness of offering compulsory screening, evaluation, 
     and when indicated, treatment for mental health conditions 
     such as post-traumatic stress disorder, and traumatic brain 
     injury, to servicemembers (and immediate family members) 
     returning from deployment and those recently discharged.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I reserve a point of order.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The point of order is reserved.
  The gentlemen from California is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. FILNER. Mr. Chairman, as the chairman of the Authorizing 
Committee, the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, I want to thank 
Chairman Edwards, Chairman Obey, and his ranking members, for giving us 
this bill and a whole series of bills that preceded this since our 
party has taken over the majority of this body.
  Not only have we for the first time with fiscal years 2008 and 2009 
exceeded

[[Page H7758]]

the budget requests in the so-called independent budget, which is put 
together by veterans' groups for veterans, and for the first time we 
exceeded them 2 years in a row. Not only that, but with the fiscal year 
2007, which we had to pick up, and several supplemental bills which we 
had to pass, we have added, in my calculation, over $17 million worth 
of new money for the health care of our veterans, which is an 
unprecedented 40 percent increase since Chairman Edwards and Chairman 
Obey have been chairmen of those committees. That is incredible.
  We have put resources in place to do the job for our veterans, but 
the Veterans Administration doesn't always do what we intend, or do it 
with the efficiency that we would like. Many of you have heard the 
horror stories of young people going to medical centers, asking for 
PTSD help, post-traumatic stress disorder, being told that they can't 
get an appointment for 5 or 6 weeks, going home and committing suicide.
  We have had the Secretary of the VA tell me, when I said, Aren't a 
thousand suicide attempts per month by our veterans a concern? He said, 
No. It's consistent with the literature. We have had a Secretary, Under 
Secretary of Defense say that 300,000 PTSD victims of our forces in 
Iraq and 320,000 victims of brain injury were not a problem because 
those were just symptoms of those injuries. They didn't really exhibit 
full-blown PTSD or full-blown traumatic brain injury and therefore they 
weren't concerned about it. So their concern, Mr. Chairman, has not 
always equaled our commitment here.
  My two amendments would try to have dealt with that in a way that I 
hope and I know the chairman will work with me in the future.
  Do you know that tens of thousands of our young people leave Iraq and 
Afghanistan, whether they are in the active duty or the Reserves or the 
National Guard, without any evaluation by medical personnel for either 
PTSD or brain injury?
  We have to do something about that, Mr. Chairman. I have proposed, 
and we will work with you as we authorize what I am calling a Hero's 
Homecoming camp, to say that every soldier with his or her company, 
with his or her family, will be evaluated by medical personnel for 
brain injury and PTSD, and before they are discharged from the service. 
I had asked for $10 million to cooperate with the DOD to do that.
  In addition, one of the chief weaknesses of the Veterans 
Administration is they don't like outside help. They don't ask for 
community support. All over this country, people want to help our 
troops. So I have asked at some point for $250 million for community 
grants to help our soldiers in their own communities who have mental 
health and other injuries for their treatment and rehabilitation.
  This is something I think we have to do, Mr. Chairman. I know you 
agree with me in principle. I know this is not the time and place to 
debate that or put that in the bill. Your commitment to our soldiers, 
sailors airmen, and marines is well known. Just putting that out there, 
that we have to do this community support, mandatory evaluations, that 
I know that we can work together.
  I will withdraw the amendment.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Will the gentleman yield first?
  Mr. FILNER. I will yield to you first.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Let me just take this opportunity, Mr. 
Chairman, to thank Mr. Filner. While I chair the appropriations 
subcommittee for veterans, he is the chairman of the full Committee on 
Veterans' Affairs. He has been a leading voice in fighting for mental 
health care services for our veterans and a broad range of services and 
benefits for our veterans. Without his leadership, we would not have 
$3.8 billion in specialty mental health care mandated in this bill, a 
$900 million increase over the year before.
  I certainly look forward to working with the chairman of the 
authorizing committee in the months ahead on the programs that he has 
fought so hard for.
  Mr. FILNER. Mr. Chairman, I would ask unanimous consent to withdraw 
the amendments en bloc.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. Without objection, the gentleman's amendments en 
bloc are withdrawn.
  There was no objection.


                 Amendment No. 22 Offered by Mr. Filner

  Mr. FILNER. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
  The text of the amendment is as follows:

       Amendment No. 22 offered by Mr. Filner:
       At the end of title II (page 51, after line 11), add the 
     following new section:
       Sec. 226. (a) Payments to Veterans Who Served in 
     Philippines During World War II.--During the one-year period 
     beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act, the 
     Secretary of Veterans Affairs (in this section referred to as 
     the ``Secretary'') shall make a payment to a person described 
     in subsection (e) who, during such period, submits to the 
     Secretary an application containing such information and 
     assurances as the Secretary may require.
       (b) Payment Amounts.--Each payment under this section shall 
     be--
       (1) in the case of a person described in subsection (e) who 
     is not a citizen of the United States, in the amount of 
     $9,000; and
       (2) in the case of a person described in subsection (e) who 
     is a citizen of the United States, in the amount of $15,000.
       (c) Limitation.--The Secretary may not make more than one 
     payment under this section for each person described in 
     subsection (d).
       (d) Eligibility of Individuals Living Outside the United 
     States Entitled to Certain Social Security Benefits.--Receipt 
     of a payment under this section shall not affect the 
     eligibility of an individual residing outside the United 
     States to receive benefits under title VIII of the Social 
     Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1001 et seq.) or the amount of such 
     benefits.
       (e) Eligible Persons.--A person covered by this section is 
     any person who served--
       (1) before July 1, 1946, in the organized military forces 
     of the Government of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, 
     while such forces were in the service of the Armed Forces of 
     the United States pursuant to the military order of the 
     President dated July 26, 1941, including among such military 
     forces organized guerrilla forces under commanders appointed, 
     designated, or subsequently recognized by the Commander in 
     Chief, Southwest Pacific Area, or other competent authority 
     in the Army of the United States; or
       (2) in the Philippine Scouts under section 14 of the Armed 
     Forces Voluntary Recruitment Act of 1945 (59 Stat. 538).
       (f) Offsetting Reduction.--The amount otherwise provided by 
     this title for ``information technology systems'' is revised 
     by reducing the amount by $198,000,000.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I reserve a point of order on the 
gentleman's amendment.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The point of order is reserved.
  The gentleman from California is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. FILNER. Mr. Chairman, I thank the chairman for allowing me to 
take a few minutes on this amendment. As we are very much concerned 
with our Iraqi and Afghanistan young men and women who are returning 
with grave injuries, we cannot forget our older veterans and the 
justices that we have to make up for.
  We can go back to World War II where we have atomic veterans who have 
not yet received compensation for being in testing areas without being 
told. We have merchant mariners who never got benefits of our GI Bill, 
who are in their eighties and we need to say thank you to.
  We have a group of veterans who were drafted into the Army in 1941, 
all the Filipinos who were in the Filipino army and various units and 
various irregular areas defending that territory. That was a territory 
of ours. And we drafted all the soldiers into our Army with the promise 
that they would have benefits later.
  Those Filipino soldiers, over a quarter million of them, held up the 
Japanese advance for weeks and weeks and weeks beyond their scheduled 
advance. It allowed us back home to prepare better and for MacArthur to 
return. And though the Japanese overran the Philippines in the terrible 
battles of Corregidor and the famous death march of Bataan, the 
surviving soldiers were able to harass the Japanese through guerilla 
work, and they were not strong enough to resist MacArthur when he 
returned. In fact, it was the Filipinos, bravely alongside their 
American counterparts, who helped to win the war in the Pacific.
  After the war was over, after we had won in both the Atlantic and 
Pacific, the Philippines were granted their independence, and the 
Congress of 1946 said, You got your independence. You take care of your 
veterans. Yes, you saved America, but that is your problem, not ours 
anymore.

[[Page H7759]]

  Although President Truman signed the legislation which embodied that 
in law, he said, We must repair this important travesty. We promised 
those veterans full benefits. We have taken them away. We have to go 
and give them back. That was 62 years ago, Mr. Chairman, and that 
travesty still burns in the hearts of the Filipinos who are alive, and 
their family members.
  The amendment I have in front of the body says that, basically, We 
are sorry, but thank you.

                              {time}  2300

  It provides a pension for those brave Filipino veterans. This is a 
moral necessity for America to close the chapter on World War II. This 
is a moral necessity for this Congress to make up for a mistake that 
was made 62 years ago.
  I know many Members of this body agree with remedying this moral 
disaster, and yet we have had problems of how we pay for that and how 
we somehow use the budget to make sure that we are helping these 
deserving veterans, while not taking away from our brave young men and 
women from either World War II, Vietnam, Korea, the Persian Gulf war 1 
or the present conflicts.
  So, Mr. Chairman, I am trying to figure out a way to do that. I know 
the vast majority of this body agrees with me, and I look forward to 
working with you to find a way to do that.
  I know there are other speakers on this amendment. I would hope that 
we have a colloquy with the chairman on his time in a few minutes.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. Does the gentleman from Texas continue to 
reserve his point of order?
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Yes, I do, Mr. Chairman.
  Mr. HONDA. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from California is recognized for 
5 minutes.
  Mr. HONDA. Mr. Chairman, before I start, I want to thank the chairmen 
of the Appropriations Committee and the subcommittee, the ranking 
members on the other side, and Chairman Filner for the underlying bill 
that we are looking at, and also I want to commend Chairman Filner for 
his unceasing advocacy on behalf of the Filipino-American veterans.
  Mr. Chairman, I am glad to have the opportunity today to speak about 
this important issue and to draw attention to the plight of the World 
War II Filipino veterans. I rise today to strongly urge my colleagues 
to support the Filipino veterans.
  These brave men fought alongside American soldiers under our flag 
throughout the Pacific Theater in World War II, and the United States 
made a promise to grant them veterans benefits as they were drafted 
into the U.S. service under President Roosevelt. Subsequently, after 
the war, Congress shamefully and unjustly legislated this promise away 
in two Rescissions Acts of 1946.
  Nearly 1 million Filipinos who were conscripted into service by 
President Roosevelt were killed in action in defense of our country, 
and many of them died as they protected the POWs, who were our 
soldiers, against the Japanese brutality during the Bataan Death March.
  I support legislation, S. 1315, which will expand benefits, such as 
life insurance, education and disability assistance for tens of 
thousands of current veterans and hundreds of thousands in the coming 
years. Senate 1315 also restores the promise in our words we made in 
1942 to the Filipino World War II veterans who bled and died for our 
country. Today there are only 18,000 World War II Filipino veterans 
living, most of them in their eighties, and they are dying every day, 
and this cannot wait.
  The Senate has already passed S. 1315 by a vote of 96-1 on April 24, 
2008, and I urge my colleagues to follow in the Senate's footsteps. 
This is the right thing to do.
  There has been some controversy and confusion about the offset to pay 
for the benefits in S. 1315. I would like to set the record straight 
today. This bill will close a loophole created by a case known as 
Hartness v. Nicholson which gave some veterans double benefits that 
Congress never intended for them to receive. The bill will return the 
law to what it was originally intended for all future veterans. It will 
not take any benefits away from veterans who are already receiving them 
under Hartness-Nicholson.
  This all seems a bit technical. I know some Members are having a hard 
time supporting S. 1315. But what it boils down to is that this is the 
right thing to do, and we need to do it very quickly.
  Each year I meet with the Filipino community, and each year I read 
the roll call of those who have passed away. These are men who are 
courageous and still loyal to the United States and to the flag, and 
they hold this wonderful spirit and expectation that we will finally 
keep our word. You know in your hearts that these veteran soldiers who 
fought under our flag deserve the promise we made them six decades ago.
  America's greatness is in her strength of character. When Congress 
makes a mistake, we have the courage to correct that mistake. We have 
the guts to apologize and make it right. Let's do the right thing and 
give the Filipino veterans their due. Let's have a vote on this when we 
come back from recess this September.
  I yield back my time.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. Does the gentleman from Texas continue to 
reserve his point of order?
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Yes, I do. I would also like to move to strike 
the last word.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, my father was a naval aviator in 
World War II. My father passed away 4 months ago. Had it not been for 
the courage of Filipino veterans, my father might have been killed, 
because instead of the war ending before he was deployed, had it not 
been for their heroism in the Pacific, my father might have been 
deployed, and like so many other Americans in that war, he might have 
ended up giving his life to the country.
  I have been deeply moved by Mr. Honda and Mr. Filner's passionate 
dedication on behalf of these great citizens of the world who 
sacrificed, many of them giving the ultimate sacrifice, on behalf of 
our country and our victory in World War II. Because of the legislative 
process, there are times when we simply, despite all of our intentions, 
cannot solve every problem on an appropriations bill, because the rules 
of this Congress require an authorization process as well.
  We can't solve this problem tonight, but because of Mr. Filner and 
because of Mr. Honda, I think we are a giant step closer to addressing 
this injustice that has existed for so long.
  My commitment to Mr. Filner and Mr. Honda is to work as the chairman 
of the appropriations subcommittee with the chairman of the authorizing 
committee and on a bipartisan basis to find appropriations available so 
that if we can get an authorization for those appropriations, we can 
finally bring about justice for these people who did so much for our 
country and for the world.
  With that, I would like to yield, Mr. Chairman, to Chairman Filner.
  Mr. FILNER. I see our Speaker on the floor. The only one I think who 
knows more about this issue than me is Speaker Pelosi, who has dealt 
with this in the 20 years that she has been in the Congress. I would 
ask the chairman to yield to her.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. I will be honored to yield to the Speaker, who 
has been such an eloquent voice on this issue.
  Ms. PELOSI. I thank the gentleman.
  I have watched with interest the debate this evening, and I am so 
proud of the work that you, Mr. Edwards, are doing on this issue to 
honor America's vets and, Congressman Wamp, you as well.
  I thank the chairman of the Veterans' Committee for bringing up this 
important issue of our Filipino vets. For years we have been pleading 
our case. Mr. Obey has listened patiently and tried to find a way for 
us to meet the needs of these people who served our country so well, 
who helped achieve the victory.
  Promises were made; promises were not kept. And I know it is not 
possible to do something this evening, but I wanted to come to the 
floor to associate myself with the remarks of our

[[Page H7760]]

distinguished chairman, Bob Filner, who has worked relentlessly, as we 
all know, persistently, on this important issue.
  We recently had a visit from the President of the Philippines, where 
she was very interested in the progress of this issue.
  So, again, I associate myself with Mr. Filner's impassioned plea on 
this subject. Thank you for your leadership for our veterans on an 
ongoing basis. I am very proud of the leadership of this subcommittee. 
Under the chairman's leadership, we have been able to give the biggest 
increase in veterans' health funding in the 77-year history of the 
Veterans Administration, and just recently in the supplemental we were 
able to have the GI Bill for our veterans, thank you to our veterans, 
and when they come home we send them to college. Now this bill goes 
even further.
  So I thank you and Mr. Wamp, both of you, for your leadership on this 
subject, and yield back the time to the distinguished chairman of the 
Veterans' Affairs Committee, and thank him for his leadership on behalf 
of our veterans, all of our veterans, and in this case at this moment 
our Filipino vets.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. If I could reclaim my time, let me just say, 
Mr. Chairman, in the presence of Speaker Pelosi, what I said earlier 
this evening. While she has been gracious in commending others for 
working for veterans over the last 2 years, she made a commitment to 
America's veterans 4 years ago and said if she became Speaker, we would 
have unprecedented increases in funding for veterans health care and 
veterans benefits. $16.8 billion later and a 21st century bill of 
rights, we can all stand, and I say gratefully, Speaker Pelosi has kept 
her promise to those great Americans who have kept their promise to 
serve, and I thank her deeply for that.
  With that, I yield to Mr. Filner.
  Mr. FILNER. I, too, want to thank the Speaker for her commitment over 
a long period of time to not only the Filipino veterans, but all 
veterans.
  Your comments tonight, Mr. Edwards, were very moving. They show 
complete understanding of the issue. I have confidence that, working 
together and with the support of the Speaker, we will be able to deal 
with this issue.
  Ms. HIRONO. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of amendment number 
22, offered by Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner, which 
would provide a one time payment to the courageous Filipino veterans of 
World War II.
  Filipino veterans are those that honorably answered the call of 
President Franklin D. Roosevelt and served alongside our armed forces 
during World War II. They fought shoulder to shoulder with American 
servicemen; they sacrificed for the same just cause. We made a promise 
to provide full veterans' benefits to those who served with our troops. 
And while we have made appreciable progress toward fulfilling that 
promise, we have not yet achieved the full equity that the Filipino 
veterans deserve.
  I am proud to be an original cosponsor of H.R. 760, The Filipino 
Veterans Equity Act of 2007, which was introduced by the Chairman to 
provide the necessary reclassification of the service of Filipino 
veterans to make them eligible for all the veterans' benefits programs 
administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs. In essence, 
H.R. 760 makes good on the promise our government made to these brave 
men over sixty years ago.
  Today, out of the 250,000 Filipino World War II veterans, only 18,000 
are left. Of that number some 2,000 reside in my home state of Hawaii. 
As Filipino veterans are entering the sunset years of their lives, 
Congress is running out of time to fulfill our obligations to them.
  While there is no question in my mind that the appropriate action for 
Congress is to provide full veterans' benefits to the Filipino World 
War II veterans, this one time payment of $15,000 to those veterans who 
are now American citizens and a $9,000 payment to those veterans that 
remain Philippine nationals is a gesture that is a step forward in the 
little time we have left to thank and respect the promises made to 
these brave soldiers for their service to our country.
  Mr. FILNER. Mr. Chairman, I would ask unanimous consent to withdraw 
the amendment.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN (Mr. Altmire). Without objection, the amendment 
is withdrawn.
  There was no objection.
  Mr. BUYER. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. BUYER. Part of the challenges that we have been dealing with, 
some have to do with fiction. The Speaker was just on the floor and 
referred to promises. If the Speaker would not leave the floor--Madam 
Speaker?
  How fascinating. You see, the Speaker was just on the floor, Mr. 
Chairman, and spoke fiction. While there had been anecdotal accounts of 
such promises which she has referred to, there have been no official 
written accounts of these promises. CRS has done an extensive research 
of the papers and writings of both President Roosevelt and General 
MacArthur and have not found any written proof that these promises were 
made.
  It is very unfortunate that the Speaker would not have stuck around 
to listen to that. Several requests for her to stay on the floor, she 
turns and just walked on out. Now, why would she do that? She doesn't 
want to hear the truth. It is better to stand on the floor and just say 
this.
  Mr. OBEY. I ask that the gentleman's words be taken down.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman will suspend.
  The Clerk will report the words.
  Mr. OBEY. Mr. Chairman, in the interest of the House finishing its 
work tonight, I withdraw my request that the gentleman's words be taken 
down.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The request is withdrawn. The gentleman from 
Indiana is recognized.
  Mr. BUYER. I appreciate the chairman having withdrawn the amendment 
since the Parliamentarians were about to rule in my favor, so I 
appreciate that, that the comments were parliamentary and permissible 
on the floor.
  Let me say, the challenge that we have had here in the committee is 
that when Mr. Filner brought his bill he needed an offset, and the 
offset is that in order to come up with $1 billion, he used the 
Hartness decision. And that would take $1 billion from American 
veterans. Now, that is what got us all into this.
  Now, the gentleman brings an amendment and tries to say, oh, no, I 
don't want to use the Hartness decision. The Hartness decision is 
extremely important, Mr. Chairman, and I want to address it here for a 
moment. Because in the committee itself, when I tried to strike the 
offset, I was defeated on a party-line vote. And there would be a tough 
vote here on the floor if we were going to vote to repeal Hartness.
  The Hartness decision is that we give a pension to individuals who 
served during a period of war, are elderly, severely disabled, and 
indigent. It is bothersome to me that we would deny these individuals 
that pension to then give to someone else. Therein lies the challenge.
  Chairman Edwards and I had a good conversation, and it is the offset 
with which many of us are uncomfortable about, and we are trying to 
figure out how best to navigate our way through this issue. And in the 
same spirit in which we are going to work on solar, we are going to 
work on this issue. But we are not going to repeal Hartness.
  Hartness comes from a 2006 United States Court of Appeals veterans 
claims decision that overturned the Department of Veterans Affairs 
decision that denied an 86-year-old legally blind World War II veteran, 
Robert A. Hartness, a VA benefit called a special monthly pension. That 
is what they wanted to overturn.
  The court reversed the VA's denial of benefits to Mr. Hartness, and 
required the VA to begin making those payments. The court held that the 
U.S. law requires an award of the special monthly pension to a veteran 
eligible for VA nonservice-connected disability pension if, in addition 
to being at least 65 years of age, he or she has a minimum disability 
rating of 60 percent or more, or is considered permanently housebound.
  The VA determined Mr. Hartness to be 70 percent disabled due to loss 
of vision, and the VA has also determined that this offset would affect 
about 20,000 who would file for this type of decision.
  So I am most hopeful, I know there is some agreement among myself and 
other members on both sides of the aisle that if we want to address the 
issue regarding the Filipino War Veterans of World War II issue, that 
should be addressed as a standalone. Let's do not repeal or overturn 
the

[[Page H7761]]

Hartness decision because you need $1 billion and so we are going to 
take it from World War II elderly, disabled, housebound veterans. That 
is a little bizarre and disturbing to me.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. OBEY. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Wisconsin is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. OBEY. Mr. Chairman, I have just one observation to make about the 
remarks of the previous speaker when he indicated that the Speaker did 
not want to hear the truth.
  I would simply observe that when the VA several years ago was 
insisting that the administration's budget for veterans' health care 
was insufficient to meet the needs, the Speaker heard the truth and 
acted on it. And as a result, even in the teeth of fierce opposition 
from the administration, she insisted that we provide another $1 
billion to the veterans' health care budget. And eventually, even the 
VA came to admit that that money was needed.
  When veterans' organizations after our party took control of the 
Congress 1.5 years ago, when those veterans' organizations told us that 
we needed to provide at least $3.5 billion more than the President's 
budget had provided for veterans' health care, she heard the truth and 
she acted on it.
  The Speaker need never take a back seat to the gentleman from Indiana 
or anyone else in this chamber when it comes to hearing the truth and 
acting on it when it concerns America's veterans. She made quite clear 
that the welfare of American veterans was going to be her number one 
budget priority when she became Speaker, because she was objecting to 
the fact that the only families in America who ever had to make any 
sacrifice because of the Iraq war were military families. That was 
indeed a truth which she not only heard but saw and acted upon, and 
this House can be proud of that on both sides of the aisle.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will read.
  The Clerk read as follows:

                               TITLE III

                            RELATED AGENCIES

                  American Battle Monuments Commission

                         salaries and expenses

       For necessary expenses, not otherwise provided for, of the 
     American Battle Monuments Commission, including the 
     acquisition of land or interest in land in foreign countries; 
     purchases and repair of uniforms for caretakers of national 
     cemeteries and monuments outside of the United States and its 
     territories and possessions; rent of office and garage space 
     in foreign countries; purchase (one-for-one replacement basis 
     only) and hire of passenger motor vehicles; not to exceed 
     $7,500 for official reception and representation expenses; 
     and insurance of official motor vehicles in foreign 
     countries, when required by law of such countries, 
     $55,470,000, to remain available until expended.

                 foreign currency fluctuations account

       For necessary expenses, not otherwise provided for, of the 
     American Battle Monuments Commission, such sums as may be 
     necessary, to remain available until expended, for purposes 
     authorized by section 2109 of title 36, United States Code.

           United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims

                         salaries and expenses

       For necessary expenses for the operation of the United 
     States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims as authorized by 
     sections 7251 through 7298 of title 38, United States Code, 
     $73,975,000, of which $1,700,000 shall be available for the 
     purpose of providing financial assistance as described, and 
     in accordance with the process and reporting procedures set 
     forth, under this heading in Public Law 102-229.

                      Department of Defense--civil

                          Cemeterial Expenses

                         salaries and expenses

       For necessary expenses, as authorized by law, for 
     maintenance, operation, and improvement of Arlington National 
     Cemetery and Soldiers' and Airmen's Home National Cemetery, 
     including the purchase of two passenger motor vehicles for 
     replacement only, and not to exceed $1,000 for official 
     reception and representation expenses, $31,230,000, to remain 
     available until expended. In addition, such sums as may be 
     necessary for parking maintenance, repairs and replacement, 
     to be derived from the Lease of Department of Defense Real 
     Property for Defense Agencies account.
       Funds appropriated under this Act may be provided to 
     Arlington County, Virginia, for the relocation of the 
     federally-owned water main at Arlington National Cemetery 
     making additional land available for ground burials.

                      Armed Forces Retirement Home

                               trust fund

       For expenses necessary for the Armed Forces Retirement Home 
     to operate and maintain the Armed Forces Retirement Home--
     Washington, District of Columbia and the Armed Forces 
     Retirement Home--Gulfport, Mississippi, to be paid from funds 
     available in the Armed Forces Retirement Home Trust Fund, 
     $63,010,000, of which $8,025,000 shall remain available until 
     expended for construction and renovation of the physical 
     plants at the Armed Forces Retirement Home--Washington.

                                TITLE IV

                           GENERAL PROVISIONS

       Sec. 401.  No part of any appropriation contained in this 
     Act shall remain available for obligation beyond the current 
     fiscal year unless expressly so provided herein.
       Sec. 402.  Such sums as may be necessary for fiscal year 
     2009 for pay raises for programs funded by this Act shall be 
     absorbed within the levels appropriated in this Act.
       Sec. 403.  None of the funds made available in this Act may 
     be used for any program, project, or activity, when it is 
     made known to the Federal entity or official to which the 
     funds are made available that the program, project, or 
     activity is not in compliance with any Federal law relating 
     to risk assessment, the protection of private property 
     rights, or unfunded mandates.
       Sec. 404.  No part of any funds appropriated in this Act 
     shall be used by an agency of the executive branch, other 
     than for normal and recognized executive-legislative 
     relationships, for publicity or propaganda purposes, and for 
     the preparation, distribution, or use of any kit, pamphlet, 
     booklet, publication, radio, television, or film presentation 
     designed to support or defeat legislation pending before 
     Congress, except in presentation to Congress itself.
       Sec. 405.  All departments and agencies funded under this 
     Act are encouraged, within the limits of the existing 
     statutory authorities and funding, to expand their use of 
     ``E-Commerce'' technologies and procedures in the conduct of 
     their business practices and public service activities.
       Sec. 406.  None of the funds made available in this Act may 
     be transferred to any department, agency, or instrumentality 
     of the United States Government except pursuant to a transfer 
     made by, or transfer authority provided in, this or any other 
     appropriations Act.
       Sec. 407.  Unless stated otherwise, all reports and 
     notifications required by this Act shall be submitted to the 
     Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and 
     Related Agencies of the Committee on Appropriations of the 
     House of Representatives and the Subcommittee on Military 
     Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies of the 
     Committee on Appropriations of the Senate.

                 Amendment No. 33 Offered by Mr. Terry

  Mr. TERRY. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
  The text of the amendment is as follows:

       Amendment No. 33 offered by Mr. Terry:
       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the 
     following:
       Sec. ___.  None of the funds made available in this Act may 
     be used to carry out the construction of any new national 
     veterans' cemetery, unless the Secretary of Veterans Affairs 
     provides to Congress, within 180 days after the date of the 
     enactment of this Act, a list of the six new locations for 
     establishment of national cemeteries that includes Omaha, 
     Nebraska, notwithstanding the current veteran population 
     threshold for the appropriate service area standard of the 
     Department of Veterans Affairs
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I reserve a point of order on the 
gentleman's amendment.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. A point of order is reserved.
  The gentleman from Nebraska is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. TERRY. Mr. Chairman, in 2002, over 6 years ago, the U.S. 
Department of Veterans Affairs completed an independent study 
recommending that the Omaha, Nebraska general area of Eastern Nebraska 
be selected as the site for a new national veterans' cemetery. That 
cemetery was to be built no later than 2005. As we stand here today, 
there has been no decision or authorization for a national veterans' 
cemetery in Eastern Nebraska.
  The State of Nebraska, the Governor and the legislature has 
determined a site in Sarpy County right next to Offutt Air Force Base 
as the site for this national veterans' cemetery. One of the issues 
supposedly that is delaying this cemetery is that, pursuant to the last 
census, we are a few thousand short of the requisite 170,000 that 
reside in a 75-mile radius, although Nebraska statistics differ with 
that census agreement, showing that we more than amply exceed that 
170,000 within a 75-mile radius.
  What this amendment does is allows us to include some contiguous 
counties, because what you have is a mass

[[Page H7762]]

populace within a small area around Offutt Air Force Base. But then, as 
you spread out, the population becomes far less dense.
  So in order here to comply, this amendment includes contiguous 
counties to get within the U.S. Census that the Veterans Administration 
is using to block the building of this national cemetery. So I am here 
tonight to make sure that the promise is kept to the veterans of the 
Eastern Nebraska, Western Iowa, Northwest Missouri area.
  As we know, our veterans population is aging. They are passing away. 
And I hear from their families quite often that they would prefer to be 
buried in a veterans' cemetery without having to travel 6 hours to the 
nearest Nebraska State veterans' cemetery.
  So that is the purpose of this amendment, is to keep a promise by the 
VA and, frankly, the entire delegation, that we are going to fight for 
a veterans' cemetery that has been promised them. This has been the way 
that has been recommended. I think it is probably the best way, 
recognizing the geography of Nebraska.

                              {time}  2330

  At this point, I will ask unanimous consent to withdraw my amendment. 
But I would like to work with the people, the appropriations and the 
veterans' committee to make sure that this promise is kept.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. Without objection, the amendment is withdrawn.
  There was no objection.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I will be very brief. But let me 
just salute the gentleman for his focus on the importance of providing 
cemeteries of honor, hallowed ground for our servicemen and women who 
served in uniform.
  For the record, let me say that for that very reason, in this bill we 
provided $83 million for the expansion of existing national cemeteries. 
We increased by 41 percent funding for our State veterans cemetery 
program, from $32 million to $45 million, and based on appropriations 
from our subcommittee in recent years, the Arlington National Cemetery, 
the most hallowed of hallowed grounds is being expanded as well.
  I thank the gentleman for withdrawing his amendment. I think the 
proper way to make these decisions is careful analysis, looking at the 
numbers of veterans, how far they have to go to various national and 
State cemeteries, and I look forward to working with him and other 
Members of this House in the months ahead to see how we can do this in 
a proper way so that we can honor our veterans.
  I yield back the balance of my time.


               Amendment No. 5 Offered by Mr. Hensarling

  Mr. HENSARLING. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
  The text of the amendment is as follows:

       Amendment No. 5 offered by Mr. Hensarling:
       At the end of the bill (before the short title), add the 
     following new section:
       Sec. 408.  None of the funds provided by this Act shall be 
     available to enforce section 526 of the Energy Independence 
     and Security Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-140; 42 U.S.C. 
     17142).
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Texas is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. HENSARLING. Mr. Chairman, the amendment is a simple one. Earlier 
this year, in one of the occasionally non-energy energy bills that we 
see in the House, we had a section 526 added to something called the 
Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. In part, this section of 
the bill says that no Federal agencies shall enter into a contract for 
procurement of an alternative fuel if the ``life cycle greenhouse gas 
emissions,'' a phrase that has yet to be legally defined, that they 
must be less or equal to such emissions from an equivalent conventional 
fuel produced from conventional petroleum sources.
  Mr. Chairman, that is very problematic language to our Defense 
Department. It is very problematic language to our veterans. And in 
specific, the author of that provision, the distinguished gentleman 
from California, who is the Chairman of the House Oversight and 
Government Reform Committee, told us what his purpose was by putting 
this section into the bill. And I have in my hand, Mr. Chairman, 
correspondence dated March 17 from the distinguished gentleman from 
California to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and 
Natural Resources.
  It reads, in part, ``It was developed,'' it, referring to section 
526, ``it was included in the legislation in response to proposals 
under consideration by the Air Force to develop coal-to-liquid fuels.''
  That was the purpose of this section. And so, Mr. Chairman, what we 
have is a portion of a bill that makes it more difficult for our 
Defense Department to become more energy independent, to rely more on 
North American and specifically, American fuels than Middle Eastern 
fuels. This is very problematic for our Defense Department.
  I also, Mr. Chairman, have in my hand correspondence dated July 9 
from the Defense Department, written to the Honorable James Inhofe, 
ranking member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works.
  In part, the letter reads, ``it,'' referring to 526, ``creates 
uncertainty about what fuels DOD can procure and will discourage the 
development of new sources, particularly reliable domestic sources of 
energy supplies for the Armed Forces.''
  This is the Pentagon, Mr. Chairman.
  It also goes on to say, ``As written, section 526 could apply to 
alternative and synthetic fuels, including E85, fuel that is 85 percent 
ethanol, and B20, diesel fuel that contains 20 percent bio fuels, that 
the department is encouraged or required to use under other statutes.''
  The letter from the Pentagon continues to say, ``The provision opens 
the Department up to court or administrative challenges to every fuel 
purchase it makes.'' And this is a very important provision of this 
letter, Mr. Chairman.
  ``It could cause significant harm to the readiness of the Armed 
Forces because these fuels may be widely used and particularly 
important in certain geographic areas.''
  Now, Mr. Chairman, we have got an opportunity in this legislation, 
and my amendment is a very simple one. It simply says that none of the 
funds provided in this act that we are debating tonight, shall be 
available to enforce section 526, this problematic language that the 
Pentagon says can have an adverse effect on the readiness of our Armed 
Forces.
  So, I would hope, Mr. Chairman, that we would pay very careful 
attention when we are dealing with a bill dealing with our Army, our 
veterans, our Nation's veterans, with military construction. I would 
hope that we would pay very, very careful attention and do everything 
we can to get rid of this section of this law that is hampering our 
national defense at this time.
         House of Representatives, Committee on Oversight and 
           Government Reform,
                                   Washington, DC, March 17, 2008.
     Hon. Jeff Bingaman,
     Chairman, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, 
         Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC.
       Dear Chairman Bingaman: I am writing regarding questions 
     that have arisen with respect to the interpretation of 
     section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 
     2007. Section 526 addresses government contracts to purchase 
     alternative fuels. As the author of this provision and 
     Chairman of the committee of jurisdiction in the House, I 
     would like to share my views as to how the language should be 
     interpreted.
       Section 526 provides:
       ``No Federal agency shall enter into a contract for 
     procurement of an alternative or synthetic fuel, including a 
     fuel produced from nonconventional petroleum sources, for any 
     mobility-related use, other than for research or testing, 
     unless the contract specifies that the lifecycle greenhouse 
     gas emissions associated with the production and combustion 
     of the fuel supplied under the contract must, on an ongoing 
     basis, be less than or equal to such emissions from the 
     equivalent conventional fuel produced from conventional 
     petroleum sources.''
       This provision ensures that Federal agencies are not 
     spending taxpayer dollars on new fuel sources that will 
     exacerbate global warming. It was included in the legislation 
     in response to proposals under consideration by the Air Force 
     to develop coal-to-liquid fuels. As you may know, coal-to-
     liquid fuels are estimated to produce almost double the 
     greenhouse gas emissions of the comparable conventional fuel. 
     The provision is also applicable to fuels derived from tar 
     sands, which produce significantly higher greenhouse gas 
     emissions than are produced by comparable fuel from 
     conventional petroleum sources.

[[Page H7763]]

       The development and expanded use of these fuels could 
     significantly exacerbate global warming, with highly 
     dangerous effects. Thus, it is important to ensure that the 
     Federal government does not subsidize or otherwise support 
     the expanded use of these fuels through government purchasing 
     decisions.
       Section 526 applies specifically to contracts to purchase 
     fuels, and it must be interpreted in a manner that makes 
     sense in light of Federal contracting practices. The purpose 
     of the provision is to bar federal agencies from spending 
     taxpayer dollars to support the development and expansion of 
     alternative fuels and fuels from unconventional sources, if 
     those fuels have higher lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions 
     than the comparable conventional fuels. It was not intended 
     to bar federal agencies from entering into contracts to 
     purchase fuels that are generally available in the market, 
     such as diesel or jet fuel, that may contain incidental 
     amounts of fuel produced from nonconventional petroleum 
     sources.
       Thus, section 526 would clearly apply to a contract that 
     specifically requires the contractor to provide an 
     alternative fuel, such as coal-to-liquids fuel, or a fuel 
     produced from a nonconventional petroleum source, such as 
     fuel from tar sands. The provision also would apply to such a 
     contract where the purpose of the contract is to obtain such 
     an alternative fuel or fuel from a nonconventional petroleum 
     source, even if the source of the fuel is not explicitly 
     identified in the contract. Similarly, a contract that 
     supports or provides incentives for a refinery upgrade or 
     expansion to allow a refinery to use or increase its use of 
     tar sands oils would also be subject to section 526. This 
     provision would not apply to contracts to purchase a 
     generally available fuel, such as a specific diesel or jet 
     fuel blend, if that fuel is not an alternative fuel or 
     predominantly produced from an unconventional fuel source.
       Questions have also been raised as to whether the 
     implementation of this provision must await the development 
     of specific lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions profiles for 
     each fuel type. The language of section 526 requires only a 
     determination of whether a fuel has higher lifecycle 
     greenhouse gas emissions than the comparable conventional 
     fuel, not a precise estimate of each fuel's specific 
     greenhouse gas emissions. While there is a range of numeric 
     estimates of the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of coal-
     to-liquids fuels produced without carbon capture and 
     sequestration and fuels derived from tar sands, there is no 
     debate over the fact that both of these fuels have 
     substantially higher lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than 
     the comparable conventional fuels. There is no barrier to the 
     immediate implementation of section 526 with respect to these 
     fuels.
       I hope this clarification of my understanding of section 
     526 is helpful as your Committee oversees federal agencies' 
     implementation of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 
     2007.
           Sincerely,
                                                  Henry A. Waxman,
     Chairman.
                                  ____

                                            General Counsel of the


                                        Department of Defense,

                                     Washington, DC, July 9, 2008.
     Hon. James M. Inhofe,
     Ranking Member, Committee on Environment & Public Works, U.S. 
         Senate, Washington, DC.
       Dear Senator Inhofe: The Department of Defense (DoD) 
     supports S. 2827, a bill ``to repeal a requirement with 
     respect to the procurement and acquisition of alternative 
     fuels.'' The bill would repeal section 526 of the Energy 
     Independence and Security Act of 2007. Section 526 has the 
     potential to generate significant problems for DoD in its 
     procurement of fuels for the national defense. It creates 
     uncertainty about what fuels DoD can procure and will 
     discourage the development of new sources, particularly 
     reliable domestic sources, of energy supplies for the Armed 
     Forces. The following is representative of the Department's 
     concerns.
       The Department believes section 526 is overly broad both in 
     design and application. The law's terms are not defined and 
     some may argue that it covers a very broad range of fuels 
     commonly purchased by DoD. As written, section 526 could 
     apply to alternative and synthetic fuels, including E85 (fuel 
     that is 85 percent ethanol) and B20 (diesel fuel that 
     contains 20 percent biofuels), that the Department is 
     encouraged or required to use under other statutes.
       Section 526 applies to ``an alternative or synthetic fuel, 
     including a fuel produced from nonconventional petroleum 
     sources.'' The provision opens the Department up to court or 
     administrative challenges to every fuel purchase it makes, 
     with the inherent potential for an adverse decision that 
     would cover fuels the military already relies on as well as 
     potential reliable sources of fuel that could be developed in 
     the future. Such a decision could cause significant harm to 
     the readiness of the Armed Forces because these fuels may be 
     widely used and particularly important in certain geographic 
     areas.
       Section 526 applies worldwide, not just to purchases within 
     the United States. There are no means to accurately and 
     authoritatively determine the lifecycle greenhouse gas 
     emissions from non-domestically produced fuels because we do 
     not track all of the fuel inputs in other countries and many 
     producing countries lack the infrastructure or institutional 
     control necessary to reliably track these inputs. For 
     example, our military aircraft used over 6 million gallons of 
     Canadian jet fuel in 2007 while exercising with the Canadian 
     Armed Forces, conducting joint operations along the Distant 
     Early Warning Line, and refueling at Canadian commercial 
     airports. Canadian fuels include a mix of fuels including 
     those produced from tar sands crude at various percentages. 
     If these fuels were subject to section 526, and fuel 
     suppliers were unable to authoritatively certify the 
     lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions associated with the fuel, 
     our military aircraft may be required to stop refueling in 
     Canada, potentially affecting our national security.
       Section 526 requires an analysis that may never be 
     possible. The source of a fuel informs the greenhouse gas 
     emissions footprint. Fuels, including conventional petroleum, 
     are produced from numerous sources and often mixed together. 
     Current standards for determining emissions of fuels from 
     various origins are determined on averages. However, section 
     526 could be interpreted to require an analysis of individual 
     fuel purchases for lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions, even 
     though determining the emissions footprint for any individual 
     batch of fuel may be impossible. For example, conventional 
     fuel derived from oil produced in Venezuela or Nigeria is 
     more likely to have a larger footprint than domestic oil 
     because of the energy used transporting the oil to the United 
     States. Foreign and domestic oil may be mixed together at a 
     refinery. Once foreign and domestic oils are mixed together, 
     the oils cannot be differentiated from one another. 
     Therefore, the footprint of the resulting fuel cannot be 
     determined accurately or authoritatively.
       Finally, even a narrow interpretation of section 526 in an 
     effort to reduce the uncertainty and the scope of section 526 
     still could limit the Department's flexibility in making 
     emergency fuel purchases, overseas fuel purchases, and 
     purchases at commercial stations and airports. Currently, 
     there is no method for determining whether fuel purchased at 
     these locations meets the requirements of section 526.
       The Office of Management and Budget advises that, from the 
     standpoint of the Administration's program, there is no 
     objection to the presentation of this report for the 
     consideration of the committee.
           Sincerely,
                                                     ------ ------
                                (for Daniel J. Dell'Orto, Acting).

  With whatever time I have remaining, I would be happy to yield to my 
friend from Texas, the chairman of the committee.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. I thank my colleague from Texas. I will not 
object to this amendment.
  Mr. HENSARLING. I thank the chairman for agreeing to the amendment. I 
know how to take yes for an answer.
  I am happy to yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Texas (Mr. Hensarling).
  The amendment was agreed to.


                 Amendment No. 30 Offered by Mr. Taylor

  Mr. TAYLOR. I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
  The text of the amendment is as follows:

       Amendment No. 30 offered by Mr. Taylor:
       At the end of title IV of the bill, before the short title, 
     insert the following:
       Sec. 408.  None of the funds made available in this Act may 
     be used to implement section 2703 of Public Law 109-234.

  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Mississippi is recognized for 
5 minutes.
  Mr. TAYLOR. Mr. Chairman, in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane 
Katrina, the Congress of the United States showed incredible generosity 
to the people of south Mississippi. One of those acts of generosity was 
the transfer of approximately 100 acres of very valuable waterfront 
property along Highway 90 in Gulfport, Mississippi, that had, and is 
still owned by the Veterans Administration to the City of Gulfport. We 
are very grateful for that. It had been my desire that that remain a 
veterans hospital, but because of the decision by the CARES Commission, 
the initial plan was for the Nation to sell that property and plow the 
proceeds of that sale into other Veterans Administration facilities in 
south Mississippi for upgrades.
  In the aftermath of the storm, our very capable Senators drafted some 
legislation that allowed the city of Gulfport to receive this property 
free from our Nation. And again we are grateful for that.
  What I regret is that there were no safeguards to ensure that this 
transfer, that this property continues to serve a public purpose. And 
this piece of property has been a public asset for over 80 years. For 
80 years veterans with psychological, traumatic mental illnesses

[[Page H7764]]

have been treated there. And I think it would serve our Nation well to 
delay this process, go to conference and make sure that there are 
adequate safeguards so that the funds received from the lease of this 
property, any future use of this property, serves a public purpose.
  And so I have brought this to the attention of Mr. Filner. I brought 
this to the attention of Mr. Edwards.
  I would hope that, given, again, we respect the fact that Congress 
acted very quickly in the aftermath of Katrina to do something to help 
the people of south Mississippi in their efforts to act quickly. I 
regret that I don't think there were adequate safeguards to protect the 
public. This is an effort to slow this down just long enough to put 
those safeguards in there. I believe I have the support of Chairman 
Filner. I would hope I have the support of Chairman Edwards. I would 
hope Ranking Member Wamp would agree to this.
  I yield back the remainder of my time.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Mississippi (Mr. Taylor).
  The amendment was agreed to.


             Amendment No. 6 Offered by Mr. McCaul of Texas

  Mr. McCAUL of Texas. I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
  The text of the amendment is as follows:

       Amendment No. 6 offered by Mr. McCaul of Texas:
       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the 
     following:
       Sec. _____.  None of the funds made available in this Act 
     may be used for a project or program named for an individual 
     then serving as a Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, or 
     Senator of the United States Congress.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. McCAUL of Texas. Mr. Chairman, my amendment is a simple one. It 
would prohibit any funds appropriated in this bill from going to any 
projects named after a sitting Member of Congress. The amendment is 
based on my bill, H.R. 5771, which I introduced earlier this year, and 
has been cosponsored by 27 other Members.
  One of the most egregious examples of pure vanity and arrogance that 
we see in Washington is the practice of naming projects after current 
Members of Congress, or, as I call them, monuments to me.
  According to the latest polls, only 12 percent of the American public 
approves of the job we are doing in the Congress, and that sentiment is 
due, in no small measure, to the fact that the American public thinks 
that we care less about them than we do ourselves. That is really what 
is wrong with Washington today.
  And a few examples I think illustrate this problem that we have with 
ethics today in the Congress. The Robert Byrd Center for Hospitality 
and Tourism, the Robert Byrd Lodge, office complex, the Ted Stevens 
International Airport, the Harkin Grants, the Harkin Wellness Grant 
Program, the Harkin Global Communication Center, the Arlen Specter 
Headquarters and Emergency Operations Center, the John Dingell Drive, 
the Cynthia McKinney Parkway, the Jack Murtha Highway, the James 
Clyburn Golf Center, the James Clyburn Pedestrian Overpass, the James 
Clyburn Intermodal Transportation Center, and the Charlie Rangel Center 
For Public Service.
  I submit to you, Mr. Chairman, that this bill is not about us. This 
bill is about our military and our veterans, as it should be.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I won't take 5 minutes. Let me 
just clarify for the record, we have no projects or programs in this 
bill, the VA and military construction bill, named after anyone 
currently serving in Congress. And so for that reason, I am glad to 
accept the gentleman's amendment.

                              {time}  2345

  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Texas (Mr. McCaul).
  The question was taken; and the Acting Chairman announced that the 
ayes appeared to have it.
  Mr. McCAUL. Mr. Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. Pursuant to clause 6 of rule XVIII, further 
proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Texas will 
be postponed.


                 Amendment No. 16 Offered by Mr. Stupak

  Mr. STUPAK. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
  The text of the amendment is as follows:

       Amendment No. 16 offered by Mr. Stupak:
       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the 
     following:
       Sec. 408.  None of the funds made available in this Act may 
     be used to carry out section 111(c)(5) of title 38, United 
     States Code, during fiscal year 2009.
  THE Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Michigan is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. STUPAK. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
  Mr. Chairman, the Stupak/Barrow amendment No. 16 would prevent any 
funds appropriated or made available under this Act from being used to 
increase the deductible veterans must pay to receive their mileage 
reimbursement.
  Currently, veterans driving to a Veterans Affairs facility for an 
examination, treatment, or other medical care receive a mileage 
reimbursement rate of 28.5 cents per mile. However, the 28.5 cents per 
mile benefit is subject to a $7.77 deductible for each one-way trip and 
$15.54 for a round trip with a maximum deductible of $46.62 per 
calendar month.
  Now, in a vast rural area where I live, many of my veterans drive 
more than 100 miles for an examination or treatment. So if a veteran 
lives 70 miles round trip from a VA facility, they would file a request 
for reimbursement for $19.95 minus the $15.54 deductible. This would 
mean a veteran would receive a mere $4.41. Even today's most efficient 
vehicles cannot make a 17-mile round trip on $4.41 when the national 
average price for a gallon of gasoline is $3.96.
  The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill, as it is 
currently written, would increase the mileage, and I'm appreciative of 
that. It would increase the reimbursement rate from 28.5 cents up to 
41.5 cents per mile. And I support this increase, but the Act does not 
address the subsequent required increase in the deductible.
  Under law, each time the mileage reimbursement rate is increased, the 
Secretary of Veterans Affairs is required to proportionately increase 
the deductible veterans must pay to receive this benefit. The amendment 
offered by myself and the gentleman from Georgia would freeze the 
deductible and prevent the secretary from increasing it when mileage 
reimbursement is increased.
  In these times of rising gas prices, it's hard to justify an increase 
in the deductible veterans are required to pay for mileage 
reimbursement they receive. While I support the mileage reimbursement 
included in the bill, we need to make sure that the required increase 
in the deductible doesn't eliminate the benefit the veteran would 
receive from this policy.
  Mr. Chairman, I would like to give the balance of my time to the 
gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Barrow), the co-author of this amendment.
  Mr. BARROW. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
  Mr. Chairman, first of all, I want to commend Mr. Stupak for his work 
on this issue over the years. Like Mr. Stupak, I have been working to 
restore the full veteran mileage reimbursement benefits since I got to 
Congress, and the deductible is a big part of the problem. I won't be 
satisfied until we get rid of the deductible altogether, and this is a 
big step in the right direction.
  Last year the House adopted my bill, the Disabled Veterans Fairness 
Act, as an amendment to the Wounded Warriors Assistance Act. My bill 
would completely eliminate the deductible and fully restore the 
reimbursement rate to the level paid to Federal civil servants. But the 
other body wouldn't go along. As a result, the reimbursement rate was 
raised from 11 cents per

[[Page H7765]]

mile to 28.5 cents per mile, the first increase in 30 years. However, 
the secretary of the VA increased the deductible from $6 a round trip 
to $15 a round trip.
  Under this bill, all veterans who currently get a travel expense 
reimbursement will get an increase from 28.5 cents per mile to 41.5 
cents per mile. This amendment will prevent the secretary of the VA 
from taking any of that back by increasing the deductible. We ought to 
do a better job taking care of those who gave us the best years of 
their lives taking care of us.
  This change won't completely close the gap between what has been 
promised and what has been delivered, but it will definitely help. 
That's what our amendment will do, that's why it's a good idea, and 
that's why I urge all of my colleagues to vote for it.
  Mr. STUPAK. With that, I would yield back the balance of our time.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank Mr. Stupak and 
Mr. Barrow. This is a glitch in the writing of the law done in years 
past that causes a problem when we increase the miles reimbursement 
rate for veterans who need to travel, in some cases, hundreds of miles 
to get to a VA hospital. It actually increases the deductible. That is 
not the intention of the VA. That is not the intention of the Congress. 
This amendment corrects that.
  I hope we can take this principle and talk about it as we go into 
conference committee, and I have even had some brief conversations with 
the VA. My hope is that we could actually address this issue, fix it, 
so that we don't have veterans who, in effect, even though we have a 
41.5 cent reimbursement rate, after deductible is considered, some of 
them might have a 10 cent-per-mile rate or a 20 cent-per-mile rate.
  The reason we need to fix that completely is that for many veterans--
while this may not sound like a lot of money to others, for veterans 
this is a difference truly between being able to afford to drive to a 
clinic or drive to a hospital and get the health care they desperately 
need and deserve.
  So I know Mr. Wamp, who takes a back seat to no one in his caring for 
veterans, and anyone who's heard him speak tonight on the floor knows 
why I have such great respect for his commitment to our veterans, I 
know that he and I can work closely together with Mr. Stupak, with Mr. 
Barrow, with the VA and see if we can't take the principle embodied in 
this amendment and move it even further.
  The gentlemen have done a great benefit for hundreds of thousands of 
veterans out there.
  Mr. WAMP. Will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. I'd be glad to.
  Mr. WAMP. I, too, want to commend Mr. Stupak and Mr. Barrow, two of 
the finest Members in this House, outstanding, a perfect example of how 
Members that aren't on our committee can bring improvements to the 
floor for the bill. Certainly we'll work with you the whole way. We'll 
support your amendment subject to the chairman and his call tonight. 
But we will work together with you either way.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Thank you, Mr. Stupak. Thank you, Mr. Barrow.
  I yield back.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Stupak).
  The amendment was agreed to.


                    Amendment 36 Offered by Mr. Wamp

  Mr. WAMP. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
  The text of the amendment is as follows:

       Amendment 36 offered by Mr. Wamp:
       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the 
     following:
       Sec. __.  None of the funds made available in this Act may 
     be used to modify the standards applicable to the 
     determination of the entitlement of veterans to special 
     monthly pensions under sections 1513(a) and 1521(e) of title 
     38, United States Code, as in effect pursuant to the opinion 
     of the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in 
     the case of Hartness v. Nicholson (No. 04-0888, July 21, 
     2006).

  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Tennessee is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. WAMP. Mr. Chairman, I will be very brief.
  My amendment is very simple. It says that the VA can not modify 
current standards that are used to make special monthly benefit 
payments and therefore protects that benefit payment for U.S. veterans 
who are eligible for it.
  Earlier tonight the chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee 
offered and withdrew two amendments that would have decimated the 
information technology budget at the VA to fund a new entitlement 
program for Filipino veterans. Had those amendments passed, it would 
have stopped key VA initiatives dead in their tracks.
  We're trying to get the VA to streamline operations, reduce the time 
it takes to process claims, and increase interoperability between VA 
and DOD medical records, not to mention that the VA is going to need 
all of the $2.4 billion that the President requested to help it roll 
out or new GI Bill.
  Earlier in the year the chairman of the authorizing committee tried 
to pay for this bill by proposing to cut special monthly pension 
benefits to U.S. veterans currently receiving these benefits. Now, 
let's be clear here. We support those Filipino veterans who fell 
alongside U.S. forces in World War II. But to provide them with a new 
benefit to be paid for out of an account that our veterans will 
immediately feel the impact of is wrong.
  An ``aye'' vote on my amendment will tell our veterans that their 
benefits will not be cut and let them know we are trying to do 
everything we can to get their claims processed as quickly as possible.
  I yield back.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Texas is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. I'm glad to support this amendment and thank 
Mr. Wamp for bringing it to the floor.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Wamp).
  The amendment was agreed to.


         Amendment No. 37 Offered by Mr. Murphy of Connecticut

  Mr. MURPHY of Connecticut. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the 
desk.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
  The text of the amendment is as follows:

       Amendment 37 offered by Mr. Murphy of Connecticut:
       Add at the end of the bill (before the short title) the 
     following:
       Sec. __.  None of the funds made available in this Act may 
     be used to enforce section 3, Policy of VHA Directive 2008-
     25.

  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. MURPHY of Connecticut. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
  I rise to offer this amendment along with my good friend from 
Pennsylvania (Mr. Murphy) that will help restore access to voter 
registration for America's veterans.
  You see, Mr. Chairman, on April 25, 2008, the Veterans Health 
Administration issued a directive stating the VA's clear policy to 
assist veterans, patients of VA facilities who seek to exercise their 
right to register and vote. And I believe all of us would agree here 
that such a policy is extraordinarily appropriate given that these men 
and women served by the VA are the very people who put their lives on 
the line to protect that right to vote.
  Inexplicably though, on May 5, 2008, the VA withdrew this directive 
and issued a contrary directive. This new instruction made a similar 
commitment regarding voter assistance but it included a policy 
statement which prohibits nonpartisan voter registration drives on VA 
property.
  Mr. Chairman, the mission of the VA is, in its own words, to ``care 
for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and orphan'' 
by functioning ``as a single, comprehensive provider of seamless 
service to the men and women who have served our nation.''
  It's disappointing that the VA would not consider assistance with 
voter registration as one of the fundamental components of offering 
this seamless service to veterans. Many of these soldiers have been 
wounded in combat and

[[Page H7766]]

have disabilities that make traditional voting difficult. The VA should 
be ready to provide these men and women with any and all assistance 
that they might need to make their voices heard in this democracy, 
whether that be delivering an absentee ballot to an amputee or filling 
out a ballot for a soldier who has lost his sight.
  Secretaries of States and election officials all over the country 
will tell you that the registration drives that historically have been 
a critical portion of this outreach for veterans in these facilities 
has done a great service for our veterans. Over 20 bipartisan 
secretaries of State have joined us in expressing their disappointment 
over this policy.
  We're not here today, of course, to restrict the VA's ability to 
manage their facilities and the care of their patients. On the 
contrary, they need that ability, and nothing in this amendment would 
diminish it. However, we believe it's the duty of the VA to work 
closely with nonpartisan veterans groups and elections officials to 
ensure that veterans have the ability to exercise that basic 
fundamental right to vote.
  So our amendment is simple. It would not allow the VA to use any 
funds appropriated through this legislation to carry out that policy 
section of the May Directive. And while we hope the VA will still 
reverse this decision on its own, with this congressional action today 
we are sending a clear signal that this House believes that all 
veterans should have access to and the right the vote.
  Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank the chairman for his assistance 
in putting this amendment before the House. I would also like to thank 
Robert Brady and Congresswoman Watson for their persistence and 
advocacy on this issue which has brought it to the floor today.
  Mr. Chairman, I urge the amendment's adoption, and I yield back the 
balance of my time.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Texas is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
  I want to express gratitude to Mr. Murphy and also to Mr. Murphy of 
Pennsylvania.
  I think what he just said was so important. Our veterans have given 
their lives to protect our right to vote as citizens of this country. 
Many others have made sacrifices, have physical and mental wounds that 
they will pay for to the last days of their lives. And I just don't 
think it is right or proper for the VA to be making it more difficult 
for veterans who've done so much to protect our right to vote to make 
it more difficult for them to vote.
  Many of our veterans in our VA hospitals are long-term patients there 
with significant disabilities. Our country ought to be doing outreach 
to make it possible for them to cast the vote that they fought for in 
combat.
  So for all of those reasons, I salute the gentleman for this 
amendment. I strongly support it.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Connecticut (Mr. Murphy).
  The amendment was agreed to.

                              {time}  0000


                  Amendment No. 4 Offered by Mr. Flake

  Mr. FLAKE. I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
  The text of the amendment is as follows:

       Amendment No. 4 offered by Mr. Flake:
       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the 
     following:
       Sec. __. (a) Elimination of Military Construction 
     Congressional Earmarks.--None of the funds provided in this 
     Act shall be available from the following Department of 
     Defense military construction accounts for the following 
     projects, and the amount otherwise provided in this Act for 
     each such account is hereby reduced by the sum of the amounts 
     specified for such projects from such account:

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                      Amount (in
             Account                       State               Location            Project Title      thousands)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Army.............................  Alabama.............  Anniston Army Depot.  Lake Yard Railroad         $1,400
                                                                                Interchange.
Army.............................  Alabama.............  Fort Rucker.........  Chapel Center.......       $6,800
Air Force........................  Arizona.............  Luke AFB............  Repair Runway              $1,755
                                                                                Pavement.
Army.............................  Arizona.............  Fort Huachuca.......  ATC Radar Operations       $2,000
                                                                                Building.
Army NG..........................  Arkansas............  Cabot...............  Readiness Center....      $10,868
Air NG...........................  Arkansas............  Little Rock AFB.....  Replace Engine Shop.       $4,000
Navy.............................  California..........  Monterey............  Education Facility..       $9,990
Air Force........................  California..........  Edwards AFB.........  Main Base Runway Ph        $6,000
                                                                                4.
Navy.............................  California..........  North Island........  Training Pool              $6,890
                                                                                Replacement.
Navy.............................  California..........  Twentynine Palms....  Lifelong Learning          $9,760
                                                                                Center Ph 1.
Air NG...........................  Connecticut.........  Bradley IAP.........  TFI Upgrade Engine         $7,200
                                                                                Shop.
Air Force........................  Florida.............  Tyndall AFB.........  325 ACS Ops Training      $11,600
                                                                                Complex.
Army NG..........................  Florida.............  Camp Blanding.......  Regional Training         $20,907
                                                                                Institute Ph 4.
Air Force........................  Florida.............  MacDill AFB.........  Combat Training            $5,000
                                                                                Facility.
Navy.............................  Florida.............  Mayport.............  Aircraft Refueling..       $3,380
Air NG...........................  Georgia.............  Savannah CRTC.......  Troop Training             $7,500
                                                                                Quarters.
Navy.............................  Georgia.............  Kings Bay...........  Add to Limited Area        $6,130
                                                                                Reaction Force
                                                                                Facility.
Air Force........................  Georgia.............  Robins AFB..........  Avionics Facility...       $5,250
Army.............................  Hawaii..............  Pohakuloa TA........  Access Road, Ph 1...       $9,000
Air NG...........................  Illinois............  Greater Peoria RAP..  C-130 Squadron               $400
                                                                                Operations Center.
Army NG..........................  Indiana.............  Muscatatuck.........  Combined Arms              $6,000
                                                                                Collective Training
                                                                                Facility Ph 1.
Air NG...........................  Indiana.............  Fort Wayne IAP......  Aircraft Ready             $5,600
                                                                                Shelters/Fuel Fill
                                                                                Stands.
Army NG..........................  Iowa................  Camp Dodge..........  MOUT Site Add/Alt...       $1,500
Army NG..........................  Iowa................  Davenport...........  Readiness Center Add/      $1,550
                                                                                Alt.
Air NG...........................  Iowa................  Fort Dodge..........  Vehicle Maintenance        $5,600
                                                                                & Comm. Training
                                                                                Complex.
Army NG..........................  Iowa................  Mount Pleasant......  Readiness Center Add/      $1,500
                                                                                Alt.
Army.............................  Kansas..............  Fort Leavenworth....  Chapel Complex Ph 2.       $4,200
Army.............................  Kansas..............  Fort Riley..........  Fire Station........       $3,000
Air Force........................  Kansas..............  McConnell AFB.......  MXG Consolidation &        $6,800
                                                                                Forward Logistics
                                                                                Center Ph 2.
Army NG..........................  Kentucky............  London..............  Aviation Operations        $7,191
                                                                                Facility Ph III.
Navy.............................  Maine...............  Portsmouth NSY......  Dry Dock 3                 $1,450
                                                                                Waterfront Support
                                                                                Facility.

[[Page H7767]]

 
Navy.............................  Maine...............  Portsmouth NSY......  Consolidated Global        $9,980
                                                                                Sub Component Ph 1.
Navy.............................  Maryland............  Carderock...........  RDTE Support               $6,980
                                                                                Facility Ph 1.
Army NG..........................  Maryland............  Dundalk.............  Readiness Center....         $579
Navy.............................  Maryland............  Indian Head.........  Energetics Systems &      $12,050
                                                                                Tech Lab Complex Ph
                                                                                1.
Air NG...........................  Maryland............  Martin State Airport  Replace Fire Station       $7,900
Air NG...........................  Massachusetts.......  Otis ANGB...........  TFI Digital Ground         $1,700
                                                                                Station FOC Beddown.
Air Reserve......................  Massachusetts.......  Westover ARB........  Joint Service                $943
                                                                                Lodging Facility.
Army NG..........................  Michigan............  Camp Grayling.......  Live Fire Shoot            $2,000
                                                                                House.
Army NG..........................  Michigan............  Camp Grayling.......  Urban Assault Course       $2,000
Army NG..........................  Minnesota...........  Arden Hills.........  Infrastructure             $1,005
                                                                                Improvements.
Air NG...........................  Minnesota...........  Duluth..............  Replace Fuel Cell          $4,500
                                                                                Hangar.
Air NG...........................  Minnesota...........  Minneapolis-St. Paul  Aircraft Deicing           $1,500
                                                          IAP.                  Apron.
Navy.............................  Mississippi.........  Gulfport............  Battalion                  $5,870
                                                                                Maintenance
                                                                                Facility.
Army.............................  Missouri............  Fort Leonard Wood...  Vehicle Maintenance        $9,500
                                                                                Shop.
Air Force........................  Missouri............  Whiteman AFB........  Security Forces            $4,200
                                                                                Animal Clinic.
Army.............................  Missouri............  Fort Leonard Wood...  Chapel Complex......       $3,500
Air NG...........................  New Jersey..........  Atlantic City IAP...  Operations and             $8,400
                                                                                Training Facility.
Air Force........................  New Jersey..........  McGuire AFB.........  Security Forces            $7,200
                                                                                Operations Facility
                                                                                Ph 1.
Army.............................  New Jersey..........  Picatinny Arsenal...  Ballistic Evaluation       $9,900
                                                                                Facility Ph 1.
Air Force........................  New Mexico..........  Cannon AFB..........  CV-22 Flight               $8,300
                                                                                Simulator Facility.
Air NG...........................  New York............  Gabreski Airport....  Replace Pararescue         $7,500
                                                                                Ops Facility Ph 2.
Army.............................  New York............  Fort Drum...........  Replace Fire Station       $6,900
Air Reserve......................  New York............  Niagara Falls ARS...  Dining Facility/           $9,000
                                                                                Community Center.
Air NG...........................  New York............  Hancock Field.......  Upgrade ASOS               $5,400
                                                                                Facilities.
Army.............................  North Carolina......  Fort Bragg..........  Access Roads Ph 1          $8,600
                                                                                (Additional Funds).
Army NG..........................  North Carolina......  Camp Butner.........  Training Complex....       $1,376
Army.............................  North Carolina......  Fort Bragg..........  Mass Casualty              $1,300
                                                                                Facility.
Army.............................  North Carolina......  Fort Bragg..........  Chapel..............      $11,600
Army NG..........................  Ohio................  Camp Perry..........  Barracks............       $2,000
Army NG..........................  Ohio................  Ravenna.............  Barracks............       $2,000
Air NG...........................  Ohio................  Springfield ANGB....  Combat                    $12,800
                                                                                Communications
                                                                                Training Complex.
Air Force........................  Ohio................  Wright-Patterson AFB  Security Forces           $14,000
                                                                                Operations Facility.
Army.............................  Oklahoma............  McAlester AAP.......  AP3 Connecting Rail.       $5,800
Air Force........................  Oklahoma............  Tinker AFB..........  Realign Air Depot          $5,400
                                                                                Street.
Army NG..........................  Pennsylvania........  Honesdale...........  Readiness Center Add/      $6,117
                                                                                Alt.
Army NG..........................  Pennsylvania........  Honesdale...........  Readiness Center Add/        $504
                                                                                Alt.
Army NG..........................  Pennsylvania........  Pittsburgh..........  Combined Support           $3,250
                                                                                Maintenance Shop.
Army.............................  Pennsylvania........  Letterkenny Depot...  Upgrade Munition           $7,500
                                                                                Igloos Phase 2.
Navy.............................  Rhode Island........  Newport.............  Unmanned ASW Support       $9,900
                                                                                Facility.
Air NG...........................  Rhode Island........  Quonset State         Replace Control              $600
                                                          Airport.              Tower.
Army NG..........................  South Carolina......  Hemingway...........  Field Maintenance          $4,600
                                                                                Shop Ph 1.
Army NG..........................  South Carolina......  Sumter..............  Readiness Center....         $382
Air Force........................  South Carolina......  Shaw AFB............  Physical Fitness           $9,900
                                                                                Center.
Air NG...........................  South Dakota........  Joe Foss Field......  Aircraft Ready             $4,500
                                                                                Shelters/AMU.
Army NG..........................  Tennessee...........  Tullahoma...........  Readiness Center....      $10,372
Army Reserve.....................  Texas...............  Bryan...............  Army Reserve Center.         $920
Army.............................  Texas...............  Camp Bullis.........  Live Fire Shoot            $4,200
                                                                                House.
Air NG...........................  Texas...............  Ellington Field.....  ASOS Facility.......       $7,600
Army.............................  Texas...............  Fort Hood...........  Chapel with               $17,500
                                                                                Education Center.
Air Force........................  Texas...............  Lackland AFB........  Security Forces              $900
                                                                                Building Ph 1.
Air Force........................  Texas...............  Laughlin AFB........  Student Officer            $1,440
                                                                                Quarters Ph 2.
Air Force........................  Texas...............  Randolph AFB........  Fire and Rescue              $972
                                                                                Station.
Navy.............................  Texas...............  Corpus Christi......  Parking Apron              $3,500
                                                                                Recapitalization Ph
                                                                                1.
Army.............................  Texas...............  Fort Bliss..........  Medical Parking           $12,500
                                                                                Garage Ph 1.
Air NG...........................  Texas...............  Fort Worth NAS JRB..  Security Forces            $5,000
                                                                                Training Facility.
Navy.............................  Texas...............  Kingsville..........  Fitness Center......      $11,580
Air Force........................  Utah................  Hill AFB............  Three-Bay Fire             $5,400
                                                                                Station.
Army NG..........................  Vermont.............  Ethan Allen Range...  Readiness Center....         $323
Army NG..........................  Virginia............  Fort Belvoir........  Readiness Center and       $1,085
                                                                                NGB Conference
                                                                                Center.
Army.............................  Virginia............  Fort Myer...........  Hatfield Gate                $300
                                                                                Expansion.
Army.............................  Virginia............  Fort Eustis.........  Vehicle Paint              $3,900
                                                                                Facility.
Navy.............................  Virginia............  Norfolk NS..........  Fire and Emergency         $9,960
                                                                                Services Station.
Navy.............................  Virginia............  Norfolk NSY.........  Industrial Access          $9,990
                                                                                Improvements, Main
                                                                                Gate 15.

[[Page H7768]]

 
Navy.............................  Virginia............  Quantico............  OCS Headquarters           $5,980
                                                                                Facility.
Navy.............................  Washington..........  Kitsap NB...........  Saltwater Cooling &        $5,110
                                                                                Fire Protection
                                                                                Improvements.
Air NG...........................  Washington..........  McChord AFB.........  262 Info Warfare           $8,600
                                                                                Aggressor Squadron
                                                                                Facility.
Navy.............................  Washington..........  Whidbey Island......  Firefighting               $6,160
                                                                                Facility.
Army NG..........................  West Virginia.......  Camp Dawson.........  Shoot House.........       $2,000
Army NG..........................  West Virginia.......  Camp Dawson.........  Access Control Point       $2,000
Army NG..........................  West Virginia.......  Camp Dawson.........  Multi-Purpose              $5,000
                                                                                Building Ph 2.
Air Force........................  Guam................  Andersen AFB........  ISR/STF Realign Arc        $5,400
                                                                                Light Boulevard.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

       (b) Elimination of VA Congressional Earmark.--None of the 
     funds provided in this Act shall be available from the 
     following Department of Veterans Affairs account for the 
     following project, and the amount otherwise provided in this 
     Act for such account is hereby reduced by the amount 
     specified for such project from such account:

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                      Amount (in
             Account                       State               Location            Project Title      thousands)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Major Construction...............  Kentucky............  Louisville..........  Site Acquisition and      $45,000
                                                                                Prep.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Arizona is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. FLAKE. Mr. Chairman, this is really a simple amendment. It simply 
says that all earmarks in this bill will be taken out. This is 
consistent with the Republican budget that was passed. So I'd remind my 
colleagues on this side of the aisle that you have already voted, in 
essence, for this amendment. We passed a budget which said that we 
should have a moratorium on earmarks this year. That's what this 
amendment would do with regard to this bill. It would simply say that 
there would be no earmarks, Republican or Democratic, for this 
legislation. Now, supporters of earmarks will often say that this will 
lead to a more Democratic allocation of Federal resources and funds, 
but I'd like to draw your attention to a chart here.
  This is the MilCon bill that we're looking at right here. If you took 
the dollar amount of the earmarks in this legislation, which is just 
north of $600 million, and spread it evenly across all House districts, 
it would mean about $1.4 million across each district in this country, 
but that, obviously, is not what we have in this legislation.
  If you'll look, the majority leadership is associated with an average 
of $6.2 million in earmarks in this legislation. That's about four 
times the average of rank-and-file Members in the House. Vulnerable 
Members, so-called vulnerables, identified by each party receive $7.7 
million, or associated with that much, in earmarks. That is, I think, 
four or five times more than the rank-and-file Member. If you're on the 
Appropriations Committee, you get about $10.5 million. Now, that's 
about, I think, seven times as much as a rank-and-file Member in this 
body will get.
  So I guess you could make the argument or try to make the argument 
that those military installations or those facilities across this 
country that happen to be in districts represented by an appropriator 
are more needy or are somehow in greater need of Federal funds than 
those facilities located in rank-and-file Members' districts. I don't 
think you could make that argument with a straight face. You simply 
can't. This is consistent with bill after bill after bill.
  Unfortunately, this is likely to be the only appropriations bill that 
we have this session. We're not likely to get to the others, so this is 
our only chance to actually speak up and say that we know that this 
process isn't working very well and that we have to fix it.
  There has been a lot of talk about earmark reform over the last 
couple of years, as well there should have been, both when we have 
controlled this body and when those across the aisle have controlled 
it, but very little has changed, and this chart shows it. Very little 
has changed. It is very much a spoil system. It's not a system where--
I'm sure we'll be told in just a few minutes--these earmarks were 
vetted by the Pentagon and that this is a different process than we 
have for other bills, but let me tell you:
  Did the Pentagon vet this process and say, ``You know, we think that 
those who are in appropriators' districts deserve seven times more than 
those who are in a rank-and-file district''? I don't think the Pentagon 
went through that vetting process.
  Now, if we don't like the way that the administration and the 
Pentagon award Federal grants--and I agree there may be problems with 
it--let's exercise the oversight that we're supposed to exercise in 
this body. Under article I, we have the power of the purse, and we 
should conduct oversight, but simply saying ``we don't like the way the 
administration allocates funds, so we're going to pile on 130 earmarks 
in this bill, as skewed as the allocation will be, and somehow we'll 
fix it'' is not an appropriate way to do it, and we know it. We know 
that this process is broken. Yet we're continuing this year, just like 
in other years, and we can't continue to go on.
  Let me just bring that chart out again. Again, what we have is, if 
the money were to be spread out among districts, it would be about an 
allocation of $1.4 million. Instead, we have up here those facilities 
in appropriators' districts that receive seven times more than others. 
That's simply not right. There is no way you can make with a straight 
face an argument that those districts, that those facilities in those 
districts, somehow need more Federal funds. There is no way with a 
straight face you can make the argument that this hasn't become a spoil 
system where we're doling out by favor to just those who are in a 
powerful position. That's what this process has become, and we should 
stand up today and say, by golly, we're going to fix it, that we're 
going to do something different for a change, that we're going to vote 
until we can fix this process, until we can say we have a sound process 
where these earmarks are vetted either in the Appropriations Committee 
or elsewhere, and that we're just not going to continue with this 
anymore.
  Let me tell you that this institution has had as its hallmark over 
the centuries the process of authorization, appropriation and 
oversight. We have short-circuited that process with earmarking, the 
contemporary practice of earmarking in particular. So we do too little 
authorizing, very little oversight and simply too much appropriating. 
When you deal with, as the Appropriations Committee did last year, I 
think, 36,000 earmark requests, there is absolutely no way that this 
body can adequately vet those earmark requests, let alone exercise 
oversight over the rest of the Federal budget as is our purview and as 
we should be doing.
  So I would appeal to the Members both on this side and on the other 
side of the aisle. Let's fix this system before we go on. A great way 
to do it is to say let's adopt this amendment and say we'll have no 
earmarks in this bill this year until we can come up with a better 
process.
  With that, I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. OBEY. Mr. Chairman, I rise to oppose the amendment.

[[Page H7769]]

  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Wisconsin is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. OBEY. Mr. Chairman, the gentleman said that projects in this bill 
are allocated on the basis of one's power and influence. Well, I think, 
when it comes to the appropriations process and since I'm the chairman 
of the committee--and I'm a fairly powerful or influential person 
except when I'm at home with my wife--I would, nonetheless, say that I 
have no projects whatsoever in this bill--none, zip. I would also say 
that, whether you like the reforms that have been instituted in the 
last 2 years or not, just about the only reforms that have been 
instituted on the earmarking process have been sponsored by me, and I 
think the House knows what they are. We wouldn't even be on the floor 
tonight, dealing with these in this way, had it not been for those 
reforms.
  I want to make a point: Regardless of what individual Members think 
about earmarking, there are certain appropriations which by their very 
nature require earmarking. There are other bills that by their very 
nature do not. This is one of the three that does. You've got the 
Military Construction bill; you've got the energy and water bill, and 
you've got the interior bill. Large portions, if not all of those 
bills, are simply construction accounts. When it comes to construction 
accounts, those projects are in the main, requested and defined by the 
administration. The overwhelming majority of projects in this bill are 
selected by the executive branch.
  This bill includes 518 total earmarks: 408 earmarks, 79 percent of 
them, were included at the request of the administration. Of the 110 
other earmarks, on its own initiative, the committee added seven 
earmarks to improve better training barracks and medical facilities for 
soldiers, marines and their families. They were not added at the 
request of particular Members, but they are in this bill, nonetheless, 
and the committee makes no apology for them.
  I would also point out that 103 of these projects were added at the 
request of a Member. One hundred two of them are military construction 
projects, and one is a VA project. All of the military construction 
earmarks, including the quality of life projects, were also included in 
the authorization bill, and the VA earmark is included subject to 
authorization.
  There is no difference between what the Congress does in earmarking 
military construction and what the White House does when it requests 
earmarks for military construction. For example, five different 
Members, Democrats and Republicans alike, asked the committee to 
provide the second phase of a facility, $7.5 million, to support a 
facility for a pararescue unit at the Gabreski Air National Guard base 
in New York. Now, the sponsors of this amendment, evidently, are going 
to crow about cutting 103 earmarks. Let's look at what they will 
actually be cutting.
  They will be cutting Air Force runways, aircraft refueling stations, 
training facilities, maintenance facilities, fire stations, chapels, 
barracks, control towers, firing ranges, and so on. You would be hard-
pressed to find a substantive difference between these projects and the 
other 408 contained in the bill. The only difference is that they have 
not been blessed by the White House.
  Now, apparently, the sponsors of this amendment believe that the only 
spending that is legitimate is that which is blessed by the executive 
branch. Well, this document, the Constitution, reads as follows: ``No 
money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in consequence of 
appropriations made by law.'' It doesn't say, ``only in consequence of 
funds requested by the executive.'' It doesn't say, ``Only spending by 
the executive is sacrosanct.'' It says that Congress has the 
responsibility of making these decisions.
  Now, Congress may make some wise choices. It may make some bad 
choices. So may the executive branch. I would submit that, regardless 
of your attitude about earmarks in general, it is ludicrous to say that 
you cannot have the Congress using its judgment on occasion to decide 
where money ought to go in the development of facilities on military 
bases, just as it would be ludicrous to say that, for the Army Corps of 
Engineers in the energy and water bill, the only projects that are 
worthwhile proceeding with are those which are requested by the 
executive branch.
  I invite you to take a look at the way a number of accounts in the 
executive branch have been turned into political slush funds. Take the 
Reading First program. Look at the major job training program in the 
Department of Labor. There are ample examples of abuse of the 
earmarking process in the executive branch and in the legislative 
branch. Our obligation, in my view, is not within the process of trying 
to dig those out to throw the baby out with the bath water.
  I think this committee has done a responsible job in making its 
judgments about what those projects ought to be. If the gentleman is 
concerned about members of the Appropriations Committee who he feels 
have an inordinate number of earmarks, well, I have none. Yet I stand 
here tonight, defending this process, because at least, on this bill, I 
think there is very little to be said for the idea that only the 
executive branch may make choices about whether barracks or hospitals 
or daycare centers are built to facilitate the convenience of military 
families. This bill is an example of Congress' meeting its 
responsibilities and controlling the power of the purse.

                              {time}  0015

  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I strongly oppose this amendment 
for one fundamental reason, it would do harm to America's service men 
and women and our military families during a time of war.
  I would not, at any time, question the motives of the gentleman from 
Arizona. He is a person of integrity, he has been consistent in his 
principled position on the issue of earmarks, but the best of 
intentions can't stop the worst of results. And the worst of the worst 
would be to undermine our military readiness and the quality of life 
for our troops and their families at any time, but especially so during 
a time of war.
  Let me list some of the harm that would be done. And this isn't a 
full list, but just some:
  Nine quality of life facilities, such as chapels and community 
centers in our military bases, bases from which forces are being 
deployed for the second and third time to Iraq and Afghanistan, those 
would be eliminated.
  Fifteen Guard and Reserve training facilities would be eliminated.
  Seven active duty training facilities would be eliminated. These are 
facilities that, on a bipartisan basis, after careful thought, this 
subcommittee worked with the Department of Defense to say that, you 
know what, we have been dishonoring our 18- and 19-year-old military 
recruits. Because when they come in, instead of thanking them, we put 
them in barracks that we would be ashamed to have our sons and 
daughters living in. This amendment would stop those new barracks from 
being built.
  Seven fire stations would be eliminated. Isn't it enough that our men 
and women have to be in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan? Must they 
and their families also be put in greater harm's way back at home 
because we can't build fire stations that are desperately needed?
  And I know something about this because at one time I represented the 
largest Army installation in the world, Fort Hood, Texas. It has had 
one division continually in Iraq since this war began. And their base 
commander came to me and said, you know what, the bureaucratic process 
at the Pentagon and OMB killed our desperate need for a new fire 
station. I'm glad Congress, in that case, exercised its constitutional 
authority to do what was right to protect those great Americans and 
their families.
  Let me give you some more specifics of what harm this amendment would 
do.
  It would kill a new communications facility at a naval base for a 
security force unit that is in charge of safeguarding nuclear weapons.
  It would kill funds to expand and upgrade a readiness center for a 
National Guard engineer battalion that has deployed soldiers to Iraq to 
disarm IEDs.
  It would kill new housing for an Air and National Guard unit. The 
current

[[Page H7770]]

housing has mold, leaking roofs, poor ventilation, and numerous code 
violations.
  I reject the notion outright that some unelected, unaccountable 
bureaucrat sitting in an office in the basement of the White House 
Budget Office has a monopoly on wisdom because they do not. And many 
times, even despite their good efforts, the fact is administration 
budgets, Mr. Chairman, are often started and put together a year or 
year and a half before we come to this floor. I think it would be wrong 
to deny us, this Congress, with our constitutional duty to fund 
appropriations bills, to say that we can't benefit from the judgment of 
time and changing needs during a time of war to provide for training 
facilities and quality of life facilities for our troops.
  This is a bad amendment. But worse than that, it is an amendment that 
would do great harm to our service men and women, the quality of their 
housing, the quality of their training. And for that reason, I ask my 
colleagues on both sides of the aisle--in all due respect to the author 
of this amendment, who is a decent and honorable man who cares about 
our military and our armed forces--I ask Members on both sides of the 
aisle to soundly reject this ill-advised, dangerous amendment.
  Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. CAMPBELL of California. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last 
word.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. CAMPBELL of California. Mr. Chairman, I've heard the 
distinguished chairman of the Appropriations Committee talk about that 
the appropriations process is about allocation of resources. Because 
resources, even in the United States Federal Government, are not 
unlimited, and so we always have to make choices of where money goes 
and where money doesn't go. And that's what this discussion and that's 
what this particular amendment are about.
  There are, in the United States, excluding the territories, excluding 
overseas, there are 4,402 military sites, 4,402. Here we have, in this 
bill, Member earmarks that picked 103 of these sites--excluding the 
other, roughly, 4,300--and send those $622 million of taxpayers' money. 
And the question before us really is, why those 103? Why not the other 
4,300?
  Now, as much as the speakers before me have criticized the executive 
branch or the Department of Defense or, in fact, military leaders, 
Department of Defense and the Department of the Army, Department of the 
Navy, Department of the Air Force have a responsibility for their share 
of all of these. Department of the Army has 1,768 sites. So they have 
responsibility for all of those.
  When left the construction budget for them, they will, we presume, 
try and put the money where they believe it is most needed, where they 
believe it is the greatest warranted use. You might disagree with that, 
but they have a perspective over the entire country.
  We are each elected to represent our individual districts. And 
although all of us are here and care about the entire country, clearly, 
our first responsibility is often to our individual districts.
  So I would argue that those who have a perspective of the entire 
country are perhaps in a better position to look at the proper 
allocation than this. And if these 103 were fairly allocated, then I 
would ask, why does Mr. Flake's chart come out the way it is? Is that 
simply coincidence that the greatest need of these facilities happens 
to be in districts that are represented by appropriators? Is that 
purely coincidence? I think not.
  And when we examine how and where all this money will go, the other 
thing is, what does the Defense Department think? Well, we didn't call 
all 103, but we did call a few. We called up the Defense Department and 
asked them about a few of these; did you request this? Did you think 
this was a need? Did you think this was important for the military to 
spend this on this particular site, this particular facility, this 
particular area? And the answer we got was no in all the cases in which 
we asked.
  So I think, Mr. Chairman, what we have before us is a process that 
does not work, that is not fair, that is not the best allocation of 
what are always limited resources. And that is why, Mr. Chairman--I am 
a cosponsor with Mr. Flake of this amendment--and that is why I hope 
our colleagues will look at this and remember, as he said, this is 
likely the only chance anyone in this Chamber is going to have to 
express their opinion on earmarks. And if you think the earmark process 
is broken, if you think there are problems with it, if you think there 
are abuses, if you think we need to reform it, this is your 
opportunity; this is the opportunity for Members to send a message and 
vote for this amendment.
  Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. FARR. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from California is recognized for 
5 minutes.
  Mr. FARR. Mr. Chairman, I want to yield some time to my chair, Mr. 
Edwards. But I just want to say how bothered I am by the attacks on 
this particular bill.
  This is about military construction. And there are construction 
projects in here--and not many--but when you're dealing with a lot of 
construction, there's a lot of slippage. And what happens, if you have 
an opportunity to move one project ahead of another, it makes a lot of 
sense. And these aren't projects that are invented by Members of 
Congress that come here and know the specifics, these are projects that 
come from the military itself.
  For example, Mr. Flake's amendment would cut out, in Arizona, the 
State that he comes from, in Fort Huachuca, the Air Tactical Command 
Radar Operations Building. Now, I don't think a Member of Congress 
thought that we have to go and add this in here. What happens is the 
opportunity, Fort Huachuca that's seeking this, comes and says if there 
is an opportunity buy, let's be able to use it. That's what strikes me, 
that there's some kind of devious action going on here, and it's just 
not true.
  And the other gentleman's discussion in California alone, Edwards Air 
Force Base near his district, to strike out a main base runway repair 
that's in this bill. And that wasn't some legislator coming along and 
thinking about, we've got to add this in as an earmark. No, this came 
out of the Air Force saying, we need this; if it's possible, can we put 
it in the bill? That's how we discuss these things in committee.
  These are priority opportunity buys. And I resent the fact that this 
amendment is a reckless amendment and just strikes it across the board, 
regardless of the impact.
  And so as Mr. Edwards so eloquently said, it does a lot of havoc to 
the men and women who are serving our country in uniform and to the 
bases that they operate out of.
  I would like to yield the remainder of my time to my chairman, Mr. 
Edwards.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. I thank the gentleman.
  I heard a few minutes ago a description of an ideal world where every 
decision made by the executive branch is perfectly motivated. I wish 
that were the real world, but I certainly wouldn't want to bet the 
family nest egg on it.
  Let me explain, Mr. Chairman, some of my colleagues, how the real 
world works. And I did represent the largest Army installation for 14 
years; I worked closely with them. And what would happen is some 
bureaucrat at OMB would turn down a high-priority project requested by 
the top military commander--at Fort Hood, that was a Three Star 
General. So when I would meet with that Three Star General at Fort 
Hood, I would say, what are your greatest unmet needs? One year it was 
a fire station. This year it was a chapel that Congressman Carter and I 
worked on. We responded to the highest priority needs of the military 
commanders with their boots on the ground. I put a lot more faith in 
that commander's judgment than in some unaccountable, unnamed 
bureaucrat. I would like to hear the names of these bureaucrats at OMB 
that are so perfect in their knowledge, in their wisdom, in their 
homework.
  Let me give you a specific real world example where this committee, 
on a bipartisan basis, took an initiative. We hear in our hearings each 
year from the top noncommissioned officers. We

[[Page H7771]]

ask, what are your top quality of life needs? For 3 years in a row our 
top noncommissioned officers testified before Mr. Wamp and me and said, 
it is day care centers. We have spouses who are deployed one, two, 
three times to Iraq and Afghanistan. The remaining spouse is left at 
home with small children and desperately needs affordable, accessible 
day care for their kids.
  But you know what? There weren't a lot of lobbyists over there at OMB 
fighting for young mothers that are, in effect, single mothers while 
their husbands are in Iraq, or young, single dads while their wives 
were serving in Afghanistan. And our committee exercised its authority 
under the Constitution to say that that's not right, we're going to 
support these military families.
  I reject this amendment, again, as I said, as being harmful to our 
military families. In this case, you know what happened on day care 
centers? After we added $134 million in a congressional initiative in 
the FY08 supplemental bill, the Pentagon came back and said, you're 
right, we made a mistake, we want to add to that.
  We should reject this amendment and support our troops.
  Mr. WAMP. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Tennessee is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. WAMP. I, too, rise in opposition to this amendment. And Mr. 
Chairman, now it is late. It's 12:30, we've got two more amendments. I 
will speak, and then I assume Mr. Hensarling will speak.
  But let me say briefly why three senior members of the Appropriations 
Committee from our side--Mr. Wolf, Mr. Kingston and myself, people I 
believe have very high integrity--offered a proposal to have a 6-month 
moratorium, no earmarks from either side, while we establish a select 
committee to reform the way that earmarks are carried out because the 
earmark system is broken, and there have been abuses on both sides. And 
I do think that job one is to define what is an earmark. Because under 
article I, section 9 of the United States Constitution, the Congress 
does have the authority and the responsibility to direct the funding on 
behalf of the taxpayers, not the unelected bureaucrats in the executive 
branch. And this is now way out of kilter, but there have been abuses 
and it needs to be cleaned up. So we said we should have a time out, 
let's redo this.
  I'm hopeful that this still happens because both major Presidential 
candidates have indicated they would like to see sweeping reforms in 
this process. But you've got to define what is it and then go from 
there, and then change the rules for everybody--authorization 
committee, tax, trade, earmarks from the executive branch, anywhere 
would all come under the same rules, both bodies, bicameral, sweeping 
reforms. Let's start over and define what is a congressional direction 
that's acceptable.

                              {time}  0030

  But I think these gentlemen tonight have picked the wrong bill to 
come and attack on earmarks. Let me tell you why. One of the problems 
with earmarks out there is there's a cottage industry of lobbyists 
bringing requests to the Congress on behalf of clients. Are there 
lobbyists on MilCon earmarks? There is no lobbyist for a National Guard 
or a Reserve or a military base asking for money from the Congress. Are 
there campaign contributions flowing based on earmark requests from the 
National Guard, the Reserve, or military bases? No.
  Now, I don't know where you get your numbers, but let me tell you 
that there's not a request in this bill in my district, but there's one 
in my State, and it's in a Democratic Member's district, Mr. Davis. He 
may be on that vulnerable list, but he ain't vulnerable. I would say at 
9 percent approval we are all vulnerable. What kind of a rating is 
that, vulnerable?
  Now, my name was also on that request because it was my State and 
protocol is we put our names on it. But it's not in my district. So 
facts are whatever you present them to be, but the military 
construction bill is a perfect example of where the Congress has the 
right and the responsibility to say this needs to be done.
  We are the ones who had the 19 hearings about quality of life in 
child care centers, not the executive branch. They don't have any 
hearings. Why do we even exist to have hearings if we're not going to 
say these need to be funded?
  Let me tell you I was born at Fort Benning. My dad was on active 
duty. They needed a new hospital. Mr. Bishop is going to get nailed for 
getting an earmark because he represents Fort Benning, and he probably 
went to this subcommittee of Appropriations because he represented Fort 
Benning, Mr. Flake. Duh. That's how the numbers work that way. Good 
gracious.
  Defeat this, but then reform the process. Clean up the mess. But 
coming through here with a chainsaw on everything, treating them all 
like they're the same thing is no way to run a train.
  Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. HENSARLING. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Texas is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. HENSARLING. Mr. Chairman, I have listened very carefully to all 
the speakers on both sides of the aisle, and I have no doubt that those 
who may still be viewing this at 12:30 a.m. east coast time may be a 
little bit confused.
  We have heard a couple of speakers say that bureaucrats have no 
monopoly on wisdom and that we as Members ought to be exercising our 
prerogatives, and, certainly, Mr. Chairman, we have that right.
  But at the same time, we have heard other speakers say, well, Members 
of that same bureaucracy are actually requesting these particular 
earmarks. So I could see how some might be confused. On the one hand, 
if they're requesting it, I am kind of curious why it wasn't in their 
budget in the first place.
  So I am not really sure who has the monopoly on wisdom. My assumption 
is that each and every one of these earmarks is probably a very good 
expenditure of the taxpayers' money. I don't necessarily know if it's 
the best expenditure of the taxpayers' money. But I know the Members 
who serve. They're very serious. They're very diligent. I have no doubt 
that they have done very good work.
  I also heard my friend the gentleman from Texas say that this 
particular amendment would harm our troops or military readiness, harm 
our veterans, families, and a very long laundry list of others who 
might be harmed. The underlying assumption is that I believe that this 
money would somehow disappear. Well, I find that interesting because 
usually when we debate somebody on the point of earmarks, they tell us 
don't you realize you're not saving any money? That money stays in the 
bill, and it's going to get used for some other purpose. So, again, I 
could see, Mr. Chairman, how people who are watching this debate might 
be a little bit confused. Which is it? Does the money disappear or does 
the money stay and maybe fund other readiness centers, other barracks, 
other military projects? Which is it? We seemingly hear speakers on 
both sides or several sides on that issue.
  But if the money does disappear, I would say to my friends on the 
other side of the aisle you had an opportunity to support the 
Republican budget on which, last I looked, had a billion extra dollars 
more to help our veterans than the Democrat budget did. I know that in 
the Budget Committee there were amendments to strike earmarks and add 
to the veterans funding. So if you spent less money, maybe the 
gentlemen on the other side of the aisle harmed our veterans or their 
families or their military readiness.
  I think at some point, Mr. Chairman, you have to lead by example. And 
although I have no doubt, again, that these earmarks are good 
expenditures of the taxpayers' funds, the system is broken. It's not 
just that there are a few bad apples in the barrel. The barrel is full 
of rotten apples. And all too often--and maybe not in this bill, and I 
certainly accept the passion with which the gentleman from Tennessee 
spoke, and I know his sincerity in wanting to reform this process, and 
I regret the fact that under the Democrat majority this appears to be 
the only bill that we can debate earmarks. But what I know about the 
system and what the American people know about

[[Page H7772]]

the system is that it's broken and that all too often it represents the 
triumph of secrecy over transparency. All too often it represents a 
triumph of the special interests over the national interests. All too 
often it represents the triumph of seniority and privilege over merit.
  Mr. Chairman, when my party was in the majority, there were a lot of 
abuses in earmarks. But when the Democrats took over, they said they 
would do it different. They said they would cut the earmarks in half, 
and yet last year we had the second highest number of earmarks we've 
ever had. They claimed there would be no more secrecy in the process, 
but if we look to the New York Times recently, if I can quote from an 
August, 2007, news clip: ``Despite promises by Congress to end the 
secrecy of earmarks and other pet projects, the House of 
Representatives has quietly funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to 
specific hospitals and health care providers.''
  The Democrats said that there would be across-the-board reform, and 
yet we had bills initially come to the floor that we were expected to 
vote on and the earmarks were to come later. The Speaker of the House 
said she would just as soon do without them, and yet she is on the top 
20 list of those who request them.
  The American people want something different. It is time to join the 
Republican proposal that the gentleman from Tennessee spoke about and 
have a moratorium on earmarks, reform this process, start it tonight.
  With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. KING of Iowa. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. KING of Iowa. Mr. Chairman, in deference to the passion and 
conviction that the gentleman from Arizona brings to the floor, I would 
yield to the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Flake).
  Mr. FLAKE. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
  Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the words that have been spoken. I 
appreciate the passion of those who are defending the bill as it is.
  And let me just say this is not my favorite bill to come and propose 
earmark amendments to. Not at all. But this is the only chance we have 
got. I'd love to come here with Labor-HHS. I'm glad that the chairman 
of the Appropriations Committee mentioned that there are a couple of 
bills where earmarks are legitimate, but maybe for the rest they're 
not. I have heard him say before that when he left as chairman in 1994, 
there were no earmarks in the Labor-HHS bill; yet today I think last 
year there were close to 2,000. There were a couple of years, I know, 
and we are not breaking that trend very much. And we are likely to see 
that again later this year, but we won't have an opportunity to come to 
the floor and debate that. It's likely to be stuffed into an omnibus 
bill and we take it or leave it with no vetting whatsoever. At least 
here we have a chance on one bill to point out the flaws in the system, 
and the flaws I pointed out.
  The gentleman from Texas made a great point. He said that not all 
wisdom resides with the executive, that somebody in a basement 
somewhere in some Federal office hasn't had some epiphany about how to 
spend money. I accept that completely. But it stands to reason as well 
that some lowly rank-and-file Member who is getting an average of $1.4 
million in this bill doesn't have any less knowledge than a vulnerable 
Member, a Member who is in a swing district, in a tough district, in a 
tough race. Does that somehow imbue you with some knowledge about how 
much money would be spent in the MilCon bill or if you're on the 
Appropriations Committee? And it may not be. These numbers may be off a 
little. I accept that. It's not perfect. But how in the world with a 
straight face can you say this is not a spoils system, this has not 
become a spoils system?
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. FLAKE. I yield to the gentleman.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Does the gentleman know that less than one-half 
of 1 percent of this bill is made up of earmarks, less than one-half of 
1 percent of the funding in this bill is made up of earmarks?
  Mr. FLAKE. I am so glad he mentioned that. That may be the case. I'm 
not sure. That may well be.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. For the record, that is correct.
  Mr. FLAKE. My largest complaint with the earmark process is not what 
we spent in the waste in some bills, maybe not in this one, maybe in 
others, a lot in others. My biggest complaint has always been with the 
earmark process; that we, as Members of Congress, give up our authority 
under article I because we ignore, with our zeal to earmark 2 percent 
or 1 percent of the Federal budget, we have basically called a truce 
with the administration saying we will ignore your willy-nilly spending 
if you ignore ours.
  So we let bills like the Department of Homeland Security bill, $32 
billion, very little of it earmarked, but so much of it wasted because 
we are so intent on earmarking our little portion that we just don't do 
the oversight that we're supposed to do under article I, and you can 
look at empirically, anecdotally, any way you look at it.
  I commissioned the GAO awhile ago to look at the Appropriations 
Committee, since 1994, since the contemporary practice of earmarking 
really got started, under Republicans. I concede that. And if you look 
at the number of witnesses called, the number of hearings held, any way 
you slice it or dice it, we aren't doing the oversight that we once 
did, since the contemporary practice of earmarking started. And I would 
submit that that's true across the board. But if you look specifically 
at this bill, there is no way that you can say that this isn't a spoils 
system.
  When facilities residing in appropriators' districts get about seven 
times as much. Maybe it's six. Maybe it's five. Maybe it's eight. But 
with that kind of average, something is wrong. And that's what we are 
saying here. We have got to fix this system. We should fix it before we 
move on.
  I appreciate the gentleman from California (Mr. Campbell) for the 
work that he has done and for cosponsoring this amendment and for those 
who have spoken on it. And I would just say again this is our only 
chance. This looks like this is it for the year to actually have a 
voice on earmarks and to say enough is enough, it's time to change the 
process.
  So I urge my colleagues to accept the amendment, and I appreciate the 
gentleman for yielding.
  Mr. KING of Iowa. I thank the gentleman for his commitment to fiscal 
responsibility of this Congress.
  Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Flake).
  The question was taken; and the Acting Chairman announced that the 
noes appeared to have it.
  Mr. FLAKE. Mr. Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. Pursuant to clause 6 of rule XVIII, further 
proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Arizona will 
be postponed.


                Amendment No. 20 Offered by Mr. Gingrey

  Mr. GINGREY. I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
  The text of the amendment is as follows:

       Amendment No. 20 offered by Mr. Gingrey:
       At the end of the bill (before the short title), add the 
     following new section:
       Sec. 408.  None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made 
     available in this Act may be used to take private property 
     for public use without just compensation.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Georgia is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. GINGREY. Mr. Chairman, I rise tonight to offer an amendment to 
H.R. 6599, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs 
Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2009, and to ask my colleagues to 
support the amendment.
  A little over a month ago, property rights advocates across the 
country spoke out on the third anniversary of the now infamous Kelo 
decision by the Supreme Court.

                              {time}  0045

  I, along with Representative Maxine Waters of California, Jim 
Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, mark the date

[[Page H7773]]

by introducing a resolution that expresses congressional support for 
the private property rights protections guaranteed by the fifth 
amendment to the Constitution.
  Today, we in the Congress have an opportunity to demonstrate our 
commitment to the preservation of these rights. My amendment would 
ensure that none of the Federal funds appropriated by this act can be 
used in the taking of private property without just compensation.
  Ideally, Mr. Chairman, eminent domain should never have to be used, 
but even the Constitution provides for its application in instances 
involving public use, such as construction of a road or a public 
school. Public use also includes the common defense, which is a central 
focus of the Military Construction and Veterans' Affairs Appropriations 
bill. Accordingly, from time to time the needs of our military may 
require the use of eminent domain. However, even when the Federal 
Government exercises the power of eminent domain on behalf of the 
military, private property owners must always receive just 
compensation.
  The taking of private property is among the toughest decisions a 
government should ever have to make. A government should only make that 
decision when it is absolutely necessary and only after working with 
property owners to try to reach a mutual agreement.
  The sanctity of private property rights and the security they afford 
are among the greatest blessings this country offers its citizens. 
Individual liberty and freedom are at the very root of our property 
rights and therefore we must ensure that these rights are never abused 
and they are always protected.
  Unfortunately, Mr. Chairman, it seems the protections of the fifth 
amendment do not apply to the wallets of hardworking Americans who are 
now struggling at the gas pump. The inaction of this Congress to 
address in a real way these historically high gas prices, I believe, 
also constitutes unjustified taking, but it seems that this Congress 
has little interest in justly compensating the American consumer by 
increasing domestic energy production, creating new American jobs, and 
lowering the price of gasoline. In fact, it seems to me the fear of 
even a vote on domestic energy production has led the Democratic 
majority to essentially shut down the appropriations process, the 
process with which we fund the entirety of our Federal Government, from 
the Pentagon to the schoolhouses across the country.
  With only 17 legislative days left until the next fiscal year, seven 
of the 12 appropriations bills have not even been considered by the 
full Appropriations Committee, and this is the first appropriations 
bill considered on the House floor. So while Speaker Pelosi and the 
Democratic leadership continue to refuse pleas for at least a vote on 
increasing domestic supply and lowering the price of gasoline, House 
Republicans will continue to fight to open up American energy and to 
prevent the unjust taking occurring every day at the gas pump.
  From wallets to homesteads to family businesses, this Congress has an 
obligation to protect the property rights of all Americans. So I again 
call upon my colleagues to support this amendment.
  Mr. Chairman, I yield back my time.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, let me just say I support this 
amendment. It does state the obvious: We should not take private 
property for private use without just compensation.
  Also, Mr. Chairman, because we had no other Members on our side to 
finish our discussion on the previous debate, let me just say briefly 
in response to my colleague from Texas (Mr. Hensarling), his comments, 
there was no confusion about that amendment. It was very clear that the 
direct impact of that amendment would have been to hurt our troops. It 
would have killed fire stations designed to protect our soldiers, our 
sailors, our airmen, and marines and their families.
  It would have cut out training facilities, it would have cut out 
daycare centers, it would have cut out all sorts of important 
facilities to help our troops have a better quality of life and to 
train effectively during a time of war, and it's because of that and 
because of the responsible process that our subcommittee has gone 
through to vet these projects carefully, that I am confident that later 
this morning when the House votes on that amendment, that that 
amendment will be soundly defeated for all the right reasons.
  This process in this subcommittee has been a good one, a solid one, 
and I think the protest to the contrary will be made clear tomorrow 
when Republicans and Democrats alike join to overwhelmingly reject the 
Flake amendment.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Gingrey).
  The amendment was agreed to.


              Amendment No. 3 Offered by Mr. King of Iowa

  Mr. KING of Iowa. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
  The text of the amendment is as follows:

       Amendment No. 3 offered by Mr. King of Iowa:
       Insert after section 407 the following:
       Sec. 408.  None of the funds made available in this Act may 
     be used to enforce subchapter IV of Chapter 31 of title 40, 
     United States Code (commonly referred to as the Davis-Bacon 
     Act).
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. KING of Iowa. Mr. Chairman, my amendment is an amendment that has 
come to this floor in different fashions in the past, and it deals with 
the Davis-Bacon federally mandated wage scale. The amendment simply 
says none of the funds made available in this act may be used to 
enforce the Davis-Bacon Act.
  Davis-Bacon is a federally mandated wage scale that was established 
in about 1932, and the motivation for it was New York contractors that 
wanted to keep black American workers out of the trade unions as they 
began to bid projects such as Federal buildings in New York and reach 
down to places like Alabama to get cheaper labor, bring that labor in, 
and undercut the trade unions in New York. Congressman Davis and I 
believe it was Senator Bacon, or vice versa, came forward with this 
legislation.
  It is, Mr. Chairman, the last vestige of the Jim Crow laws we have 
had in this country designed to keep African Americans out of this 
work. That is the legacy of it. The fact of it is that it's a federally 
mandated union wage scale. It is not prevailing wage. I worked under it 
all of my life, and the people that report these wage scales to the 
survey are people that report union scale. Merit shop employers do not 
report those wage scales very often because they know that the union 
will show up to organize them, and there is a penalty for filing those 
report that has to do with fight off union organizations.
  The effect of it is a high cost to taxpayers, Mr. Chairman. A high 
cost to the taxpayers, by my calculations of being 28 years in 
construction business and dealing with these wage scales on a regular 
basis, that ranges, depending on how much of your project is labor 
versus how much is material, my own calculations range between 8 
percent on the low side of inflated price, to 35 percent on the higher 
side.
  It inflates wages by about the 22 percent, according to a Beacon Hill 
study of 2008. Their studies shows a 9.91 percent increase in the 
overall cost of the projects that is anchored to this federally 
mandated union scale.
  It raises public constructions costs by about $8.6 billion a year. 
According to a CBO estimate, the Federal Government could save $10.5 
billion in construction costs if Davis-Bacon were repealed. I am 
committed to the overall repeal of Davis-Bacon, and taking a bite at it 
every chance I get.
  The small business burden is another component. Small employers avoid 
Davis-Bacon wage scale jobs, and I know and those of us in the business 
know that if there are federally mandated wage scales on projects, 
there are fewer bidders. Larger contractors that are union contractors 
bid those jobs without much competition from smaller contractors 
because the bureaucracy is so heavy, the reporting is so heavy. In 
fact, I myself have sat in there hours and hours, way into the night,

[[Page H7774]]

filling out minute paperwork so that it can go gather dust in some 
bureaucrat's desk until something comes wrong and then they come back 
and bring charges against you. I put it all on an Excel spreadsheet and 
track every motion of every man, every machine that operates or 
maintain or moves the machine so that we can file a report that will be 
full and complete. In fact, that strategy was adopted by the 
regulators.
  The small business burden is too great, the taxpayer burden is too 
great. This is a union-mandated scale. We don't need to be building 
less projects or less work on our bases for military. We need to build 
more. We don't needless bang for the taxpayers' buck, we need more, Mr. 
Chairman.
  So imposing a Davis-Bacon wage scale in the MilCon appropriations 
bill here moves us backwards from a progress standpoint. It will make 
sure that we produce fewer projects and it will mean that it will 
inflate the cost of the projects that we do some place between 8 and 35 
percent. My number that I use is 20 percent, to pick an average. The 
number that Beacon Hill uses 9.91 percent increase in prices. Why would 
anybody buy into that?
  By the way, their measurements measure a calculation compared to 
today's merit shop employers, but today's merit shop employers, and the 
union scale employers, but those wages do not reflect the actual supply 
and demand, like labor is a commodity like any other commodity. They 
reflect already the impact of federally imposed wage scales in the 
neighborhood. So there is no real measure of those wages from a 
competitive standpoint.
  I want to get back to free market. I want the merit shop employees, 
who do a great job, to receive their reward for the work they do. It 
also is an impediment to an employer, like I have been for most of my 
adult life, because under the scale that you pay in the merit shop, you 
can put people on payroll for all 12 months of the year, and I put them 
in the shop when I need them, hand them a shovel, or put them on a 
crane or excavator when I need them there and I don't have to dance 
through all this paperwork. It's an impediment to bring people in that 
are low skilled because you can't afford to pay them those imposed wage 
scales it.
  It keeps us from bringing people up through the process. It is 
inflationary. It's unjust, it's un-American, and it's the last vestige 
of Jim Crow.
  I urge adoption of my amendment and I yield back the balance of my 
time.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I'd like to move to strike the 
last word.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Texas is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. I rise in opposition to this amendment. In my 
opinion, the gentleman's amendment would weaken the protections that 
the Davis-Bacon Act provides to American workers. For myself, I'd like 
to ensure that construction workers who are building barracks for our 
troops or hospitals for our veterans are there because they are 
motivated and skilled at their trade, not because think were the 
cheapest workers that a contractor could find somewhere.
  I heard the gentleman offer some estimates that he came up with. I 
don't know the source of all of those. I am sure there are differences 
of opinion, but I do know the Economic Policy Institute has done a 
study that found a growing body of evidence suggesting that ending 
Davis-Bacon will not reduce costs on government contracts.
  I guess one could make the argument that if we could mandate--this is 
government money--we mandate that these jobs all be paying minimum 
wage, perhaps we could save some money. I don't think that would be 
very good policy for our Veterans Administration, for our Department of 
Defense, or for our country.
  Finally, on I think a broader point, there may be some that think 
that our country's present day economic problems are that the middle 
class is just making too much money. I couldn't disagree more. The 
problem with our economy today is that men and women who are willing to 
get up and go work hard every single day are struggling to just make 
enough money to help educate their children, buy clothes for their 
family, and put food on the family table.
  I don't see an amendment that would take money out of the pockets of 
a lot of these hardworking middle class families that are the backbone 
and heart and soul of our American economy and our private market 
system. I don't see taking money out of their pockets helping them or 
our economy.
  So, with great respect for the gentleman, who has been consistent in 
this arena, I must strongly oppose this amendment.
  Mr. KING of Iowa. Would the gentleman yield?
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Briefly.
  Mr. KING of Iowa. Just one point, and not to belabor this at all. But 
a thought occurred on the study, the Economic Policy Institute. If 
Davis-Bacon didn't increase the cost of projects, then what would be 
the point in Davis-Bacon?
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Well, the point of Davis-Bacon, reclaiming my 
time, is to see that the workers, American workers, who build our VA 
hospitals, renovate our Department of Defense facilities, build new 
barracks and housing for our troops that are serving in Iraq and 
Afghanistan today, that they are paid a fair wage, a livable wage.
  We can have honest differences on this. I tend to believe from my 
vantage point that providing that kind of honest wage brings in better 
workers and more quality work.

                              {time}  0100

  The gentleman might disagree with that, but we will agree to disagree 
on that.
  The bottom line is I think the middle class is the strength of our 
Nation's economy, and the sooner we put dollars back into the pockets 
of those families willing to work hard for that living, the sooner we 
will get this economy off the wrong track and back on the right track.
  For all of those reasons, I again oppose this amendment.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. FARR. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. FARR. I rise in opposition to this amendment. I am not going to 
take the 5 minutes, but I just want to point out that Davis-Bacon has 
been part of Federal law for almost 80 years, and what that law has 
done is every public project, all the roads in America, schools, 
courthouses, buildings, harbors, airports, train stations, libraries, 
Smithsonian buildings, you look around America, the entire 
infrastructure in this country built in the last 80 years has been 
built under the provisions of a prevailing wage paid to the employees, 
prevailing for the area in which the buildings are being constructed.
  What is wrong? What is broken that needs fixing? I have never had a 
constituent in the 32 years that I have been in elective office come up 
and say, you know what? This library or this road or this school was 
built wrong because it was built under Davis-Bacon.
  This is an annual thing, people coming up and complaining about it, 
because the prevailing wage oftentimes is what the unions pay, and that 
can get the union contract. And what is wrong with union labor? This 
effort to amend this is essentially just another strike against 
organized labor in America, against a fair, decent wage, at a time when 
the cost of living is almost at an all-time high. It is always tried, 
it always fails, because there is no need to fix it, because it ain't 
broken.
  Reject this amendment.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Iowa (Mr. King).
  The question was taken; and the Acting Chairman announced that the 
noes appeared to have it.
  Mr. KING of Iowa. Mr. Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. Pursuant to clause 6 of rule XVIII, further 
proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Iowa will be 
postponed.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. EDWARDS of Texas. Mr. Chairman, it is late at night, now early in 
the morning actually, so I am going to

[[Page H7775]]

be brief. But I want to end as I began, by thanking Mr. Wamp, the 
ranking member of this VA Appropriations and Military Construction 
Subcommittee.
  There are a lot of people in Washington and a lot of people in 
America who think that bipartisanship is not only an endangered 
species, but an extinct species in Washington. I think this process, 
over 100 hours of hearings, 19 different hearings, the product tonight, 
a good product, is perfect proof that bipartisanship for the most 
important of causes is still alive and well in Washington, D.C.
  I want to again salute Speaker Pelosi and Mr. Obey and Mr. Spratt, as 
well as the second ranking Democrat on our subcommittee, Mr. Farr of 
California, who has been there every step of the way for our veterans, 
our troops and their families. He has made a great contribution to this 
bill.
  Finally, I would just finish by saying my hope and prayer is that 
what we have before this House is a bill that is worthy of the 
sacrifice of our service men and women and their families.
  Mr. Chairman, I move that the Committee do now rise.
  The motion was agreed to.
  Accordingly, the Committee rose; and the Speaker pro tempore (Mr. 
Farr) having assumed the chair, Mr. Altmire, Acting Chairman of the 
Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union, reported that 
that Committee, having had under consideration the bill (H.R. 6599) 
making appropriations for military construction, the Department of 
Veterans Affairs, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending 
September 30, 2009, and for other purposes, had come to no resolution 
thereon.

                          ____________________