MILITARY CONSTRUCTION AND VETERANS AFFAIRS AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2016; Congressional Record Vol. 161, No. 63
(House of Representatives - April 29, 2015)

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    MILITARY CONSTRUCTION AND VETERANS AFFAIRS AND RELATED AGENCIES 
                        APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2016


                             General Leave

  Mr. DENT. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may 
have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks and 
to include extraneous material on H.R. 2029 and that I may include 
tabular material on the same.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Graves of Louisiana). Is there objection 
to the request of the gentleman from Pennsylvania?
  There was no objection.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to House Resolution 223 and rule 
XVIII, the Chair declares the House in the Committee of the Whole House 
on the state of the Union for the consideration of the bill, H.R. 2029.
  The Chair appoints the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Ros-Lehtinen) to 
preside over the Committee of the Whole.

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                     In the Committee of the Whole

  Accordingly, the House resolved itself into the Committee of the 
Whole House on the state of the Union for the consideration of the bill 
(H.R. 2029) making appropriations for military construction, the 
Department of Veterans Affairs, and related agencies for the fiscal 
year ending September 30, 2016, and for other purposes, with Ms. Ros-
Lehtinen in the chair.
  The Clerk read the title of the bill.
  The CHAIR. Pursuant to the rule, the bill is considered read the 
first time.
  The gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Dent) and the gentleman from 
Georgia (Mr. Bishop) each will control 30 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Pennsylvania.
  Mr. DENT. Madam Chair, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  Today, it is my honor and privilege to bring H.R. 2029, the fiscal 
year 2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related 
Agencies Appropriations bill, to the House of Representatives.
  I present this bill alongside my good friend and ranking member on 
the subcommittee, Sanford Bishop from Georgia, who has been an 
essential partner all along the way. I greatly appreciate the 
participation and support of our committee members, both sides of the 
aisle, as we considered priorities and funding levels for the important 
programs in our bill.
  We analyzed the budget request, developed questions, held oversight 
hearings to hear directly from members of all the services, the 
Department of Defense leadership, the Secretary of the VA, the VA 
inspector general, and the directors of four related agencies. We 
received over 700 requests from Members--again, from both sides of the 
aisle--and gave full consideration to each one. It has been a busy 
spring, and we did our best to accommodate those Member requests.
  As we consider this bill, I can't proceed further without noticing 
that this subcommittee has a formidable level of support from the chair 
and ranking member of the full committee. Thank you, Chairman Rogers 
and Mrs. Lowey. Your attention to oversight and genuine care for the 
military and veterans has been inspiring.
  To round out our team, we have some great support from our 
professional staff: Sue Quantius, Sarah Young, Tracey Russell, Maureen 
Holohan, and Matt Washington on the committee staff and Heather Smith, 
Drew Kent, and Sean Snyder on my personal staff. We couldn't do it 
without all of them.
  H.R. 2029 demonstrates our firm commitment to fully supporting the 
Nation's veterans and servicemembers. Our investment of nearly $77 
billion for military construction and Veterans Affairs that is 6 
percent--6 percent--over last year's level is unprecedented. This bill 
provides comprehensive support for servicemembers, military families, 
and veterans. It supports our troops with facilities and services 
necessary to maintain readiness and morale at bases here in the States 
and around the world.
  It provides for Defense Department schools and health clinics that 
take care of our military families, and the bill funds our veterans 
health care systems to ensure that our promise to care for those who 
have sacrificed in defense of this great Nation continues as those men 
and women return home. We owe this to our veterans and are committed to 
sustained oversight so that programs deliver what they promise and 
taxpayers are well served by the investments we make.
  On the military construction side, this bill provides a total of $7.7 
billion for military construction projects and family housing, 
including base and overseas contingency operations funding, an increase 
of $904 million. That is nearly 12 percent above the enacted fiscal 
year 2015 level and $755 million

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below the President's request. This funding meets DOD's most critical 
needs, including priorities for the combatant commanders in EUCOM, 
CENTCOM, AFRICOM, and PACOM.
  It provides $607 million for military medical facilities, including 
the one at Landstuhl, Germany. It provides $334 million for the 
Department of Defense education facilities, for construction or 
renovation of 10 schools. It supports our Guard and Reserve through 
$512 million for facilities in 28 States. It fully funds military 
family housing at $1.4 billion. And it provides $150 million for the 
NATO security investment program, which is $30 million over the budget 
request.
  On the Veterans Affairs side, the legislation includes a total of 
$163.2 billion in combined discretionary and mandatory funding for the 
Department of Veterans Affairs. Discretionary funding alone for 
veterans programs in the bill is $68.7 billion. Total fiscal year 2016 
discretionary funding is $3.6 billion above 2015. It is a 5.6 percent 
increase and $1.4 billion below the request. Three billion dollars of 
this increase was advance funded.
  On the VA medical services side, the bill funds VA medical services 
at $48.6 billion. That includes $970 million that the VA came back and 
asked for on top of the advanced funding from last year. We stretched 
pretty far to do this, and we haven't funded this second bite in the 
House before. It is tough to find $970 million in any budget 
environment, but this committee did, showing again the level of 
bipartisan commitment we have to our veterans.
  For disability claims, we provide the full request for the Veterans 
Benefits Administration, which is a $163 million increase over fiscal 
year 2015, and the full request for the Board of Veterans Appeals.
  The bill will enhance transparency and accountability at the VA 
through further oversight and an increase for the VA Office of 
Inspector General's independent audits and investigations. I can assure 
you the inspector general's office has been very, very busy.
  This legislation also contains $233 million for the modernization of 
the VA electronic health record and includes language restricting 
funding until the VA demonstrates progress on the system's 
functionality and interoperability. This is a major concern to all of 
us on both sides of the aisle, and I know the chairman, in particular, 
has been outspoken about this matter, but it is something that all of 
us, Republican and Democrat, want to see fixed.
  On construction issues, major construction within the VA is funded at 
$562 million, which is the same level as fiscal year 2015. The bill 
provides funding for hospital replacement and allows the VA to continue 
to correct seismic safety issues and deficiencies. We did not fund the 
more-than-double budget request for construction, as we face the impact 
of gross mismanagement of the Colorado VA Hospital construction, which 
resulted in a $930 million cost overrun. That is not a typo: a $930 
million cost overrun, which is nearly twice the entire VA major 
construction line item. We have also cracked down on oversight with 
multiple restrictions.
  We fund the American Battle Monuments Commission, the Armed Forces 
Retirement Home, Arlington National Cemetery, and the U.S. Court of 
Appeals for Veterans Claims at the requested funding levels.
  In closing, this is a very solid bipartisan bill that is focused on 
the needs of servicemembers, veterans, and all their families. We are 
$4.6 billion over the fiscal year 2015 level; again, a nearly 6 percent 
increase. Not a cut. We have provided for our military and veterans to 
the very best level we can.
  Did we fund every last dime requested? No. Not every idea has merit, 
and not every project is mission critical. We did not fund some 
projects. We cut some requested increases, and we rescinded funds. 
These were fair decisions and part of our responsibility as 
appropriators.
  We have received a lot of criticism for the actions we have taken 
very recently. It started with an email campaign from the VA 
legislative affairs office; then a Statement of Administration Policy; 
and last, some of the VSOs have joined in. Let me tell you, in my time, 
before I was chairman of the subcommittee, and certainly in my time 
since I took over this position, I can say with absolute certainty, the 
VA's problems stem from poor management, not too little money. Poor 
management, not too little money. I will say that again. The problems 
we encounter at the VA time after time--whether it is the Phoenix 
patient wait list scandal, the claims and benefits mess in 
Philadelphia, or the Denver hospital construction debacle--show that 
the VA's problem is management, not money, and for the VA to complain 
about a 6 percent increase rather than an 8 percent increase and to 
call a 6 percent increase a cut--they call that a cut.

  Only in Washington, D.C., can someone call a 6 percent increase over 
last year a cut. Everywhere else in America it is a 6 percent increase, 
but not in this town. Amazing to me, and particularly from a Department 
that has so many severe managerial problems at this time. We need to be 
diligent with oversight and at the same time be a helping hand to the 
Department. There is a way out of the morass, but more money without 
the necessary management reforms is not the answer.
  I have talked to many Members about the VA, and just last night in 
the Committee on Rules, I got quite an earful there. Truly, Members are 
in agreement that we must help the VA transform because that 
transformation is crucial to serve veterans properly and to respect the 
taxpayers footing the bill. By the way, that frustration I have heard 
from Members is from both sides of the aisle, as was the case I heard 
last night in the Committee on Rules.
  We will do a lot of good with this bill. It is fair, it is balanced, 
and, at a 6 percent increase over last year, it is generous. On behalf 
of our servicemembers, military families, and veterans, I urge your 
support of this legislation. Let's take care of those who sacrifice for 
our country. It is time to do the right thing and support the bill.
  I reserve the balance of my time.

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  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  Madam Chair, let me say that I am delighted to have the opportunity 
to work with Chairman Dent of the subcommittee as well as the chairman 
and ranking member of the full committee.
  Madam Chair, as you know, this bill has a strong reputation for 
common ground and bipartisanship. We are pleased with several aspects 
of the bill. For example, the bill maintains tough but fair reporting 
requirements for VistA modernization, which closely tracks the VA's 
development of its electronic health record.
  The bill continues to prioritize the elimination of the veterans 
claims backlog by fully funding the fiscal year 2016 requests: $18.3 
million for a centralized mail initiative which consolidates inbound 
paper mail from regional offices to a centralized intake site, as well 
as $140.8 million for the Veterans Claims Intake Program to scan and 
convert paper claims into a digital format. I believe that these are 
all positive steps to making the VA function better.
  Furthermore, Chairman Dent has avoided including contentious 
legislative riders, which is very much appreciated. Unfortunately, 
however, the chairman was forced to write a bill under the majority's 
fiscal year 2016 budget resolution, which chose to lock in the Budget 
Control Act levels and to use gimmicks to boost defense funding. 
Because of the budget resolution's failure to provide relief from these 
budget caps--which were established in 2011 and later adjusted in 
2013--the chairman was forced to make some tough choices due to the 
allocation that he was given.
  While military construction is provided $7.2 billion, an increase of 
$593 million above 2015, it is still $1.2 billion below the budget 
request. In an effort to avoid the defense budget cap, the bill shifts 
$532 million to the overseas contingency operations funding stream, 
even though the fiscal year 2016 budget request did not include an OCO 
request. This is a gimmick, purely a gimmick to boost defense spending 
by pumping up the OCO budget, which is not limited by the budget law.
  The Department of Veterans Affairs is funded at $68.7 billion, and 
while it is $3.6 billion above fiscal year 2015, the enacted level, it 
is also $1.4 billion below the fiscal year 2016 budget request. The 
inadequate fiscal year 2016 allocation again forced the chairman to 
slice the request for military construction by $582 billion. That is 
hospital construction.
  Furthermore, the bill includes language that directs that only 
replacement, safety, and security projects can receive budgeted 
funding. This is troubling language, and it eliminates all national 
cemetery projects for fiscal year 2016 and puts several other projects 
in jeopardy.

                              {time}  1445

  The majority claims they reduced the construction account because the 
half-built Veterans Affairs Denver hospital project is drastically over 
budget and riddled with mistakes.
  I certainly agree that the VA needs to be held accountable for the 
poor job in managing the Denver hospital project; however, no funds for 
the Denver hospital were allocated within the MILCON-VA bill.
  Additionally, I am not aware of any similar issues with any of the 
other requested projects in the bill for FY12, including replacement, 
clinic construction, seismic improvements, or cemetery construction.
  I believe the majority's budget caps and resulting inadequate 
allocation--not the problems in Denver--led to cutting construction in 
half. I am concerned that, if the reduction stands, it will further 
contribute to the gaps in access, utilization, and safety that were 
already identified in the VA's annual Strategic Capital Investment 
program process.
  Madam Chair, this committee can no longer afford to function under 
the Budget Control Act caps. The reductions to VA will cause gaps in 
access, utilization, and safety and could lower the standard of care 
due our veterans.
  Madam Chairman, as I pointed out during the MILCON-VA markup, the FY 
2017 advance funding will consume $4.6 billion of the nondefense 
discretionary cap next year, so this problem will only get worse. 
Certainly, the Department of Defense cannot be the only winner.
  Using the FY 2016 budget levels will produce a long summer and an 
early fall, with no real progress on the FY 2016 bills. If so, it is 
inevitable that a continuing resolution or a series of continuing 
resolutions will be needed to keep the government open and running in 
place long past the new fiscal year starts on October 1.
  We cannot continue to govern in this fashion. I believe that it is 
well past time to be strategic about how we handle our Federal budget, 
and now, we need to take the next step toward a more responsible budget 
process so we can eventually stop lurching from one crisis to the next.
  I believe that Chairman Dent crafted the best bill he could with the 
allocation he was given. I also believe that this is the first step in 
a long process, and I am concerned about the impact these reductions to 
the VA construction account could have, and we believe they will have 
to be addressed before the process.
  To that end, I am prepared to offer an amendment to the bill 
restoring the full funding of the request so that we can, in fact, do 
justice by our veterans and do what is necessary for our military 
construction without using budget gimmicks. At the appropriate time, I 
will offer an amendment to do that.
  Madam Chairman, at this time, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. DENT. Madam Chairman, I yield such time as he may consume to the 
gentleman from Kentucky (Mr. Rogers), the full committee chairman, and 
I want to thank him for all his support and leadership in putting this 
bill together.
  Mr. ROGERS of Kentucky. Mr. Chairman, thank you for yielding time.
  Madam Chairman, I rise in support of this bill, the Military 
Construction and Veterans Affairs bill for 2016. In doing that, I want 
to congratulate Chairman Dent, the new chairman of this subcommittee. 
This is his maiden voyage as chairman of this subcommittee. He is a 
cardinal now. He has done a great job putting together this bill.
  I also want to thank Mr. Bishop, the ranking member on the other 
side, for his cooperation in making this bill what it is today.
  This is the first bill of the process, and I am pleased that we are 
off to a very early start--I am told the earliest start since 1974--
continuing our good work from last year. I am optimistic that we are 
going to have a successful appropriations year, finishing on time and 
under regular order.
  We are beginning the year on the right foot with a bipartisan bill, 
Madam Chairman, that I believe we can all get behind. The FY 2016 
Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill 
includes, as has been said, $76.6 billion in discretionary funding for 
important veterans benefits and services and for the infrastructure 
that supports the brave men and women serving in our Armed Forces and 
their families.
  This is a total of $4.6 billion over last year. No one can call this 
a cut and be realistic about it. We have increased the funding by $4.6 
billion year-to-year. We can't say that for all the other bills. Yes, 
we went overboard with what we had to work with in providing funds for 
the veterans and for military construction. That is a demonstration of 
our commitment to our warfighters and to our veterans and their loved 
ones, who sacrifice so much to protect this great Nation.
  Within the total, the bill includes $7.7 billion for the DOD's 
construction projects in the U.S. and around the world, which provide 
our servicemembers with the infrastructure they need to remain at the 
ready.
  The legislation also provides a total of $68.7 billion in 
discretionary funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs. That is a 
5.6 percent increase over last year to guarantee the VA has the 
resources they need to care for every single qualified veteran, 
including meeting growing healthcare needs.
  To that end, VA medical services are funded at $3.8 billion above the 
current level. That will treat 6.9 million eligible patients, providing 
mental health care, helping prevent suicide, and supporting research 
into prosthetics and traumatic brain injuries, among numerous other 
health initiatives. However, it is critical that we make sure the VA is 
being responsible with these taxpayer dollars.
  It is clear that the VA is facing some considerable management 
challenges,

[[Page H2581]]

and so this bill provides the oversight that will hold the Department 
accountable for its mistakes and takes the necessary steps to address 
and correct these problems.
  For instance, the bill keeps a close eye on how the VA is spending 
its construction dollars by requiring reports on construction costs, 
savings, and changes in scope.
  This is a good bill, Madam Chairman. I urge its adoption.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Madam Chair, at this time, I yield 4 minutes 
to the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. Lowey), the full committee 
ranking member.
  Mrs. LOWEY. Madam Chair, before I begin, I would like to thank 
Subcommittee Chairman Dent and Ranking Member Bishop, who worked so 
well together, and full Committee Chairman Rogers.
  The House Republican ``work harder for less'' budget resolution was 
opposed by every Member on my side of the aisle, in part because it 
makes it impossible to provide the funding necessary in the 12 
appropriations bills to grow our economy and give hard-working 
Americans the opportunity to succeed.
  Democrats preferred the approach taken by the President, calling for 
an end to sequestration and more reasonable and realistic budgeting 
that can help families afford college, a home, and a secure retirement.
  Refusing to adopt a sufficient overall allocation for discretionary 
investments has a significant impact on the initiatives in all the 
appropriation bills that grow the economy and create jobs.
  The bill we consider today presents a false choice. The VA needs more 
resources in 2016 than 2015 to sustain its level of services for the 
brave men and women it serves. The majority invests a disproportionate 
share of the allocation's nondefense funds in the Military Construction 
and Veterans Affairs bill; yet it still falls far short of meeting VA's 
actual needs.
  The equivalent of 70,000 fewer veterans would receive medical care 
under this bill, compared to the President's request. In addition, it 
further reduces funds available for priorities in the other spending 
bills for transportation infrastructure, job training, higher 
education, biomedical research, and clean energy, just as an example. 
All these initiatives are key to economic growth and creating 
opportunity for hard-working Americans, especially veterans.
  Additionally, $532 million in today's bill would be shifted to 
overseas contingency operations in a gimmick to boost defense spending.
  Even with these tricks, the Military Construction and Veterans 
Affairs bill would have a profound impact on military families and 
veterans, forcing a $2.7 billion cut below what the President says is 
necessary, including $754 million less for military construction, $155 
million less for medical services, $70 million less for medical support 
and compliance, $105 million less for medical facilities, and $582 
million less for VA construction projects.
  These cuts, which hurt those who have sacrificed for our country, are 
unacceptable. Not everything requested by the President is sacrosanct, 
and Congress has a duty--it is an important part of our 
responsibility--to evaluate each and every line item in a budget 
proposal. Such an assessment of this bill makes clear that many 
accounts are clearly underfunded.
  Despite the abundant shortcomings, there are some positive aspects, 
including reporting requirements for electronic health records and 
prioritizing the elimination of the veterans claims backlog.
  It is imperative that, as the bill progresses toward enactment, 
improvements are made and that, as the entire appropriations process 
continues, we reach an agreement that will ensure these bills invest in 
our hard-working families' economic security.
  Mr. DENT. Madam Chair, at this time, I yield 3 minutes to the 
gentlewoman from Alabama (Mrs. Roby), who has been a tireless advocate 
for the needs of the veterans in her community in Alabama.
  Mrs. ROBY. First, I thank the chairman and the ranking member for 
their hard work on this bill, and I thank the chairman for yielding.
  Madam Chairman, I am so grateful for this opportunity to stand here 
today in support of H.R. 2029, the Military Construction and Veterans 
Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.
  This bill undeniably provides much-needed funding for both our 
veterans programs and military projects, while staying within the 
strict limits of our House-passed budget resolution.
  I am especially proud because there is funding that we were able to 
secure in this bill for the folks in Alabama, right at home, including 
new school construction both at Fort Rucker, the home of Army aviation 
excellence, and $33 million for new school construction at Maxwell Air 
Force Base, much-needed dollars for our military families at this post 
and this base, and also funding for a new squadron operations facility 
at Dannelly Field.
  These are all extremely important to our critical military functions 
in Alabama. Anybody who has been on post at Rucker or at the base at 
Maxwell knows that these schools are in disrepair and are in need of 
replacing.
  Our military families deserve quality on-base facilities, and these 
projects are going to go a long way to help improve their quality of 
life right there in Alabama.
  I want to address, though, what I was struck with--and everyone else 
in this institution--when I woke up this morning, Madam Chair. I was 
extremely disappointed, alongside my colleagues, to see that the 
President, yet again, has threatened to veto this bill.
  This bill provides critical, much-needed funding for our military 
families and our veterans, and the President should not play around 
with that.

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  Under this administration we have failed our veterans miserably. And 
only in Washington, D.C., when you see an increase of $3.6 billion for 
our VA to provide these critical needs for our men and women who have 
worn the uniform and put their lives on the line for the freedom and 
liberty that allow us to stand in this room today, only in Washington, 
D.C., will a $3.6 billion increase on behalf of our veterans be called 
a cut.
  You know why, Madam Chair?
  It is being called a cut because it is the only way to shift the 
blame away from this administration's failure to our veterans back to 
the Republican-led House. It is clearly politics that is driving us, 
and I am asking, Madam Chair, that the President seriously rethink his 
position.
  The administration needs to take responsibility, and they are trying, 
once again, to point fingers at leadership in this House that is doing 
all that we can to ensure that our veterans get timely care and the 
best care that we can provide them. This is cynical, and it is 
shameful, and I believe--I believe--that the American people can see 
straight through it.
  So I hope, again, Madam Chair, that the President will reconsider 
this position because there is no place--no place--here in this bill 
for political gamesmanship when it comes to our military families and 
our veterans.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Madam Chair, at this time I yield 3 minutes to 
the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Lee), a member of the Subcommittee 
on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.
  Ms. LEE. Madam Chairman, let me thank the ranking member for 
yielding, for his unwavering leadership for our veterans on this 
committee, and for your friendship. Thank you very much, Mr. Bishop.
  Let me also thank Chairman Dent, in addition to Ranking Member 
Bishop, really for working very hard in a bipartisan way on a variety 
of issues facing our veterans, including empowering our vets in their 
transition back to civilian life and ensuring adequate and accessible 
access to care.
  As the daughter of a veteran, I understand the enormous sacrifices 
that our servicemembers and their families make to serve our Nation, so 
this subcommittee is extremely important.
  I want to thank the ranking member and chair for working with me and 
my colleagues on the subcommittee to include important report language 
on the backlog at the Oakland VA regional office, which is, of course, 
one of the worst in the Nation.
  I want to thank our ranking member, Congresswoman Brown, who is here 
today, for her leadership on the committee in shedding some light also 
on

[[Page H2582]]

what is taking place at the Oakland VA regional office.
  This language will ensure that the Oakland office not only has to 
provide Congress with accurate information on what has happened with 
these backlogged claims, but it will require the Veterans Benefits 
Administration to outline the lessons learned and what the new 
protocols are to ensure that no veteran faces delays in accessing care.
  Yet, of course, insufficient allocations in this bill leave much work 
to be done. The 2016 MILCON-VA approps bill includes a $582 million cut 
from the major construction account. Now, that is half of the 
President's request of $1.1 billion.
  Simply put, the level of funds allocated in this bill is totally 
insufficient and, yes, it undermines the responsibility we have to 
provide our veterans with the best and most innovative care. As a 
result, the construction of vital medical facilities that will serve 
our veterans will be delayed. This includes the initial phase of 
construction for the state-of-the-art Alameda Point outpatient clinic 
in my own congressional district, which serves thousands of veterans in 
the northern California area.
  The CHAIR. The time of the gentlewoman has expired.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. I yield the gentlewoman an additional 1 
minute.
  Ms. LEE. Thank you very much.
  I just want to thank the ranking member and the chair for continuing 
to work with me to ensure that the limitation language in the report 
with regard to major construction funds for the VA does not preclude 
clinics like, for example, the Alameda Point outpatient clinic.
  Addressing the limitation language and restoring funding to the 
President's request level for major construction is really vital to 
ensuring that our Nation keeps the promise that we have made to our 
brave veterans to give them access to the best care.
  Madam Chair, we really can't afford what these cuts will do with our 
veterans. We can't afford to allow this dangerous and harmful impact of 
sequestration now to be locked in by these allocations before us today. 
These dismal numbers, they directly affect our veterans' access to care 
that they need and that they have earned.
  So I hope that, as this process moves forward, these insufficient 
allocations are resolved.
  Mr. DENT. I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from 
California (Mr. Denham) for a colloquy.
  Mr. DENHAM. Madam Chair, every Member of this body recognizes the 
special obligation this House has to take care of our veterans. We also 
have an obligation to ensure that the funds we entrust to the 
Department of Veterans Affairs are actually properly spent.
  The shocking waste of funds at the Aurora Hospital in Denver has 
rightly earned the outrage of both this body and the American public. 
The $930 million in cost overruns in Denver will have to be paid for by 
taking funds that could otherwise have accelerated critical access 
projects across the country or assisted the Department as it attempts 
to tackle the backlog in claims at the Veterans Benefits 
Administration.
  I am particularly concerned that the complete failure of project 
management of the Denver hospital is negatively impacting veterans in 
my district. They have already suffered from a lack of access to care.
  Specifically, I am seeking clarity on what the committee intends with 
the major construction funding appropriated under this bill. The 
Committee report includes language requiring the funding provided for 
major construction to be used for new hospital construction and seismic 
corrections.
  One of the projects included in this request is the Livermore 
Realignment and Closure project. This project would utilize FY 2016 
funding to provide for the complete construction of a new medical 
facility at French Camp in the Central Valley. The facility would 
provide direct medical care to more than 87,000 veterans in its service 
area and dramatically reduce the nearly 6-hour commute faced by 
veterans in my district for even routine health care.
  Madam Chairman, does the Livermore Realignment and Closure project, a 
project that was authorized more than a decade ago by this Congress, 
meet the criteria for funding set by the committee in the report 
accompanying this appropriations bill?
  Mr. DENT. Will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. DENHAM. I yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania.
  Mr. DENT. Madam Chair, I thank the gentleman from California for 
offering this opportunity to clarify the meaning of our report 
language. I do share your concern about the mismanagement of 
construction projects by the VA. It is delaying vital projects such as 
Livermore.

  In this report, we simply made clear the priority for funding 
hospital construction and seismic corrections. Within the funds 
provided in the bill, unallocated major construction funding remains 
available, and the VA has the ability to allocate those funds towards 
French Camp as well as other projects in the budget request. The report 
instructs the VA to make that determination and provide a list of 
projects to this committee.
  I have heard similar concerns from other Members, including the 
gentlelady, Ms. Lee, who just spoke a few moments ago, who have 
projects included in this request, such as Alameda Clinic and a 
rehabilitative therapy clinic in St. Louis, which the administration 
could also choose to fund.
  I appreciate these concerns and the opportunity to provide some 
clarity. I hope that is helpful. But nothing precludes funding.
  Madam Chair, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Madam Chair, I yield 2 minutes to the 
gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Brown), who is the ranking member of the 
House Veterans' Affairs Committee and a strong supporter of our 
veterans.
  Ms. BROWN of Florida. Madam Chair and Members of the House, I rise in 
strong opposition to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs 
Appropriations bill.
  After taking steps forward with the new Choice Act program, this 
Republican budget takes two steps back with its cuts to veterans health 
care, just another example of Republicans talking the talk but not 
walking the walk. But don't take my word for it. If you ask the 
veterans service organizations who represent the interests of veterans, 
every one of them is opposing this bill.
  The national commanders of the Veterans of Foreign Wars said the 
following about the Republican Veterans bill:

       The VA cannot fulfill its mission without proper funding, 
     but the House, for whatever reason, now wants to ration care, 
     eliminate infrastructure projects, and stop improving upon 
     the programs and services that the VA was created to provide. 
     This is a bad bill for veterans, and anyone that votes for it 
     should really take a second look.

  And let me just say one other thing. I often say, if you are not in 
the room, you are on the menu, and I am sure that veterans never 
thought that Republicans would put them on the menu.
  Mr. DENT. Madam Chair, I yield myself such time as I may consume, and 
I just want to respond to the gentlewoman from Florida's comments.
  You know, a lot of people have been saying that we cut spending in 
this bill. The President requested an 8 percent increase. We provided 
for a 6 percent increase.
  You know, because the President makes a request does not mean that 
Congress has to behave like potted plants and simply accede to every 
item that the President has asked for. That is not our role as Members 
of Congress.
  Our job is to provide some real serious oversight over a department 
that has failed in many respects. And Members on both sides of the 
aisle agree with that, given the problems of Denver, Phoenix, 
Philadelphia, Oakland, and elsewhere. I can go through a long list.
  But some of the oversight mechanisms in this bill, I should mention, 
include things like requiring a spending plan before construction 
dollars can be spent. We did that because of what has happened all 
across the country.
  We prohibit increases in the scope of construction projects. We 
prohibit transfer of funds between construction projects. We fence 75 
percent of funding until conditions are met, cut funding for poorly 
performing offices, require detailed quarterly reports regarding 
disability compensation claims. We have tightened restrictions on 
reprogramming. We have also rescinded

[[Page H2583]]

$415 million from VA pay accounts, that is pay and bonuses, limiting 
the amount of money available for pay increases and bonuses.
  Should we reward failure at the VA?
  I mean, there are management problems at the VA. It is not simply 
about money. We all know this. And given you can open up a newspaper 
every day, just 2 weeks ago in the city of Philadelphia, at the 
regional office there, a scathing inspector general's report about the 
failures, and to simply reward that would be unconscionable on our 
part.
  Ms. BROWN of Florida. Will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. DENT. I yield to the gentlewoman.
  Ms. BROWN of Florida. My question is: Will you admit that this budget 
will deny 70,000 veterans from receiving health care?
  Mr. DENT. Reclaiming my time, I will tell you that this budget 
adequately meets--more than adequately meets--the needs of our 
servicemembers and our veterans and their families.
  Madam Chair, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Madam Chair, I have no further speakers.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. DENT. Madam Chair, again, just urging all Members to support this 
important legislation. It is the right thing to do. We have no further 
speakers at this time.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  The CHAIR. All time for general debate has expired.
  Pursuant to the rule, the bill shall be considered for amendment 
under the 5-minute rule.
  During consideration of the bill for amendment each amendment shall 
be debatable for 10 minutes equally divided and controlled by the 
proponent and an opponent and shall not be subject to amendment. No pro 
forma amendment shall be in order except that the chair and ranking 
minority member of the Committee on Appropriations or their respective 
designees may offer up to 10 pro forma amendments each at any point for 
the purpose of debate. The Chair of the Committee of the Whole may 
accord priority in recognition on the basis of whether the Member 
offering an amendment has caused it to be printed in the portion of the 
Congressional Record designated for that purpose. Amendments so printed 
shall be considered read.
  The Clerk will read.
  The Clerk read as follows:

                               H.R. 2029

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the 
     following sums are appropriated, out of any money in the 
     Treasury not otherwise appropriated, for military 
     construction, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and related 
     agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, and 
     for other purposes, namely:

                                TITLE I

                         DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

                      Military Construction, Army

       For acquisition, construction, installation, and equipment 
     of temporary or permanent public works, military 
     installations, facilities, and real property for the Army as 
     currently authorized by law, including personnel in the Army 
     Corps of Engineers and other personal services necessary for 
     the purposes of this appropriation, and for construction and 
     operation of facilities in support of the functions of the 
     Commander in Chief, $663,245,000, to remain available until 
     September 30, 2020: Provided, That of this amount, not to 
     exceed $109,245,000 shall be available for study, planning, 
     design, architect and engineer services, and host nation 
     support, as authorized by law, unless the Secretary of the 
     Army determines that additional obligations are necessary for 
     such purposes and notifies the Committees on Appropriations 
     of both Houses of Congress of the determination and the 
     reasons therefor.

                              {time}  1515


               Amendment Offered by Mr. Bishop of Georgia

  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Madam Chairman, I rise to offer an amendment.
  The CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       Page 2, line 18, after the dollar amount, insert ``(reduced 
     by $1) (increased by $1)''.
       Page 27, line 9, after the dollar amount, insert 
     ``(increased by $154,643,000)''.
       Page 28, line 15, after the dollar amount, insert 
     ``(increased by $69,691,000)''.
       Page 29, line 9, after the dollar amount, insert 
     ``(increased by $105,132,000)''.
       Page 30, line 15, after the first dollar amount, insert 
     ``(increased by $10,000,000)''.
       Page 32, line 5, after the dollar amount, insert 
     ``(increased by $95,000,000)''.
       Page 36, line 5, after the first dollar amount, insert 
     ``(increased by $582,000,000)''.
       Strike section 233.
       Strike section 238.
       Strike section 240.
       Strike section 241.

  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia (during the reading). Madam Chair, I ask 
unanimous consent to dispense with the reading.
  The CHAIR. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from 
Georgia?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. DENT. Madam Chairman, I reserve a point of order on the 
gentleman's amendment.
  The CHAIR. A point of order is reserved.
  Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman from Georgia and a 
Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Georgia.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Madam Chair, the amendment that I am offering 
should be supported by every Member of this House. Very simply, it 
would restore the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs funding 
bill to the full amount requested by the administration and to the full 
amount deemed necessary by the affected agencies.
  Last night, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, one of the largest veterans 
service organizations in the United States, put out a letter calling 
this year's MILCON-VA bill ``bad for veterans.'' They oppose the bill.
  The Independent Budget group, which consists of the AMVETS, the 
Disabled American Veterans, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, and 
Veterans of Foreign Wars, expressed serious concerns with this bill. 
The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America also expressed their 
serious concerns with this bill. In their letter, they called on 
Congress to provide the entire $1.5 billion that was cut from the 
budget request for the VA, which this House should do immediately.
  Without this necessary funding, much-needed investments in veterans 
health care will be shortchanged, and important services will be 
compromised.
  I understand that House rules make it difficult to add money to a 
spending bill's allocation, but I sincerely hope that we don't hide 
behind that as an excuse.
  We should be doing the right thing on behalf of our Nation's 
veterans. We have the power to do it. We need to pass a law to change 
the law which limits us and puts this cap on what we can do to take 
care of our veterans and our military construction. This amendment 
addresses that, and I urge all of my colleagues to vote ``yes'' and to 
demonstrate to the veteran community that the message has been 
received.
  Madam Chair, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Ms. BROWN of Florida. Madam Chair, I rise in strong support of this 
amendment, which increases funding for all the VA programs that the 
Republicans cut in this year's Mil Con-VA Appropriations bill.
  Our troops continue the fight to keep our country safe and to ensure 
the blessings of liberty that we enjoy. And after their service in the 
military ends, many are in desperate need of quality health care to 
make a healthy transition to civilian life.
  As Members of Congress, it is our job to make sure that the men and 
women who fought for our freedom have access to high quality, 
comprehensive health care services. One of our first obligations to 
meeting this demand is ensuring that the Department of Veteran's 
Affairs (VA) has the resources it needs to provide top-notch care to 
our veterans. Just a few months ago, President Barack Obama proposed a 
budget for 2016 which will help to meet the needs of the VA by 
providing $70.2 billion in discretionary funding for VA, a 7.5 percent 
increase from 2015. This proposed budget would also provide $3.2 
billion in estimated medical care collections and $95.3 billion for 
VA's mandatory benefit programs.
  However, I am deeply disappointed in that H.R. 2029, the House 
MilCon, VA and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee's proposal 
cuts $1.4 billion from the President's budget request. This is simply a 
desperate attempt to balance our nation's budget on the backs of our 
veterans, and it is not acceptable.
  The Veterans have fought for our nation, and now is the time we need 
to fight for them.
  I ask my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to stand with me and 
the millions of our

[[Page H2584]]

nations' veterans and support this amendment to appropriately fund the 
VA and provide services to our veterans that they earned from their 
years of service.

                            [April 28, 2015]

        VFW Calls New VA Appropriations Bill `Bad for Veterans'

       Washington.--The national commander of the Veterans of 
     Foreign Wars of the United States said the U.S. House of 
     Representatives is set to penalize disabled veterans this 
     week if it votes to reduce the Department of Veterans Affairs 
     budget request by more than $1.5 billion.
       ``The nationwide crisis in care and confidence that erupted 
     in the VA last year was caused in many ways by a lack of 
     adequate resourcing that only Congress is authorized to 
     provide,'' said John W. Stroud, who leads the 1.9 million-
     member VFW and its Auxiliaries. ``That's why the VFW is 
     demanding that the House amend this bill to appropriate a 
     funding level that fully funds VA.''
       In its current form, the fiscal year 2016 Military 
     Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill makes 
     across-the-board cuts to all VA discretionary accounts, and 
     drastically underfunds medical care, major construction and 
     Information Technology accounts. Stroud said across-the-board 
     cuts to discretionary spending is what Congress created back 
     in 2011, but by another name, sequestration. Now the House 
     wants to impose its own sequester on a federal department 
     whose sole mission is to care for wounded, ill and injured 
     veterans.
       ``The VA cannot fulfill its mission without proper funding, 
     but the House for whatever reason now wants to ration care, 
     eliminate infrastructure projects, and stop improving upon 
     the programs and services that the VA was created to 
     provide,'' said the VFW national commander. ``This bill is 
     bad for veterans and any vote for it is unconscionable, which 
     is why we want veterans and advocates everywhere to get 
     involved by urging their elected officials to fully fund the 
     VA.''

                                              Iraq and Afghanistan


                                          Veterans of America,

                                                   April 28, 2015.
     Hon. John Boehner,
     Speaker, House of Representatives,
     Washington, DC.
     Hon. Nancy Pelosi,
     Minority Leader, House of Representatives,
     Washington, DC.
       Dear Mr. Speaker and Madam Minority Leader: On behalf of 
     the 400,000 members of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of 
     America (IAVA), we write to express concern over the House 
     Committee on Appropriations' April 22, 2015 markup and vote 
     on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) appropriations 
     bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016.
       Over the expressed objections of the administration, the 
     committee reduced the president's FY 2016 VA budget request 
     by more than $1.4 billion. If allowed, this cut could hamper 
     the services ten of thousands of veterans receive, and impact 
     VA's ability to activate new and replacement facilities with 
     sufficient staff and equipment and to adequately maintain 
     facility infrastructure.
       Secretary McDonald has been upfront and, above all, 
     realistic in asking for full funding of the president's FY 
     2016 VA request. Reform of the VA, its facilities and its 
     infrastructure are monumental tasks. Unfortunately these 
     challenges become almost unobtainable with a reduction in 
     funding outlined in the House's mark.
       During Congress' first 100 days, great strides have been 
     made to address the needs of our nation's veterans. Passage 
     of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans 
     (SAV) Act was a huge bipartisan victory in the House and 
     Senate. It showed the American people what is possible if we 
     work together.
       In that same vein, we ask that you again work in a 
     bipartisan manner and request the House, in making its final 
     adjustments or as a part of a conference on this legislation, 
     to find the means to fund the VA's realistic request so that 
     the institution can meet its congressional mandate next year. 
     To that end, we ask the leadership of the House to restore 
     VA's overall funding at least to the level recommended by the 
     administration in its FY 2016 budget.
           Sincerely,

                                            Matthew M. Miller,

                                    Chief Policy Officer, Iraq and
     Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).
                                  ____



                                       The Independent Budget,

                                                   April 27, 2015.
     Hon. John Boehner,
     Speaker, House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
     Hon. Nancy Pelosi,
     Minority Leader, House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
       Dear Mr. Speaker and Madam Minority Leader: As partner 
     organizations in the Independent Budget for Fiscal Year 2016, 
     we write to express our concerns about the results of the 
     Committee on Appropriations' April 22, 2015 markup and vote 
     on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) appropriations 
     bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016.
       Over the expressed objections of the Administration, the 
     Committee made a rushed determination to reduce the 
     President's FY 2016 VA Medical Care request by over $600 
     million. This reduction is equivalent to the cost of 
     providing care for tens of thousands of veterans next year. 
     If enacted, the bill would harm these services and others, 
     including reducing VA's ability to activate new and 
     replacement facilities with sufficient staff and equipment 
     and to adequately maintain facility infrastructure.
       In the separate capital infrastructure accounts (for major 
     and minor projects as well as for state veterans home 
     construction grants), the Committee reduced the 
     Administration's request by $582 million. We are deeply 
     concerned that VA will not receive enough resources to enable 
     the system to properly maintain its existing health care 
     facilities, nor to build any new ones. Despite the VA's well 
     publicized deficits in addressing the overdue and over-budget 
     medical center construction project in Denver, dozens of 
     other VA centers are much older and in poorer condition than 
     the Colorado facility that is being replaced, but no funds 
     would be made available in the FY 2016 appropriation to begin 
     these priority projects. Also, lack of maintenance, repairs, 
     and improvements in existing VA facilities now carrying 
     backlogged projects costing billions of dollars would be much 
     more expensive in future years due to funding inadequacies 
     brought about by this bill. The Congress should note that 
     over the past decade, Congress has funded VA infrastructure 
     needs at a level that was $7.9 billion less than what we 
     collectively recommended in Independent Budgets over that 
     period.
       In the long run, Congress will be forced to appropriate 
     much larger sums to enable VA to catch up to the deficits 
     being created by this bill. In a related vein, please see 
     VA's letter to the Speaker and President of the Senate, dated 
     April 14, 2015, requesting several high priority construction 
     authorizations and supportive appropriations, and the 
     expenditure of unobligated balances from section 801 of 
     Public Law 113-146, to be used to complete the construction 
     of the Denver facility, and for other purposes that we 
     strongly support.
       Strangling the VA's appropriated accounts for 
     infrastructure, but refusing to allow any flexibility in the 
     use of funds already provided by Congress in prior acts, 
     places VA in double jeopardy. It means VA simply cannot 
     build, and cannot expand--even when funds are available and 
     could be used. This barrier penalizes and denies care in some 
     way to every veteran who relies on VA. As VA Secretary 
     McDonald said last week, this situation will ``harm 
     veterans.'' We agree.
       On the topic of VA's Medical and Prosthetic Research 
     program, we appreciate the Committee's approval of an 
     amendment to match the Administration's request of $622 
     million for FY 2016. Without these new funds, VA clinician-
     scientists would have needed to significantly reduce 
     recruitment and analysis in the Million Veteran Program, 
     delaying the benefits of precision medicine to veterans. 
     Also, these funds will be used for completion of genetic 
     studies on functional disability in schizophrenia and bipolar 
     disorder; to initiate studies aimed at finding the root cause 
     of a known genetic susceptibility to post-traumatic stress 
     disorder; and, to conduct new studies aimed at predicting 
     susceptibility to opioid abuse. Despite this good news, as 
     advocates we are concerned that these funds were shifted in 
     an unprecedented manner from the VA information technology 
     (IT) account--an appropriation that was already reduced $80 
     million from the President's requested level during the 
     Committee's consideration. Also, holding VA accountable for 
     making significant progress in developing the next generation 
     of electronic health records in coordination with the 
     Department of Defense, while suppressing the IT funding to 
     make that very progress possible, is deeply troubling.
       In addition to these concerns, we note that in the bill's 
     administrative provisions, the Appropriations Committee would 
     further reduce VA funding, even when it appears that the bill 
     would be providing higher levels at the top line. For 
     example, if this administrative language is adopted by 
     Congress, VA will find itself in the odd position come 
     January 2016 of needing to decide (in the Committee's words, 
     ``if it chooses to do so'') whether over 300,000 VA employees 
     will be due a comparability increase, without any funding 
     appropriated for it. We know of no statute that makes federal 
     employee comparability increases discretionary once the 
     President announces the comparability rate. In the research 
     program, for example, the appropriation would be reduced by a 
     rescission of over $3 million even while the Committee voted 
     to approve an amendment to restore the account to the 
     Administration's full requested level. Other administrative 
     provisions have similar effects, all deleterious to any VA 
     flexibility in funding its many requirements in FY 2016. In 
     fact the total rescissions from these administrative 
     provisions would be more than $400 million, with nearly $200 
     million directed at the Medical Services account atop the 
     $600 million discussed above.
       This is a particularly important moment in VA history, 
     given the events of the past year. Suffocating the system now 
     with a dearth of funding (well over $1 billion less than 
     requested by the Administration), and restricting or 
     rescinding the use of available funds--even those to be 
     appropriated in this bill--while demanding reforms, only 
     proves to make VA's intended and ongoing efforts more 
     challenging.
       As indicated, we respectfully request the House, in making 
     its final adjustments, or as a part of a conference on this 
     legislation, to find the means to sufficiently fund these 
     crucial VA accounts so that the institution can meet its 
     Congressional mandate next year. To that end, we ask the 
     Leadership of the

[[Page H2585]]

     House to restore VA's overall funding at least to the level 
     recommended by the Administration in its FY 2016 budget, 
     although even that level is almost $1.4 billion below our 
     joint recommendations in the Independent Budget for next 
     year.
       When the nation sends our soldiers and Marines into live 
     combat in hostile territory, we do not skimp on their 
     training, weapons, or ammunition for the fight. Now that 
     these veterans are home, we should do no less.
       On behalf of the millions of veterans who make up our 
     memberships, we will appreciate the House Leadership and 
     Members taking into account our concerns about funding levels 
     needed by the VA in FY 2016, and acting to fully fund the VA 
     system.
           Sincerely,
     Stewart M. Hickey,
       National Executive Director, AMVETS.
     Homer S. Townsend, Jr.,
       Executive Director, Paralyzed Veterans of America.
     Garry J. Augustine,
       Executive Director, Washington Headquarters, DAV (Disabled 
     American Veterans).
     Robert E. Wallace,
       Executive Director, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United 
     States.

                             Point of Order

  Mr. DENT. Madam Chairman, I make a point of order against the 
amendment because it proposes to amend portions of the bill not yet 
read.
  Section 17 of chapter 2 of the House Practice book states in part:
  ``It is not in order to strike out or otherwise amend portions of a 
bill not yet read for amendment.''
  I ask for a ruling from the Chair.
  The CHAIR. Does any other Member wish to be heard on the point of 
order?
  Mrs. LOWEY. I wish to be heard on the point of order.
  The CHAIR. The gentlewoman from New York is recognized to be heard on 
the point of order.
  Mrs. LOWEY. Madam Chair, I rise in strong support of the amendment.
  The bill falls far short of providing the resources that the 
President requested and veterans earned. The National Commander of the 
Veterans of Foreign Wars has demanded that ``the House amend the bill 
to appropriate a funding level that fully funds the VA.'' The gentleman 
from Georgia's (Mr. Bishop) amendment does just that.
  The VFW went on to say the bill ``drastically underfunds medical 
care, major construction, and information technology accounts. . . . 
The VA cannot fulfill its mission without proper funding; but the 
House, for whatever reason, now wants to''------
  The CHAIR. The gentlewoman will suspend.
  The gentlewoman must confine her remarks to the point of order.
  Does the gentlewoman wish to be heard on the point of order?
  Mrs. LOWEY. Yes.
  I just want to emphasize that the VFW strongly supports the amendment 
for the reasons that I suggested.
  The CHAIR. Does any other Member wish to be heard on the point of 
order?
  If not, the Chair is prepared to rule.
  To be considered en bloc pursuant to clause 2(f) of rule XXI, an 
amendment must propose only to transfer appropriations among objects in 
the bill. Because the amendment offered by the gentleman from Georgia 
proposes also another kind of change in the bill, namely: striking 
sections from the bill, it may not avail itself of clause 2(f) to 
address portions of the bill not yet read.
  The point of order is sustained.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Madam Chair, I move to appeal the ruling of 
the Chair.
  The CHAIR. The question is, Shall the decision of the Chair stand as 
the judgment of the Committee?
  The question was taken; and the Chair announced that the ayes 
appeared to have it.


                             Recorded Vote

  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Madam Chair, I demand a recorded vote.
  A recorded vote was ordered.
  The vote was taken by electronic device, and there were--ayes 237, 
noes 180, not voting 14, as follows:

                             [Roll No. 178]

                               AYES--237

     Abraham
     Aderholt
     Allen
     Amash
     Amodei
     Babin
     Barletta
     Barr
     Barton
     Benishek
     Bilirakis
     Bishop (MI)
     Bishop (UT)
     Black
     Blackburn
     Blum
     Bost
     Boustany
     Brady (TX)
     Brat
     Bridenstine
     Brooks (AL)
     Brooks (IN)
     Buchanan
     Buck
     Bucshon
     Burgess
     Byrne
     Calvert
     Carter (GA)
     Carter (TX)
     Chabot
     Chaffetz
     Clawson (FL)
     Coffman
     Cole
     Collins (GA)
     Collins (NY)
     Comstock
     Conaway
     Cook
     Costello (PA)
     Cramer
     Crawford
     Crenshaw
     Culberson
     Curbelo (FL)
     Davis, Rodney
     Denham
     Dent
     DeSantis
     DesJarlais
     Diaz-Balart
     Dold
     Duffy
     Duncan (SC)
     Duncan (TN)
     Ellmers (NC)
     Emmer (MN)
     Farenthold
     Fincher
     Fitzpatrick
     Fleischmann
     Fleming
     Flores
     Forbes
     Fortenberry
     Foxx
     Franks (AZ)
     Frelinghuysen
     Garrett
     Gibbs
     Gibson
     Gohmert
     Goodlatte
     Gosar
     Gowdy
     Granger
     Graves (GA)
     Graves (LA)
     Graves (MO)
     Griffith
     Grothman
     Guthrie
     Hanna
     Hardy
     Harper
     Harris
     Hartzler
     Heck (NV)
     Hensarling
     Herrera Beutler
     Hice, Jody B.
     Hill
     Holding
     Hudson
     Huelskamp
     Huizenga (MI)
     Hultgren
     Hunter
     Hurd (TX)
     Hurt (VA)
     Issa
     Jenkins (KS)
     Jenkins (WV)
     Johnson (OH)
     Johnson, Sam
     Jolly
     Jones
     Jordan
     Joyce
     Katko
     Kelly (PA)
     King (IA)
     King (NY)
     Kinzinger (IL)
     Kline
     Knight
     Labrador
     LaMalfa
     Lamborn
     Lance
     Latta
     LoBiondo
     Long
     Loudermilk
     Lucas
     Luetkemeyer
     Lummis
     MacArthur
     Marchant
     Marino
     Massie
     McCarthy
     McCaul
     McClintock
     McHenry
     McKinley
     McMorris Rodgers
     McSally
     Meadows
     Meehan
     Messer
     Mica
     Miller (FL)
     Miller (MI)
     Moolenaar
     Mooney (WV)
     Mullin
     Mulvaney
     Murphy (PA)
     Neugebauer
     Newhouse
     Noem
     Nugent
     Nunes
     Olson
     Palmer
     Paulsen
     Pearce
     Perry
     Pittenger
     Pitts
     Poliquin
     Pompeo
     Posey
     Price, Tom
     Ratcliffe
     Reed
     Reichert
     Renacci
     Ribble
     Rice (SC)
     Rigell
     Roby
     Roe (TN)
     Rogers (AL)
     Rogers (KY)
     Rohrabacher
     Rokita
     Rooney (FL)
     Ros-Lehtinen
     Ross
     Rothfus
     Rouzer
     Russell
     Ryan (WI)
     Salmon
     Sanford
     Scalise
     Schweikert
     Scott, Austin
     Sensenbrenner
     Sessions
     Shimkus
     Shuster
     Simpson
     Smith (MO)
     Smith (NE)
     Smith (NJ)
     Smith (TX)
     Stefanik
     Stewart
     Stivers
     Stutzman
     Thompson (PA)
     Thornberry
     Tiberi
     Tipton
     Trott
     Turner
     Upton
     Valadao
     Wagner
     Walberg
     Walden
     Walker
     Walorski
     Walters, Mimi
     Weber (TX)
     Webster (FL)
     Wenstrup
     Westerman
     Westmoreland
     Whitfield
     Williams
     Wilson (SC)
     Wittman
     Womack
     Woodall
     Yoder
     Yoho
     Young (AK)
     Young (IA)
     Young (IN)
     Zeldin
     Zinke

                               NOES--180

     Adams
     Aguilar
     Ashford
     Bass
     Beatty
     Becerra
     Bera
     Bishop (GA)
     Blumenauer
     Bonamici
     Boyle, Brendan F.
     Brady (PA)
     Brown (FL)
     Brownley (CA)
     Bustos
     Butterfield
     Capps
     Capuano
     Cardenas
     Carney
     Carson (IN)
     Cartwright
     Castor (FL)
     Castro (TX)
     Chu, Judy
     Cicilline
     Clark (MA)
     Clarke (NY)
     Clay
     Clyburn
     Cohen
     Connolly
     Conyers
     Cooper
     Costa
     Courtney
     Crowley
     Cuellar
     Cummings
     Davis (CA)
     Davis, Danny
     DeFazio
     DeGette
     Delaney
     DeLauro
     DelBene
     DeSaulnier
     Deutch
     Dingell
     Doggett
     Doyle, Michael F.
     Duckworth
     Edwards
     Ellison
     Engel
     Eshoo
     Esty
     Farr
     Fattah
     Foster
     Frankel (FL)
     Fudge
     Gabbard
     Gallego
     Garamendi
     Graham
     Grayson
     Green, Al
     Green, Gene
     Grijalva
     Gutierrez
     Hahn
     Heck (WA)
     Higgins
     Himes
     Hinojosa
     Honda
     Hoyer
     Huffman
     Israel
     Jackson Lee
     Jeffries
     Johnson (GA)
     Johnson, E. B.
     Kaptur
     Keating
     Kelly (IL)
     Kennedy
     Kildee
     Kilmer
     Kind
     Kirkpatrick
     Kuster
     Langevin
     Larsen (WA)
     Larson (CT)
     Lawrence
     Lee
     Levin
     Lewis
     Lieu, Ted
     Lipinski
     Loebsack
     Lofgren
     Love
     Lowenthal
     Lowey
     Lujan Grisham (NM)
     Lujan, Ben Ray (NM)
     Lynch
     Maloney, Carolyn
     Maloney, Sean
     Matsui
     McCollum
     McDermott
     McGovern
     McNerney
     Meng
     Moore
     Moulton
     Murphy (FL)
     Nadler
     Napolitano
     Neal
     Nolan
     Norcross
     O'Rourke
     Pallone
     Pascrell
     Pelosi
     Perlmutter
     Peters
     Pingree
     Pocan
     Polis
     Price (NC)
     Quigley
     Rice (NY)
     Richmond
     Roybal-Allard
     Ruiz
     Ruppersberger
     Ryan (OH)
     Sanchez, Linda T.
     Sanchez, Loretta
     Sarbanes
     Schakowsky
     Schiff
     Schrader
     Scott (VA)
     Scott, David
     Serrano
     Sewell (AL)
     Sherman
     Sinema
     Sires
     Slaughter
     Speier
     Swalwell (CA)
     Takai
     Takano
     Thompson (CA)
     Thompson (MS)
     Titus
     Tonko
     Torres
     Tsongas
     Van Hollen
     Vargas
     Veasey
     Vela
     Velazquez
     Visclosky
     Walz
     Wasserman Schultz
     Waters, Maxine
     Watson Coleman
     Welch
     Wilson (FL)
     Yarmuth

                             NOT VOTING--14

     Beyer
     Cleaver
     Guinta
     Hastings
     Meeks
     Palazzo
     Payne
     Peterson
     Poe (TX)
     Rangel
     Roskam
     Royce
     Rush
     Smith (WA)

[[Page H2586]]



                              {time}  1545

  Mr. QUIGLEY changed his vote from ``aye'' to ``no.''
  Messrs. HURT of Virginia, MEADOWS, and LABRADOR changed their vote 
from ``no'' to ``aye.''
  So the decision of the Chair stands as the judgment of the Committee.
  The result of the vote was announced as above recorded.
  The CHAIR. The Clerk will read.
  The Clerk read as follows:

              Military Construction, Navy and Marine Corps

       For acquisition, construction, installation, and equipment 
     of temporary or permanent public works, naval installations, 
     facilities, and real property for the Navy and Marine Corps 
     as currently authorized by law, including personnel in the 
     Naval Facilities Engineering Command and other personal 
     services necessary for the purposes of this appropriation, 
     $1,349,678,000, to remain available until September 30, 2020: 
     Provided, That of this amount, not to exceed $91,649,000 
     shall be available for study, planning, design, and architect 
     and engineer services, as authorized by law, unless the 
     Secretary of the Navy determines that additional obligations 
     are necessary for such purposes and notifies the Committees 
     on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress of the 
     determination and the reasons therefor.

                    Military Construction, Air Force

       For acquisition, construction, installation, and equipment 
     of temporary or permanent public works, military 
     installations, facilities, and real property for the Air 
     Force as currently authorized by law, $1,237,055,000, to 
     remain available until September 30, 2020: Provided, That of 
     this amount, not to exceed $89,164,000 shall be available for 
     study, planning, design, and architect and engineer services, 
     as authorized by law, unless the Secretary of the Air Force 
     determines that additional obligations are necessary for such 
     purposes and notifies the Committees on Appropriations of 
     both Houses of Congress of the determination and the reasons 
     therefor.

                  Military Construction, Defense-Wide

                     (including transfer of funds)

       For acquisition, construction, installation, and equipment 
     of temporary or permanent public works, installations, 
     facilities, and real property for activities and agencies of 
     the Department of Defense (other than the military 
     departments), as currently authorized by law, $1,931,456,000, 
     to remain available until September 30, 2020: Provided, That 
     such amounts of this appropriation as may be determined by 
     the Secretary of Defense may be transferred to such 
     appropriations of the Department of Defense available for 
     military construction or family housing as the Secretary may 
     designate, to be merged with and to be available for the same 
     purposes, and for the same time period, as the appropriation 
     or fund to which transferred: Provided further, That of the 
     amount appropriated, not to exceed $160,404,000 shall be 
     available for study, planning, design, and architect and 
     engineer services, as authorized by law, unless the Secretary 
     of Defense determines that additional obligations are 
     necessary for such purposes and notifies the Committees on 
     Appropriations of both Houses of Congress of the 
     determination and the reasons therefor: Provided further, 
     That none of the funds made available by this title may be 
     used to construct any fiscal year 2016 special operations 
     command military construction projects until the Commander of 
     the Special Operations Command has certified in writing and 
     submits to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of 
     Congress a report that includes the following:
       (1) A definition of ``Special Operations Forces-peculiar'' 
     as it applies to the use of United States Special Operations 
     Command (USSOCOM) funding to meet military construction 
     requirements for facilities that provide healthcare services 
     or support fitness activities.
       (2) A description of the decision-making process used to 
     determine whether a military construction project that 
     provides healthcare facilities or supports fitness activities 
     should be funded by the USSOCOM or the military departments.
       (3) Provides a schematic of the human performance centers 
     by installation, a listing of the planned equipment related 
     to training and resiliency and a description of the mission-
     critical benefit of each item, an explanation of why the 
     unique physical and psychological health services 
     incorporated could not be provided by the Defense Health 
     Agency or military services, and a planned staffing 
     breakdown.


                   Amendment Offered by Ms. Stefanik

  Ms. STEFANIK. Madam Chair, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       page 4, line 14, insert after the dollar amount ``(reduced 
     by $30,000,000)(increased by $30,000,000)'' and insert on 
     line 23, after the dollar amount ``(increased by 
     $30,000,000)''.

  The CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentlewoman from New 
York and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from New York.
  Ms. STEFANIK. Madam Chair, I would like to thank the gentleman from 
Pennsylvania (Mr. Dent) and his staff for allowing this important 
discussion of an east coast missile defense site, as well as the 
gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Turner) for his continued efforts and support.
  Madam Chair, my amendment would provide for the planning, design, and 
construction of an additional missile defense site. Simply put, missile 
defense shields our Nation from hostile incoming warheads. And with the 
escalation of threats of rogue nations like North Korea and Iran, the 
United States must be ready not just to retaliate, but to actually stop 
an attack. We must be able to defend our Nation and shoot it down. 
North Korea does, indeed, have a nuclear weapons capability and is a 
real concern, given their unstable and erratic behavior. Iran has 
clearly demonstrated key technologies required for ICBM development.
  This is about maintaining our Nation's readiness, and an east coast 
missile defense site provides increased battle space, more decision 
time, increased reliability, more inventory, and a different angle of 
intercept.
  General Jacoby stated that a third site would give him an increased 
battle space and increased opportunity for him to engage threats from 
either Iran or North Korea. An east coast missile defense site would 
increase our Nation's defense capability against those very real 
threats.
  Madam Chair, this amendment provides for the security and protection 
that our Nation needs.
  I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. 
Turner).
  Mr. TURNER. Madam Chair, I want to thank Congresswoman Stefanik and 
also Chairman Dent for their support for this amendment providing 
funding for the planning, design, and construction of an additional 
missile defense site capable of protecting the homeland from a long-
range ballistic missile attack.
  As Congresswoman Stefanik is very well aware, we currently possess 
only two sites, both located on the west coast, limiting our ability to 
target and intercept incoming ICBMs either that are targeting the east 
coast or that are originating from the east.
  Dating back to 2007, the United States Northern Command in charge of 
defending the homeland recommended the construction of the east coast 
site. One thing that we know: under President Obama's plan for missile 
defense, he canceled President Bush's third site that was to be located 
in Poland and provide ICBM coverage for the east coast of the United 
States continental. He then canceled phase 4 of his own phase adaptive 
approach that would have similarly provided that coverage.
  The only opportunity that we have left with those two options gone is 
to look to the east coast site. Two Presidents and three Secretaries of 
Defense have all recognized the advantages of an additional missile 
coast defense site in order to provide further protection against long-
range ballistic missile threats from regions such as the Middle East.
  As China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea push for more advanced launch 
vehicles, the construction of an east coast site will dramatically 
improve the ability of our military to intercept incoming threats by 
increasing the opportunity to engage and defeat those threats.
  I urge support for this amendment.
  Mr. DENT. Will the gentlewoman yield?
  Ms. STEFANIK. I yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania.
  Mr. DENT. Madam Chair, I rise in support of the gentlewoman's 
amendment.
  With advantages in launch capabilities, we should explore protecting 
the east coast from our adversaries, as Mr. Turner and Ms. Stefanik 
have stated. She has been very articulate and a great advocate for her 
district in Fort Drum.
  Ms. STEFANIK. Madam Chair, I yield back the balance of my time.
  The CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentlewoman from New York (Ms. Stefanik).
  The amendment was agreed to.
  Ms. LEE. Madam Chair, as the designee of the ranking member, I move 
to strike the last word.
  The CHAIR. The gentlewoman from California is recognized for 5 
minutes.

[[Page H2587]]

  Ms. LEE. Madam Chair, I am first seeking clarity from Chairman Dent 
on what the committee intends with the major construction account 
funding in this bill.
  Included in the committee report is language that the funding 
provided for major construction be used for hospital construction and 
seismic corrections. One of the projects in the request is the Alameda 
Clinic. This clinic would provide direct medical care to veterans in my 
district.
  Mr. Chairman, does the Alameda Clinic project meet the criteria for 
funding set by the committee in the report accompanying this bill?
  Mr. DENT. Will the gentlewoman yield?
  Ms. LEE. I yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania.
  Mr. DENT. It does, yes.
  Ms. LEE. I want to thank the gentleman for this clarification, and I 
yield back the balance of my time.
  The CHAIR. The Clerk will read.
  The Clerk read as follows:

               Military Construction, Army National Guard

       For construction, acquisition, expansion, rehabilitation, 
     and conversion of facilities for the training and 
     administration of the Army National Guard, and contributions 
     therefor, as authorized by chapter 1803 of title 10, United 
     States Code, and Military Construction Authorization Acts, 
     $167,437,000, to remain available until September 30, 2020: 
     Provided, That of the amount appropriated, not to exceed 
     $20,337,000 shall be available for study, planning, design, 
     and architect and engineer services, as authorized by law, 
     unless the Director of the Army National Guard determines 
     that additional obligations are necessary for such purposes 
     and notifies the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses 
     of Congress of the determination and the reasons therefor.

               Military Construction, Air National Guard

       For construction, acquisition, expansion, rehabilitation, 
     and conversion of facilities for the training and 
     administration of the Air National Guard, and contributions 
     therefor, as authorized by chapter 1803 of title 10, United 
     States Code, and Military Construction Authorization Acts, 
     $138,738,000, to remain available until September 30, 2020: 
     Provided, That of the amount appropriated, not to exceed 
     $5,104,000 shall be available for study, planning, design, 
     and architect and engineer services, as authorized by law, 
     unless the Director of the Air National Guard determines that 
     additional obligations are necessary for such purposes and 
     notifies the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of 
     Congress of the determination and the reasons therefor.

                  Military Construction, Army Reserve

       For construction, acquisition, expansion, rehabilitation, 
     and conversion of facilities for the training and 
     administration of the Army Reserve as authorized by chapter 
     1803 of title 10, United States Code, and Military 
     Construction Authorization Acts, $104,295,000, to remain 
     available until September 30, 2020: Provided, That of the 
     amount appropriated, not to exceed $9,318,000 shall be 
     available for study, planning, design, and architect and 
     engineer services, as authorized by law, unless the Chief of 
     the Army Reserve determines that additional obligations are 
     necessary for such purposes and notifies the Committees on 
     Appropriations of both Houses of Congress of the 
     determination and the reasons therefor.

                  Military Construction, Navy Reserve

       For construction, acquisition, expansion, rehabilitation, 
     and conversion of facilities for the training and 
     administration of the reserve components of the Navy and 
     Marine Corps as authorized by chapter 1803 of title 10, 
     United States Code, and Military Construction Authorization 
     Acts, $36,078,000, to remain available until September 30, 
     2020: Provided, That of the amount appropriated, not to 
     exceed $2,208,000 shall be available for study, planning, 
     design, and architect and engineer services, as authorized by 
     law, unless the Secretary of the Navy determines that 
     additional obligations are necessary for such purposes and 
     notifies the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of 
     Congress of the determination and the reasons therefor.

                Military Construction, Air Force Reserve

       For construction, acquisition, expansion, rehabilitation, 
     and conversion of facilities for the training and 
     administration of the Air Force Reserve as authorized by 
     chapter 1803 of title 10, United States Code, and Military 
     Construction Authorization Acts, $65,021,000, to remain 
     available until September 30, 2020: Provided, That of the 
     amount appropriated, not to exceed $13,400,000 shall be 
     available for study, planning, design, and architect and 
     engineer services, as authorized by law, unless the Chief of 
     the Air Force Reserve determines that additional obligations 
     are necessary for such purposes and notifies the Committees 
     on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress of the 
     determination and the reasons therefor.

                   North Atlantic Treaty Organization

                      Security Investment Program

       For the United States share of the cost of the North 
     Atlantic Treaty Organization Security Investment Program for 
     the acquisition and construction of military facilities and 
     installations (including international military headquarters) 
     and for related expenses for the collective defense of the 
     North Atlantic Treaty Area as authorized by section 2806 of 
     title 10, United States Code, and Military Construction 
     Authorization Acts, $150,000,000, to remain available until 
     expended.

                   Family Housing Construction, Army

       For expenses of family housing for the Army for 
     construction, including acquisition, replacement, addition, 
     expansion, extension, and alteration, as authorized by law, 
     $99,695,000, to remain available until September 30, 2020.

             Family Housing Operation and Maintenance, Army

       For expenses of family housing for the Army for operation 
     and maintenance, including debt payment, leasing, minor 
     construction, principal and interest charges, and insurance 
     premiums, as authorized by law, $393,511,000.

           Family Housing Construction, Navy and Marine Corps

       For expenses of family housing for the Navy and Marine 
     Corps for construction, including acquisition, replacement, 
     addition, expansion, extension, and alteration, as authorized 
     by law, $16,541,000, to remain available until September 30, 
     2020.

    Family Housing Operation and Maintenance, Navy and Marine Corps

       For expenses of family housing for the Navy and Marine 
     Corps for operation and maintenance, including debt payment, 
     leasing, minor construction, principal and interest charges, 
     and insurance premiums, as authorized by law, $353,036,000.

                 Family Housing Construction, Air Force

       For expenses of family housing for the Air Force for 
     construction, including acquisition, replacement, addition, 
     expansion, extension, and alteration, as authorized by law, 
     $160,498,000, to remain available until September 30, 2020.

          Family Housing Operation and Maintenance, Air Force

       For expenses of family housing for the Air Force for 
     operation and maintenance, including debt payment, leasing, 
     minor construction, principal and interest charges, and 
     insurance premiums, as authorized by law, $331,232,000.

         Family Housing Operation and Maintenance, Defense-Wide

       For expenses of family housing for the activities and 
     agencies of the Department of Defense (other than the 
     military departments) for operation and maintenance, leasing, 
     and minor construction, as authorized by law, $58,668,000.

               Department of Defense Base Closure Account

       For deposit into the Department of Defense Base Closure 
     Account, established by section 2906(a) of the Defense Base 
     Closure and Realignment Act of 1990 (10 U.S.C. 2687 note), 
     $251,334,000, to remain available until expended.

                       Administrative Provisions

       Sec. 101.  None of the funds made available in this title 
     shall be expended for payments under a cost-plus-a-fixed-fee 
     contract for construction, where cost estimates exceed 
     $25,000, to be performed within the United States, except 
     Alaska, without the specific approval in writing of the 
     Secretary of Defense setting forth the reasons therefor.
       Sec. 102.  Funds made available in this title for 
     construction shall be available for hire of passenger motor 
     vehicles.
       Sec. 103.  Funds made available in this title for 
     construction may be used for advances to the Federal Highway 
     Administration, Department of Transportation, for the 
     construction of access roads as authorized by section 210 of 
     title 23, United States Code, when projects authorized 
     therein are certified as important to the national defense by 
     the Secretary of Defense.
       Sec. 104.  None of the funds made available in this title 
     may be used to begin construction of new bases in the United 
     States for which specific appropriations have not been made.
       Sec. 105.  None of the funds made available in this title 
     shall be used for purchase of land or land easements in 
     excess of 100 percent of the value as determined by the Army 
     Corps of Engineers or the Naval Facilities Engineering 
     Command, except: (1) where there is a determination of value 
     by a Federal court; (2) purchases negotiated by the Attorney 
     General or the designee of the Attorney General; (3) where 
     the estimated value is less than $25,000; or (4) as otherwise 
     determined by the Secretary of Defense to be in the public 
     interest.
       Sec. 106.  None of the funds made available in this title 
     shall be used to: (1) acquire land; (2) provide for site 
     preparation; or (3) install utilities for any family housing, 
     except housing for which funds have been made available in 
     annual Acts making appropriations for military construction.
       Sec. 107.  None of the funds made available in this title 
     for minor construction may be used to transfer or relocate 
     any activity from one base or installation to another, 
     without prior notification to the Committees on 
     Appropriations of both Houses of Congress.
       Sec. 108.  None of the funds made available in this title 
     may be used for the procurement

[[Page H2588]]

     of steel for any construction project or activity for which 
     American steel producers, fabricators, and manufacturers have 
     been denied the opportunity to compete for such steel 
     procurement.
       Sec. 109.  None of the funds available to the Department of 
     Defense for military construction or family housing during 
     the current fiscal year may be used to pay real property 
     taxes in any foreign nation.
       Sec. 110.  None of the funds made available in this title 
     may be used to initiate a new installation overseas without 
     prior notification to the Committees on Appropriations of 
     both Houses of Congress.
       Sec. 111.  None of the funds made available in this title 
     may be obligated for architect and engineer contracts 
     estimated by the Government to exceed $500,000 for projects 
     to be accomplished in Japan, in any North Atlantic Treaty 
     Organization member country, or in countries bordering the 
     Arabian Gulf, unless such contracts are awarded to United 
     States firms or United States firms in joint venture with 
     host nation firms.
       Sec. 112.  None of the funds made available in this title 
     for military construction in the United States territories 
     and possessions in the Pacific and on Kwajalein Atoll, or in 
     countries bordering the Arabian Gulf, may be used to award 
     any contract estimated by the Government to exceed $1,000,000 
     to a foreign contractor: Provided, That this section shall 
     not be applicable to contract awards for which the lowest 
     responsive and responsible bid of a United States contractor 
     exceeds the lowest responsive and responsible bid of a 
     foreign contractor by greater than 20 percent: Provided 
     further, That this section shall not apply to contract awards 
     for military construction on Kwajalein Atoll for which the 
     lowest responsive and responsible bid is submitted by a 
     Marshallese contractor.
       Sec. 113.  The Secretary of Defense shall inform the 
     appropriate committees of both Houses of Congress, including 
     the Committees on Appropriations, of plans and scope of any 
     proposed military exercise involving United States personnel 
     30 days prior to its occurring, if amounts expended for 
     construction, either temporary or permanent, are anticipated 
     to exceed $100,000.
       Sec. 114.  Funds appropriated to the Department of Defense 
     for construction in prior years shall be available for 
     construction authorized for each such military department by 
     the authorizations enacted into law during the current 
     session of Congress.
       Sec. 115.  For military construction or family housing 
     projects that are being completed with funds otherwise 
     expired or lapsed for obligation, expired or lapsed funds may 
     be used to pay the cost of associated supervision, 
     inspection, overhead, engineering and design on those 
     projects and on subsequent claims, if any.
       Sec. 116.  Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any 
     funds made available to a military department or defense 
     agency for the construction of military projects may be 
     obligated for a military construction project or contract, or 
     for any portion of such a project or contract, at any time 
     before the end of the fourth fiscal year after the fiscal 
     year for which funds for such project were made available, if 
     the funds obligated for such project: (1) are obligated from 
     funds available for military construction projects; and (2) 
     do not exceed the amount appropriated for such project, plus 
     any amount by which the cost of such project is increased 
     pursuant to law.

                     (including transfer of funds)

       Sec. 117.  Subject to 30 days prior notification, or 14 
     days for a notification provided in an electronic medium 
     pursuant to sections 480 and 2883 of title 10, United States 
     Code, to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of 
     Congress, such additional amounts as may be determined by the 
     Secretary of Defense may be transferred to: (1) the 
     Department of Defense Family Housing Improvement Fund from 
     amounts appropriated for construction in ``Family Housing'' 
     accounts, to be merged with and to be available for the same 
     purposes and for the same period of time as amounts 
     appropriated directly to the Fund; or (2) the Department of 
     Defense Military Unaccompanied Housing Improvement Fund from 
     amounts appropriated for construction of military 
     unaccompanied housing in ``Military Construction'' accounts, 
     to be merged with and to be available for the same purposes 
     and for the same period of time as amounts appropriated 
     directly to the Fund: Provided, That appropriations made 
     available to the Funds shall be available to cover the costs, 
     as defined in section 502(5) of the Congressional Budget Act 
     of 1974, of direct loans or loan guarantees issued by the 
     Department of Defense pursuant to the provisions of 
     subchapter IV of chapter 169 of title 10, United States Code, 
     pertaining to alternative means of acquiring and improving 
     military family housing, military unaccompanied housing, and 
     supporting facilities: Provided further, That the transfer 
     authority in this provision shall also be applicable to 
     amounts appropriated for construction in ``Family Housing'' 
     accounts in section 2002 of Public Law 112-10.

                     (including transfer of funds)

       Sec. 118.  In addition to any other transfer authority 
     available to the Department of Defense, amounts may be 
     transferred from the Department of Defense Base Closure 
     Account to the fund established by section 1013(d) of the 
     Demonstration Cities and Metropolitan Development Act of 1966 
     (42 U.S.C. 3374) to pay for expenses associated with the 
     Homeowners Assistance Program incurred under 42 U.S.C. 
     3374(a)(1)(A). Any amounts transferred shall be merged with 
     and be available for the same purposes and for the same time 
     period as the fund to which transferred.
       Sec. 119.  Notwithstanding any other provision of law, 
     funds made available in this title for operation and 
     maintenance of family housing shall be the exclusive source 
     of funds for repair and maintenance of all family housing 
     units, including general or flag officer quarters: Provided, 
     That not more than $15,000 per unit may be spent annually for 
     the maintenance and repair of any general or flag officer 
     quarters without 30 days prior notification, or 14 days for a 
     notification provided in an electronic medium pursuant to 
     sections 480 and 2883 of title 10, United States Code, to the 
     Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress, 
     except that an after-the-fact notification shall be submitted 
     if the limitation is exceeded solely due to costs associated 
     with environmental remediation that could not be reasonably 
     anticipated at the time of the budget submission.
       Sec. 120.  Amounts contained in the Ford Island Improvement 
     Account established by subsection (h) of section 2814 of 
     title 10, United States Code, are appropriated and shall be 
     available until expended for the purposes specified in 
     subsection (i)(1) of such section or until transferred 
     pursuant to subsection (i)(3) of such section.

                     (including transfer of funds)

       Sec. 121.  During the 5-year period after appropriations 
     available in this Act to the Department of Defense for 
     military construction and family housing operation and 
     maintenance and construction have expired for obligation, 
     upon a determination that such appropriations will not be 
     necessary for the liquidation of obligations or for making 
     authorized adjustments to such appropriations for obligations 
     incurred during the period of availability of such 
     appropriations, unobligated balances of such appropriations 
     may be transferred into the appropriation ``Foreign Currency 
     Fluctuations, Construction, Defense'', to be merged with and 
     to be available for the same time period and for the same 
     purposes as the appropriation to which transferred.
       Sec. 122. (a) Except as provided in subsection (b), none of 
     the funds made available in this Act may be used by the 
     Secretary of the Army to relocate a unit in the Army that--
       (1) performs a testing mission or function that is not 
     performed by any other unit in the Army and is specifically 
     stipulated in title 10, United States Code; and
       (2) is located at a military installation at which the 
     total number of civilian employees of the Department of the 
     Army and Army contractor personnel employed exceeds 10 
     percent of the total number of members of the regular and 
     reserve components of the Army assigned to the installation.
       (b) Exception.--Subsection (a) shall not apply if the 
     Secretary of the Army certifies to the congressional defense 
     committees that in proposing the relocation of the unit of 
     the Army, the Secretary complied with Army Regulation 5-10 
     relating to the policy, procedures, and responsibilities for 
     Army stationing actions.
       Sec. 123.  Amounts appropriated or otherwise made available 
     in an account funded under the headings in this title may be 
     transferred among projects and activities within the account 
     in accordance with the reprogramming guidelines for military 
     construction and family housing construction contained in 
     Department of Defense Financial Management Regulation 
     7000.14-R, Volume 3, Chapter 7, of February 2009, as in 
     effect on the date of enactment of this Act.
       Sec. 124.  None of the funds made available in this title 
     may be obligated or expended for planning and design and 
     construction of projects at Arlington National Cemetery.

                         (rescission of funds)

       Sec. 125.  Of the unobligated balances available for 
     ``Military Construction, Army'', from prior appropriation 
     Acts (other than appropriations designated by law as being 
     for contingency operations directly related to the global war 
     on terrorism or as an emergency requirement), $96,000,000 are 
     hereby rescinded.

                          (rescission of funds)

       Sec. 126.  Of the unobligated balances available for 
     ``Military Construction, Air Force'', from prior 
     appropriation Acts (other than appropriations designated by 
     law as being for contingency operations directly related to 
     the global war on terrorism or as an emergency requirement), 
     $52,600,000 are hereby rescinded.

                         (rescission of funds)

       Sec. 127.  Of the unobligated balances available for 
     ``Military Construction, Defense-Wide'', from prior 
     appropriation Acts (other than appropriations designated by 
     law as being for contingency operations directly related to 
     the global war on terrorism or as an emergency requirement), 
     $134,000,000 are hereby rescinded.

                         (rescission of funds)

       Sec. 128.  Of the unobligated balances made available in 
     prior appropriation Acts for the fund established in section 
     1013(d) of the Demonstration Cities and Metropolitan 
     Development Act of 1966 (42 U.S.C. 3374) (other than 
     appropriations designated by law as being for contingency 
     operations directly related to the global war on terrorism or 
     as an emergency requirement), $103,918,000 are hereby 
     rescinded.

[[Page H2589]]

       Sec. 129.  For the purposes of this Act, the term 
     ``congressional defense committees'' means the Committees on 
     Armed Services of the House of Representatives and the 
     Senate, the Subcommittee on Military Construction and 
     Veterans Affairs of the Committee on Appropriations of the 
     Senate, and the Subcommittee on Military Construction and 
     Veterans Affairs of the Committee on Appropriations of the 
     House of Representatives.
       Sec. 130.  None of the funds made available by this title 
     may be used to carry out the closure or realignment of Lajes 
     Air Force Base, Azores, and, unless and until the Secretary 
     of Defense certifies in writing to the congressional defense 
     committees that, based on operational requirements, Lajes Air 
     Force Base is not an optimal location for the Joint 
     Intelligence Analysis Complex, none of the funds made 
     available by this title may be used to construct phase two of 
     the Joint Intelligence Analysis Complex Consolidation at 
     Royal Air Force Croughton, United Kingdom.
       Sec. 131.  Notwithstanding section 124, for an additional 
     amount for ``Military Construction, Army'' in this title, 
     $30,000,000 is provided for advances to the Federal Highway 
     Administration, Department of Transportation, for 
     construction of access roads as authorized by section 210 of 
     title 23, United States Code.

                                TITLE II

                     DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

                    Veterans Benefits Administration

                       compensation and pensions

                     (including transfer of funds)

       For the payment of compensation benefits to or on behalf of 
     veterans and a pilot program for disability examinations as 
     authorized by section 107 and chapters 11, 13, 18, 51, 53, 
     55, and 61 of title 38, United States Code; pension benefits 
     to or on behalf of veterans as authorized by chapters 15, 51, 
     53, 55, and 61 of title 38, United States Code; and burial 
     benefits, the Reinstated Entitlement Program for Survivors, 
     emergency and other officers' retirement pay, adjusted-
     service credits and certificates, payment of premiums due on 
     commercial life insurance policies guaranteed under the 
     provisions of title IV of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act 
     (50 U.S.C. App. 541 et seq.) and for other benefits as 
     authorized by sections 107, 1312, 1977, and 2106, and 
     chapters 23, 51, 53, 55, and 61 of title 38, United States 
     Code, $166,271,436,000, to remain available until expended, 
     of which $87,146,761,000 shall become available on October 1, 
     2016: Provided, That not to exceed $15,562,000 of the amount 
     made available for fiscal year 2016 and $16,021,000 of the 
     amount made available for fiscal year 2017 under this heading 
     shall be reimbursed to ``General Operating Expenses, Veterans 
     Benefits Administration'', and ``Information Technology 
     Systems'' for necessary expenses in implementing the 
     provisions of chapters 51, 53, and 55 of title 38, United 
     States Code, the funding source for which is specifically 
     provided as the ``Compensation and Pensions'' appropriation: 
     Provided further, That such sums as may be earned on an 
     actual qualifying patient basis, shall be reimbursed to 
     ``Medical Care Collections Fund'' to augment the funding of 
     individual medical facilities for nursing home care provided 
     to pensioners as authorized.

                         readjustment benefits

       For the payment of readjustment and rehabilitation benefits 
     to or on behalf of veterans as authorized by chapters 21, 30, 
     31, 33, 34, 35, 36, 39, 41, 51, 53, 55, and 61 of title 38, 
     United States Code, $32,088,826,000, to remain available 
     until expended, of which $16,743,904,000 shall become 
     available on October 1, 2016: Provided, That expenses for 
     rehabilitation program services and assistance which the 
     Secretary is authorized to provide under subsection (a) of 
     section 3104 of title 38, United States Code, other than 
     under paragraphs (1), (2), (5), and (11) of that subsection, 
     shall be charged to this account.

                   veterans insurance and indemnities

       For military and naval insurance, national service life 
     insurance, servicemen's indemnities, service-disabled 
     veterans insurance, and veterans mortgage life insurance as 
     authorized by chapters 19 and 21, title 38, United States 
     Code, $169,080,000, to remain available until expended, of 
     which $91,920,000 shall become available on October 1, 2016.

                 veterans housing benefit program fund

       For the cost of direct and guaranteed loans, such sums as 
     may be necessary to carry out the program, as authorized by 
     subchapters I through III of chapter 37 of title 38, United 
     States Code: Provided, That such costs, including the cost of 
     modifying such loans, shall be as defined in section 502 of 
     the Congressional Budget Act of 1974: Provided further, That 
     during fiscal year 2016, within the resources available, not 
     to exceed $500,000 in gross obligations for direct loans are 
     authorized for specially adapted housing loans.
       In addition, for administrative expenses to carry out the 
     direct and guaranteed loan programs, $164,558,000.

            vocational rehabilitation loans program account

       For the cost of direct loans, $31,000, as authorized by 
     chapter 31 of title 38, United States Code: Provided, That 
     such costs, including the cost of modifying such loans, shall 
     be as defined in section 502 of the Congressional Budget Act 
     of 1974: Provided further, That funds made available under 
     this heading are available to subsidize gross obligations for 
     the principal amount of direct loans not to exceed 
     $2,952,000.
       In addition, for administrative expenses necessary to carry 
     out the direct loan program, $367,000, which may be paid to 
     the appropriation for ``General Operating Expenses, Veterans 
     Benefits Administration''.

          native american veteran housing loan program account

       For administrative expenses to carry out the direct loan 
     program authorized by subchapter V of chapter 37 of title 38, 
     United States Code, $1,134,000.

                     Veterans Health Administration

                            medical services

       For necessary expenses for furnishing, as authorized by 
     law, inpatient and outpatient care and treatment to 
     beneficiaries of the Department of Veterans Affairs and 
     veterans described in section 1705(a) of title 38, United 
     States Code, including care and treatment in facilities not 
     under the jurisdiction of the Department, and including 
     medical supplies and equipment, bioengineering services, food 
     services, and salaries and expenses of healthcare employees 
     hired under title 38, United States Code, aid to State homes 
     as authorized by section 1741 of title 38, United States 
     Code, assistance and support services for caregivers as 
     authorized by section 1720G of title 38, United States Code, 
     loan repayments authorized by section 604 of the Caregivers 
     and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 (Public Law 
     111-163; 124 Stat. 1174; 38 U.S.C. 7681 note), and hospital 
     care and medical services authorized by section 1787 of title 
     38, United States Code; $969,554,000, which shall be in 
     addition to funds previously appropriated under this heading 
     that became available on October 1, 2015; and, in addition, 
     $51,673,000,000, plus reimbursements, shall become available 
     on October 1, 2016, and shall remain available until 
     September 30, 2017: Provided, That notwithstanding any other 
     provision of law, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall 
     establish a priority for the provision of medical treatment 
     for veterans who have service-connected disabilities, lower 
     income, or have special needs: Provided further, That 
     notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of 
     Veterans Affairs shall give priority funding for the 
     provision of basic medical benefits to veterans in enrollment 
     priority groups 1 through 6: Provided further, That 
     notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of 
     Veterans Affairs may authorize the dispensing of prescription 
     drugs from Veterans Health Administration facilities to 
     enrolled veterans with privately written prescriptions based 
     on requirements established by the Secretary: Provided 
     further, That the implementation of the program described in 
     the previous proviso shall incur no additional cost to the 
     Department of Veterans Affairs.

                              {time}  1600


                     Amendment Offered by Mr. Gosar

  Mr. GOSAR. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR (Mr. Hultgren). The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       Page 27, line 9, after the dollar amount, insert 
     ``(increased by $2,031,000)''.
       Page 30, line 15, after the first dollar amount, insert 
     ``(reduced by $2,031,000)''.

  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I reserve a point of order on the gentleman's 
amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. A point of order is reserved.
  Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman from Arizona and a 
Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Arizona.
  Mr. GOSAR. Mr. Chairman, I rise to offer an amendment which seeks to 
provide additional resources for the mental health services for our 
Nation's veterans.
  By way of background, the VA's budget justification for FY16 requests 
an increase of $3,231,000 over the enacted fiscal year '15 levels for 
its Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs, but on the very 
next page of that document, the VA only mentions that it needs ``$1.2 
million to address increased congressional and legislative workload.''
  My amendment simply transfers the remaining $2,031,000 unaccounted 
for from this request and prioritizes it to address the ongoing 
problems our veterans face from returning from combat.
  Traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder have been 
consistently contributing to behavioral issues with our veterans, and, 
all too often, these ongoing mental health issues result in suicide. 
With an average of 18 to 20 veteran suicides per day, more resources 
are desperately needed. The Congressional Budget Office says the 
amendment would have no impact on the budget authority or outlays.
  The VA does not need more money to hire more paper pushers to send 
letters to Capitol Hill to attempt to explain its inappropriate 
actions. Instead, let's

[[Page H2590]]

appropriate the money to those whom the VA was created to serve, and 
let's help improve the mental health of our Nation's heroes.
  I ask my colleagues to support this commonsense amendment. I thank 
Chairman Dent and Ranking Member Bishop for their time.
  Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.


                             Point of Order

  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I wish to speak on the point of order.
  The amendment proposes to amend portions of the bill not yet read.
  The amendment may not be considered en bloc under clause 2(f) of rule 
XXI because the amendment proposes to increase the level of outlays in 
the bill.
  I ask for a ruling from the Chair.
  The Acting CHAIR. Does any other Member wish to be heard on the point 
of order?
  To be considered en bloc pursuant to clause 2(f) of rule XXI, an 
amendment must not propose to increase the levels of budget authority 
or outlays in the bill. Because the amendment offered by the gentleman 
from Arizona proposes a net increase in the level of outlays in the 
bill, as argued by the chairman of the Subcommittee on Appropriations, 
it may not avail itself of clause 2(f) to address portions of the bill 
not yet read.
  The point of order is sustained. The amendment is not in order.
  The Clerk will read.
  The Clerk read as follows:

                     medical support and compliance

       For necessary expenses in the administration of the 
     medical, hospital, nursing home, domiciliary, construction, 
     supply, and research activities, as authorized by law; 
     administrative expenses in support of capital policy 
     activities; and administrative and legal expenses of the 
     Department for collecting and recovering amounts owed the 
     Department as authorized under chapter 17 of title 38, United 
     States Code, and the Federal Medical Care Recovery Act (42 
     U.S.C. 2651 et seq.), $6,524,000,000, plus reimbursements, 
     shall become available on October 1, 2016, and shall remain 
     available until September 30, 2017.

                           medical facilities

       For necessary expenses for the maintenance and operation of 
     hospitals, nursing homes, domiciliary facilities, and other 
     necessary facilities of the Veterans Health Administration; 
     for administrative expenses in support of planning, design, 
     project management, real property acquisition and 
     disposition, construction, and renovation of any facility 
     under the jurisdiction or for the use of the Department; for 
     oversight, engineering, and architectural activities not 
     charged to project costs; for repairing, altering, improving, 
     or providing facilities in the several hospitals and homes 
     under the jurisdiction of the Department, not otherwise 
     provided for, either by contract or by the hire of temporary 
     employees and purchase of materials; for leases of 
     facilities; and for laundry services, $5,074,000,000, plus 
     reimbursements, shall become available on October 1, 2016, 
     and shall remain available until September 30, 2017.

                    medical and prosthetic research

       For necessary expenses in carrying out programs of medical 
     and prosthetic research and development as authorized by 
     chapter 73 of title 38, United States Code, $621,813,000, 
     plus reimbursements, shall remain available until September 
     30, 2017.

  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Pennsylvania is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, exactly 2 weeks ago, the VA Office of the 
Inspector General released its report on the gross mismanagement and 
claims manipulation that has long corroded the Philadelphia VA Regional 
Office. The issues revealed through that report reflect some of the 
worst instances of neglect and lack of accountability I have seen. 
These issues are unacceptable for our Nation's veterans. I have 
personally seen the consequences firsthand through my constituency 
served by the Philadelphia VA.
  This bill takes a number of steps to address the issues raised by the 
inspector general and help to ensure that they will not be repeated at 
any VA facility. I remain steadfast in my work to bring accountability 
and reform to the VA.
  Mr. Chairman, I yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. 
Meehan).
  Mr. MEEHAN. I want to thank the gentleman, and I want to thank him 
for his hard work on this bill.
  Mr. Chairman, the gentleman from Pennsylvania has put together a 
fiscally responsible piece of legislation that will support the U.S. 
military, the military families, and the veterans who have served our 
country.
  As you have heard in the discussions that have taken place with other 
colleagues, particularly with those from Pennsylvania, when red tape 
and mismanagement stand between a veteran and his or her care, we all 
have a responsibility to blow the whistle and to call for appropriate 
reforms.
  The inspector general for Veterans Affairs released a report 2 weeks 
ago on the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Regional Office, as my 
colleague identified, and the report was even more scathing than we 
were led to believe it would be. It confirmed our worst fears--that the 
Philadelphia VA Regional Office is rife with systematic mismanagement, 
poor morale, the deliberate manipulation of data, and individuals who 
are more focused on misleading the Nation than on serving our veterans.
  I would like to thank Chairman Miller on the Veterans' Affairs 
Committee for convening a hearing on these reports just last week in 
order to explore these matters in greater detail. Out of those 
hearings, we learned that the VA isn't planning on holding anyone 
responsible until after the completion of yet another report. This may 
be the nature of the process, but it is deeply troubling.
  What the VA needs is not an endless loop of bureaucratic reviews and 
inquires--it is competent management that is needed, management that 
will hold the employees and the other management accountable. While we 
wait for the next report, with this bill, Congress has an opportunity 
to take reform action with VA H.R. 2029, which will give the VA 
employees the tools they need to expedite the veterans benefits and 
care process.
  One of the findings from the IG report that stuck out at me was that, 
in Philadelphia, the average response time for some 31,000 inquiries 
was 312 days. According to policy, that response should have happened 
within 5 days. I asked the Director of the VA: What do you tell the 
veterans? He had no answer. That response time is completely 
unacceptable. The funding in this bill will provide additional staff to 
expedite the processing of these claims and get those veterans the 
benefits they deserve.
  Again, I want to thank the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Dent) for 
his hard work on this bill. I look forward to continuing to work with 
him, as well as with other colleagues, to bring about the important 
reforms that are needed at the Philadelphia benefits office.
  Mr. DENT. I thank the gentleman from Pennsylvania for his dedication 
and determination to right the situation.
  Mr. Chairman, I yield to the gentleman from Chester County, 
Pennsylvania (Mr. Costello).
  Mr. COSTELLO of Pennsylvania. Mr. Chairman, I rise today regarding 
Congressman Dent's fiscally responsible appropriations legislation and 
the positive impact it will have on the Philadelphia VA Regional 
Office.
  The Acting CHAIR. The time of the gentleman has expired.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Pennsylvania is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I yield to the gentleman from Chester County, 
Pennsylvania (Mr. Costello), who has been deeply concerned about this 
issue of the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Regional Office.
  Mr. COSTELLO of Pennsylvania. Mr. Chairman, I rise today regarding 
Congressman Dent's fiscally responsible appropriations legislation and 
the positive impact it will have on the Philadelphia VA Regional 
Office.
  As you know, the Philadelphia VA has been plagued with a 
dysfunctional and toxic work environment, with management purposefully 
and blatantly displaying managerial wrongdoing. Mr. Chairman, it is our 
duty to right these wrongdoings and to ensure that the best care is 
provided to our veterans. This appropriations bill is a great start, 
and it gives Congress the opportunity to act on behalf of our veterans. 
Let's talk about this appropriations bill and the specifics of it.
  It fully funds the Veterans Benefits Management System, which will 
result

[[Page H2591]]

in cutting the average processing time of a veteran's filed claim. It 
fully funds the Veterans Benefits Administration with an additional 
$163 million to allow for more staffing for the processing of appeals 
claims. We have already heard about the backlog of the claims. This 
seeks to address that. It allocates funding for IT to permit the 
electronic modernization of appeals claims, and it allocates full 
funding for digital scanning and centralized mail. Lastly, this bill 
establishes strike force response teams to bring in experienced 
managers to implement corrective actions at struggling and low-
performing VA facilities, like the Philadelphia VA.
  Mr. Chairman, it is time for change at the Philadelphia VA RO, and I 
am fully committed to ensuring that there is a course correction of the 
wrongdoings there and that we effectively and expeditiously resolve the 
problems. I encourage my colleagues to do the same and support this 
bill.
  I will also want to particularly thank Congressman Dent for his hard 
work on this bill. I look forward to continuing to work with you and 
with your respective committees to provide the best for the veterans in 
our Commonwealth and across the Nation.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will read.
  The Clerk read as follows:

                    National Cemetery Administration

       For necessary expenses of the National Cemetery 
     Administration for operations and maintenance, not otherwise 
     provided for, including uniforms or allowances therefor; 
     cemeterial expenses as authorized by law; purchase of one 
     passenger motor vehicle for use in cemeterial operations; 
     hire of passenger motor vehicles; and repair, alteration or 
     improvement of facilities under the jurisdiction of the 
     National Cemetery Administration, $266,220,000, of which not 
     to exceed $26,600,000 shall remain available until September 
     30, 2017.

                      Departmental Administration

                         general administration

                     (including transfer of funds)

       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, $336,659,000, of 
     which not to exceed $10,100,000 shall remain available until 
     September 30, 2017: Provided, That funds provided under this 
     heading may be transferred to ``General Operating Expenses, 
     Veterans Benefits Administration''.


                   Amendment Offered by Mr. McNerney

  Mr. McNERNEY. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       Page 30, line 15, after the first dollar amount, insert 
     ``(reduced by $15,068,000)''.
       Page 31, line 9, after the dollar amount, insert ``(reduced 
     by $27,213,000)''.
       Page 32, lines 5 and 9, after each dollar amount, insert 
     ``(reduced by $135,019,000)''.
       Page 36, line 5, after the first dollar amount, insert 
     ``(increased by $177,300,000)''.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from California and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from California.

                              {time}  1615

  Mr. McNERNEY. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank Chairman Dent and Ranking 
Member Bishop for all their hard work on this year's military 
construction and Veterans Affairs funding bill. I know that both of you 
had to make difficult decisions to get under the current financial 
constraints.
  The President's budget included $1.4 billion in funding for VA major 
construction projects. Unfortunately, this bill only includes $561 
million, which is $582 million less than the request. This severely 
impacts access to care for veterans.
  My amendment increases the VA major construction by $177 million, 
although I would still prefer to restore full funding for major 
construction with the President's fiscal year 2016 budget request. The 
amendment is offset by reductions to the VA administration IT accounts, 
bringing them in line with the fiscal year 2015 enacted levels. In 
addition, the general operating expenses account would be reduced by 
$27 million.
  However, my amendment will ensure that more VA construction projects 
are funded, including the outpatient clinic and national cemetery in 
Alameda, California, and a 187,000-square-foot community-based 
outpatient clinic in French Camp, California.
  Without this funding, more than 87,000 veterans in and around my 
district will have to continue to wait for the quality medical care 
that they have earned. For example, I recently drove with a veteran to 
the nearest VA medical center. His appointment was only 30 minutes, but 
including travel, it took us 8 hours. It took all day. This cannot 
continue.
  The VA buildings are an average of 60 years old. Since 2004, use of 
Department facilities has risen 80 percent to 120 percent, while the 
condition of these facilities deteriorated over the same period of 
time. There are more than 3,900 infrastructure gaps that will cost 
between $54 billion and $66 billion to close, including $10 billion in 
activation costs.
  Moreover, the Veterans Health Administration has over 21 major 
construction projects dating to 2007 that have been only partially 
funded. To complete existing projects and to close future gaps, the VA 
will need to invest at least $23 billion over the next 10 years. At 
current requested funding levels, it will take more than 67 years to 
complete the 10-year capital investment plan of the Department.
  Our brave men and women deserve access to the best healthcare system 
our Nation has to offer, and that is the VA healthcare system. Not 
adequately funding our future construction projects is a disservice to 
our Nation's heroes.
  Now I share my colleagues' outrage at the VA boondoggle in Aurora, 
Colorado. This is unacceptable to taxpayers, to veterans and their 
families, and an embarrassment to the VA. While we are all frustrated 
with how this process has gone, further funding reductions to major 
construction does not help build additional facilities on schedule, 
fails to provide additional oversight of construction projects, and 
does nothing to reform VA construction processes. I am pleased that 
both the chairman and ranking member recognize the need to address this 
issue and have included important language to that effect, but there is 
still more work to be done, and that is something we plan to address in 
the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
  In addition, the VA announced last week that it is working with the 
Army Corps of Engineers to identify projects in which the Corps will 
serve as the construction agent. The VA and the Corps are still working 
on the exact projects and criteria, but this is a step in the right 
direction.
  Mr. Chairman, I understand the frustration, really, but cutting 
funding right now to these projects doesn't solve the problem. It is 
hurting our veterans. We need to think outside of that box. Let's focus 
on improving our construction process and not punishing the veterans 
across the country because of what occurred in Denver. I urge my 
colleagues to support this amendment.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I must rise reluctantly in opposition to the 
amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Pennsylvania is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. DENT. I know the gentleman and others are disappointed that we 
did not provide the full administration request for major construction, 
but we felt that it was more important to provide necessary health 
services for veterans than to add to the poorly managed major 
construction account. This amendment, I believe, proves the wisdom of 
our choice.
  To provide enough money for the French Camp project Mr. McNerney is 
interested in, we would have to gut the VA IT program, which is already 
$195 million below the request. I don't think many Members would be 
willing to accept the cuts that would need to be made to the electronic 
medical records system or the paperless disability claims processing 
system. We can't afford to sacrifice the good of the many veterans to 
accommodate a local or parochial project construction request.
  I understand the gentleman's concern and frustration, but I do 
believe that this request would do a lot of damage to the IT program 
and affect a lot of

[[Page H2592]]

things that all of us are deeply concerned about in terms of an A-rated 
health record, EMR, and other important disability issues.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from California (Mr. McNerney).
  The amendment was rejected.


                     Amendment Offered by Mr. Gosar

  Mr. GOSAR. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       Page 30, line 15, after the first dollar amount, insert 
     ``(reduced by $8,000,000) (increased by $8,000,000)''.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from Arizona and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Arizona.
  Mr. GOSAR. Mr. Chairman, I rise to offer an amendment that would 
transfer $8 million within this bill to hire and train personnel for 
the purposes of reducing the veterans' disability claims backlog.
  By way of background, the VA's budget justification for the fiscal 
year 2016 requests an increase of $12 million for its Office of General 
Counsel, but on the very next page of that document, it says it needs 
$4 million to ``address increases in the legal workload.''
  The VA budget justification also says that the VA's goal is to have 
an additional 45 full-time equivalent lawyers for its Office of General 
Counsel, which would take the total number of attorneys up to 757. 
According to the committee report for the last 5 years, the committee 
has fully funded the President's budget request for additional full-
time equivalents, and yet the claim backlogs remain.
  My amendment seeks to reprogram money within the Veterans Benefits 
Administration from the Office of General Counsel and put it towards 
the hiring and training of personnel who will work to reduce the VA 
claims backlog. The Congressional Budget Office says this amendment has 
no score.
  I think most of us can agree that the appropriations would be better 
spent on the VA claims backlog reduction rather than hiring more 
lawyers. I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.
  Mr. DENT. Will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. GOSAR. I yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania.
  Mr. DENT. I agree with Mr. Gosar that eliminating the backlog should 
be the VA's highest priority. The bill provides the entire 
administration request for claims processing activities, and I would 
support your amendment.
  Mr. GOSAR. I thank the gentleman.
  Mr. Chair, I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Gosar).
  The amendment was agreed to.


                     Amendment Offered by Ms. Titus

  Ms. TITUS. I rise to offer an amendment. It is at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       Page 30, line 15, after the first dollar amount, insert 
     ``(reduced by $500,000) (increased by $500,000)''.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentlewoman 
from Nevada and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from Nevada.
  Ms. TITUS. I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  Mr. Chair, I rise today in support of my amendment, which is designed 
to focus the VA's attention on a critical issue, the treatment of our 
female veterans.
  The population of women veterans is rapidly growing. Today women 
constitute approximately 20 percent of new recruits, 14.5 percent of 
the Active Duty component, and 18 percent of the Reserve component. 
Almost 280,000 women have served post-9/11 in Afghanistan and Iraq. 
While the number of male veterans is expected to decline by 2020, the 
number of women veterans is expected to grow dramatically to 11 percent 
of the veteran population.
  From health care to child care, the needs of women veterans are 
different from those of their male counterparts. Unfortunately, the VA 
has faced challenges in meeting these needs. There are far too few OB/
GYNs and a dearth of women's healthcare clinics. Where clinics do 
exist, many lack sufficient privacy protections for the patient. The VA 
has also struggled to address shortages in mental health, child care, 
and housing services for female veterans.
  Too many women who served either do not identify themselves as 
veterans or they lack sufficient information about the benefits and 
services that the VA provides. Fortunately, the VA has started to put 
an increased focus on this population. The VA Center for Women Veterans 
is charged with monitoring and coordinating VA's administration of 
health care, benefits services, and programs for women veterans, as 
well as with raising awareness within the Department for their special 
needs.
  In 2012 the Women Veterans Task Force published a report outlining 
strategies to meet the needs of our female veterans. The report 
highlighted barriers to providing services to women veterans, including 
a lack of data collection and analysis. Without knowing how to best 
serve and meet expectations of female veterans, the VA will never be 
able to give these heroes the care and support that they earned and 
deserve.
  My amendment is designed simply to encourage the VA to fill the two 
unfunded data collection and analysis positions in the Center for Women 
Veterans to ensure that the VA is able to identify and fulfill the 
needs of our Nation's female heroes.
  I thank the chairman and the ranking member for working with me on 
this amendment.
  I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Chair, I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Chair, thank you for allowing me to 
respond. I support the gentlewoman's efforts to highlight the 
importance of women's health. The VA women's center has been 
underfunded for the last few years. As the gentlewoman correctly 
pointed out, their most recent working group recommends that they fill 
two statistician positions that have not yet been filled due to lack of 
budget.
  Without these positions, it is challenging for the VA to get good 
data about female veterans, so many programs are shaped using faulty 
assumptions. I believe that these positions are very important for the 
VA when it comes to providing care for our female veterans. I support 
these efforts, and I urge all Members to support it.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chair, I claim the time in opposition to the amendment, 
but I am not opposed to the amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. Without objection, the gentleman from Pennsylvania 
is recognized for 5 minutes.
  There was no objection.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chair, I commend the gentlelady for her work to improve 
the services VA provides to our women veterans. You really ought to be 
commended. I know your work on the authorizing committee is very 
important to you. Since women comprise nearly 15 percent of the Active-
Duty military forces, VA must improve its services and infrastructure 
to accommodate gender-specific needs. I certainly strongly support the 
gentlelady's amendment.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  Ms. TITUS. Mr. Chairman, I just want to close by asking my other 
colleagues to support this amendment so we can send a strong message to 
our female veterans that the U.S. Congress is committed to ensuring 
that the VA is meeting their unique needs. It is critical that the VA 
is able to accurately look forward to the future and shape their 
programs so it is welcoming and supporting of all our veterans. I thank 
you for your support.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentlewoman from Nevada (Ms. Titus).
  The amendment was agreed to.


                     Amendment Offered by Mr. Gosar

  Mr. GOSAR. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       Page 30, line 15, after the first dollar amount, insert 
     ``(reduced by $2,000,000)''.

[[Page H2593]]

       Page 30, line 22, after the dollar amount, insert 
     ``(increased by $2,000,000)''.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from Arizona and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Arizona.

                              {time}  1630

  Mr. GOSAR. Mr. Chairman, I rise to offer a straightforward amendment 
that would strengthen the ability of the Board of Veterans Appeals to 
reduce its backlog.
  I applaud the committee for taking on the difficult task of 
prioritizing limited resources for our veterans. The committee 
rightfully recommends the budget request level for the Board of 
Veterans Appeals, but I will note that one of the primary concerns I 
hear from my casework staff and directly from the veterans is the need 
for increased resources to the Board of Veterans Appeals.
  According to the committee report accompanying this bill, ``appeals 
received by BVA are projected to increase from 49,611 in 2012 to 81,640 
cases in 2016.'' That is a 65 percent increase in just 4 short years.
  With our troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, it is no wonder 
why there is such a significant spike in the claims and appeals. I 
simply want to heed the call of the veterans in my district and across 
this country and ensure that the Board of Veterans Appeals has the 
resources necessary to address the seemingly endless backlog.
  CBO says this amendment would have no impact on budget authority or 
outlays.
  I encourage my colleagues to support this amendment. I thank the 
chairman and the ranking member for their diligent efforts.
  Mr. DENT. Will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. GOSAR. I yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania.
  Mr. DENT. I agree with the gentleman from Arizona's emphasis on 
maximizing funding for the Board of Veterans Appeals. The board will be 
facing an enormous increase in caseload as the backlog of initial 
disability claims is cleared and veterans appeals those decisions.
  We have provided a $9 million, or 8.6 percent, increase in the 
board's funding, as well as additional information technology funds to 
help modernize the board's paperbound processing system.
  I support the gentleman's amendment.
  Mr. GOSAR. I thank the gentleman and the ranking member, and I yield 
back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Gosar).
  The amendment was agreed to.


                    Amendment Offered by Ms. Sinema

  Ms. SINEMA. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk, which I 
will offer at this time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       Page 30, line 15, after the first dollar amount, insert 
     ``(reduced by $50,000) (increased by $50,000)''.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentlewoman 
from Arizona and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from Arizona.
  Ms. SINEMA. Mr. Chairman, the Sinema amendment is a commonsense fix 
that helps improve the transparency of the VA and the quality of 
services provided to veterans.
  I appreciate Chairman Dent and Ranking Member Bishop for all of the 
work that they are doing to pass this bill and for being so kind about 
this amendment.
  The underlying bill requires quarterly reports on the financial 
status of the Veterans Health Administration. My amendment requires the 
VA to include, as part of these quarterly payments, any outstanding 
payments owed to contracted entities older than 60 days and a 
justification for the delay in payments.
  Over the last year, we have seen that the VA is unable to provide the 
timely, high-quality care our veterans deserve on their own. By 
leveraging community providers and creating a seamless relationship 
between internal VA care providers and external non-VA care providers, 
we can ensure that veterans receive the timely access to quality care 
they deserve.
  That is what the Choice Act is trying to create. That is what the 
Secretary hopes to build through the MyVA initiative.
  Unfortunately, the VA continues to struggle with paying its bills in 
a timely way. In my district, I have heard from large hospitals and 
small businesses alike who don't receive prompt payments from the VA.
  A small business in my district, Interim HealthCare, provides home 
care, skilled medical care, and staffing services for the VA. Despite 
efforts by the Phoenix VA hospital, the larger VA system has failed to 
pay Interim HealthCare and others in a timely way. This threatens small 
businesses and the care that they provide to Arizona veterans. 
Ultimately, this undermines the seamless care we are attempting to 
provide to veterans.
  Understanding why the VA struggles to provide timely payments to 
contracted service providers will help the VA address this issue and 
improve the quality of services for our veterans.
  Additionally, we have learned that in 2014, over 55 percent of all 
veterans calling a national hotline for care never got through to a 
representative. Thus far, in 2015, that number has risen to 59 percent. 
This amendment would also allow the VA to provide a report on how many 
individuals who reached the call center are dropped and how many get 
the care they receive.
  The Sinema amendment, Mr. Chair and others, which will improve 
oversight and accountability at the VA, is a step towards restoring the 
trust that we so dearly owe to our veterans.
  I thank the chairman and ranking member for their support and their 
dedication to our Nation's veterans.
  Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to claim the time in 
opposition to the amendment, but I am not opposed the amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman 
from Pennsylvania?
  There was no objection.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Pennsylvania is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I support the amendment, and I yield back the 
balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentlewoman from Arizona (Ms. Sinema).
  The amendment was agreed to.


                     Amendment Offered by Mr. Gosar

  Mr. GOSAR. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       Page 30, line 15, after the first dollar amount, insert 
     ``(reduced by $3,200,000)''.
       Page 32, line 5, after the dollar amount, insert 
     ``(increased by $3,200,000)''.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from Arizona and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Arizona.
  Mr. GOSAR. Mr. Chairman, I rise to offer an amendment to provide 
additional resources for the information technology systems at the 
Department of Veterans Affairs.
  Updates and upgrades to IT systems at the VA are paramount to meeting 
the goals of veterans claims backlog reduction.
  I applaud the committee for recommending resources above and beyond 
last year's enacted levels, but the recommended levels are 
significantly beneath the President's budget request levels.
  Last year, I offered an amendment to this same appropriation bill, 
House amendment 635, which transferred just over $3.2 million from the 
general administration account at the VA to the IT systems account. 
That amendment was agreed to by a voice vote. Today, I offer 
essentially the same amendment.
  I just want to note, as I have before, that many of our veterans are 
simply giving up. They are either giving up on trying to obtain the 
benefits they deserve or, worse, some of them are giving up on life 
altogether. It is a travesty, and this is an appalling trend that must 
be reversed.
  I appreciate the committee's hard work and its acknowledgment of the 
importance of reducing the backlog in this bill. Having said that, I 
think we can do more and should focus on

[[Page H2594]]

prioritizing funding for efforts that will lead to timelier care for 
our Nation's heroes, as opposed to administrative expenses.
  My commonsense amendment proposes redirecting a fraction of the funds 
in the general administration account away from things like funding for 
conference expenses and bureaucrats and shifting those funds toward 
reducing the VA claims backlog.
  I urge my colleagues to support this simple amendment to improve IT 
systems at the VA.
  Mr. DENT. Will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. GOSAR. I yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania.
  Mr. DENT. I understand the gentleman's focus on providing information 
technology resources for the VA in order to meet the goals of 
eliminating the backlog. I have no objection to the amendment.
  Mr. GOSAR. I certainly thank the distinguished chair and the ranking 
member, and I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Gosar).
  The amendment was agreed to.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will read.
  The Clerk read as follows:

                       board of veterans appeals

       For necessary operating expenses of the Board of Veterans 
     Appeals, $107,884,000, of which not to exceed $10,788,000 
     shall remain available until September 30, 2017.

      general operating expenses, veterans benefits administration

       For necessary operating expenses of the Veterans Benefits 
     Administration, not otherwise provided for, including hire of 
     passenger motor vehicles, reimbursement of the General 
     Services Administration for security guard services, and 
     reimbursement of the Department of Defense for the cost of 
     overseas employee mail, $2,697,734,000: 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 of the funds made 
     available under this heading, not to exceed $134,800,000 
     shall remain available until September 30, 2017.


                     Amendment Offered by Mr. Ruiz

  Mr. RUIZ. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       Page 31, line 9, after the dollar amount, insert ``(reduced 
     by $5,000,000) (increased by $5,000,000)''.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from California and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from California.
  Mr. RUIZ. Mr. Chairman, I will start off by saying thank you to 
Chairman Dent and Ranking Member Bishop for their hard work on this 
appropriations bill.
  I rise today to offer an amendment to H.R. 2029, the Military 
Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations 
Act for 2016. This amendment is for the brave men and women who have 
served and sacrificed for our country, our veterans.
  California is home to almost 2 million veterans, and I am proud to 
represent more than 54,000 veterans in my district alone. There are 
40,000 veterans expected to return to California every year for the 
next several years, including the fastest growing group of returning 
veterans, women.
  As our troops come home and assimilate back into civilian life, it is 
critical that we do not abandon our veterans when they put down their 
weapons; instead, we must ensure they have timely access to the 
critical benefits they have earned and deserve.
  Unconscionably, thousands of veterans who have sacrificed for our 
country are struggling to access benefits they have already earned. Due 
to the lingering claims backlog at the Veterans Health Administration, 
veterans across our Nation are waiting for pensions, prescription 
drugs, and even lifesaving medical care.
  Veterans are still waiting for the VA to process 448,000 benefit 
claims, and 176,000 of those veterans have been waiting longer than 125 
days for a decision. Our work to clear this harmful backlog is not 
finished, and we owe it to these courageous men and women to do so as 
soon as possible.
  These figures are staggering, but the people this is affecting are 
not mere statistics. They are men and women like retired Air Force 
Master Sergeant Andrew Walker and his family from Beaumont, California.
  Mr. Walker and his family waited years on end without receiving the 
critical health care he was promised, earned, and desperately needed. 
While I am heartened that I was able to help resolve Mr. Walker's 
claim, the backlog remains an enduring nightmare for too many veterans 
across the country.
  Reduced to a claim number and a seemingly endless line, veterans 
experience pain, frustration, hopelessness, and despair. Although the 
backlog has shrunk since Congress last passed a similar appropriations 
bill, we must not lose sight of the importance of getting veterans like 
Andrew Walker their hard-earned benefits as soon as possible.
  As a member of the VA Committee, I am fighting to change the culture 
at the VA from the inside out. By focusing on veteran-centered care and 
ensuring that the VA continues working to eliminate this backlog, we 
can take much-needed steps in keeping faith with our veterans and 
getting them the benefits they have earned.
  That is why I am offering this amendment to advocate for an 
additional $5 million to fund the digital scanning of health and 
benefits files to reduce the backlog by redirecting funding within the 
general operating expenses account of the Veterans Benefits 
Administration.
  This amendment simply directs funds toward the digital scanning of 
health and benefit files that will reduce the claims backlog without 
any new spending.
  As an emergency medicine physician, I understand the importance of 
efficiency in health care, and I know how dangerous such tribulations 
can be for a person with PTSD or depression.
  By committing resources to digitizing health and benefits files, we 
will further increase VA's capacity to tackle the claims backlog, 
ensuring veterans receive the benefits they have earned in a timely 
manner.
  Let us continue to bear in mind that these men and women have served 
this country and they have put their lives on the line. We must service 
them by making certain that Congress focuses on eliminating the claims 
backlog for good.
  I encourage my colleagues to stand up for veterans and support my 
pragmatic amendment to reduce veterans claims processing times.
  Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from California (Mr. Ruiz).
  The amendment was agreed to.


                    Amendment Offered by Mr. Walberg

  Mr. WALBERG. Mr. Chair, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       Page 31, line 9, after the dollar amount, insert ``(reduced 
     by $5,000,000) (increased by $5,000,000)''.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from Michigan and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Michigan.
  Mr. WALBERG. Mr. Chairman, I would like to start by thanking 
subcommittee Chairman Dent and Chairman Rogers for their work in 
developing this legislation to address the current and future needs of 
our Nation's veterans.
  I rise today to offer an amendment that highlights the need for 
veterans job training as part of this appropriations bill. Simply, my 
amendment would designate $5 million within the general operating 
expenses of the Veterans Benefits Administration account to support 
programs that help our veterans transition to the workforce.
  Michigan is home to more than 660,000 veterans who contribute every 
day to the vitality of our communities.

                              {time}  1645

  These men and women have developed marketable skills, from technical 
training in mechanics, IT, and health care, to leadership qualities, 
ethics,

[[Page H2595]]

and problem-solving abilities, yet too many of them struggle to find 
employment after they have completed their service.
  Those veterans recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan face 
unique challenges to finding employment, as those who served in Active 
Duty since September 20, 2001, face a jobless rate that is 1.7 
percentage points higher--7.2 percent veterans versus 5.5 percent 
national--than the general population.
  The House has taken a number of good steps toward helping veterans 
transition to the civilian sector, from passing the Hire More Heroes 
Act to remove costly ObamaCare mandates that discourage the hiring of 
veterans, to working with employers to help them understand the 
benefits of hiring veterans. We can certainly do more to ensure these 
brave men and women have the opportunity for gainful employment when 
they return to our communities.
  The VA should use these designated funds to focus on difficulties 
veterans face translating their valuable skills to suitable employment 
in the civilian sector. For example, as the committee rightly 
highlights in their report, the VA should refine and upgrade its 
Military Skills Translator tool to more accurately reflect the 
transferable skills of transitioning military veterans. The VA should 
also increase public awareness and access to this tool for our Nation's 
employers.
  If we are to develop the 21st century workforce, our Nation cannot 
afford to leave our veterans behind; and if we are to meet our 
obligation to those who have put their lives on the line in service to 
our country, we must work to improve the transition from military 
service to the career field.
  I hope my colleagues will support this commonsense amendment to help 
our veterans get back to work.
  Mr. DENT. Will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. WALBERG. I yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania.
  Mr. DENT. I know the gentleman from Michigan has a deep commitment to 
providing job training and employment assistance for our returning 
veterans, and I support the amendment, which highlights the importance 
of VA programs that provide this assistance.
  Mr. WALBERG. I thank the chairman.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Walberg).
  The amendment was agreed to.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will read.
  The Clerk read as follows:

                     information technology systems

                     (including transfer of funds)

       For necessary expenses for information technology systems 
     and telecommunications support, including developmental 
     information systems and operational information systems; for 
     pay and associated costs; and 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, $4,038,363,000, plus reimbursements: Provided, 
     That $1,115,757,000 shall be for pay and associated costs, of 
     which not to exceed $34,800,000 shall remain available until 
     September 30, 2017: Provided further, That $2,417,863,000 
     shall be for operations and maintenance, of which not to 
     exceed $167,900,000 shall remain available until September 
     30, 2017: Provided further, That $504,743,000 shall be for 
     information technology systems development, modernization, 
     and enhancement, and shall remain available until September 
     30, 2017: Provided further, That amounts made available for 
     information technology systems development, modernization, 
     and enhancement may not be obligated or expended until the 
     Secretary of Veterans Affairs or the Chief Information 
     Officer of the Department of Veterans Affairs submits to the 
     Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress a 
     certification of the amounts, in parts or in full, to be 
     obligated and expended for each development project: Provided 
     further, That amounts made available for salaries and 
     expenses, operations and maintenance, and information 
     technology systems development, modernization, and 
     enhancement may be transferred among the three subaccounts 
     after the Secretary of Veterans Affairs requests from the 
     Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress the 
     authority to make the transfer and an approval is issued: 
     Provided further, That amounts made available for the 
     ``Information Technology Systems'' account for development, 
     modernization, and enhancement may be transferred among 
     projects or to newly defined projects: Provided further, 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: Provided further, 
     That funds under this heading may be used by the Interagency 
     Program Office through the Department of Veterans Affairs to 
     define data standards, code sets, and value sets used to 
     enable interoperability: Provided further, That of the funds 
     made available for information technology systems 
     development, modernization, and enhancement for VistA 
     Evolution, not more than 25 percent may be obligated or 
     expended until the Secretary of Veterans Affairs submits to 
     the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress, 
     and such Committees approve, a report that describes: (1) the 
     status of and changes to the VistA Evolution program plan 
     dated March 24, 2014 (hereinafter referred to as the 
     ``Plan''), the VistA 4 product roadmap dated February 26, 
     2015 (``Roadmap''), and the VistA 4 Incremental Life Cycle 
     Cost Estimate, dated October 26, 2014; (2) any changes to the 
     scope or functionality of projects within the VistA Evolution 
     program as established in the Plan; (3) actual program costs 
     incurred to date; (4) progress in meeting the schedule 
     milestones that have been established in the Plan; (5) a 
     Project Management Accountability System (PMAS) Dashboard 
     Progress report that identifies each VistA Evolution project 
     being tracked through PMAS, what functionality it is intended 
     to provide, and what evaluation scores it has received 
     throughout development; (6) the definition being used for 
     interoperability between the electronic health record systems 
     of the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans 
     Affairs, the metrics to measure the extent of 
     interoperability, the milestones and timeline associated with 
     achieving interoperability, and the baseline measurements 
     associated with interoperability; (7) progress toward 
     developing and implementing all components and levels of 
     interoperability, including semantic interoperability; (8) 
     the change management tools in place to facilitate the 
     implementation of VistA Evolution and interoperability; and 
     (9) any changes to the governance structure for the VistA 
     Evolution program and its chain of decisionmaking authority: 
     Provided further, That the funds made available under this 
     heading for information technology systems development, 
     modernization, and enhancement, shall be for the projects, 
     and in the amounts, specified under this heading in the 
     report accompanying this Act.

                      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.), $131,766,000, of which not to exceed $12,600,000 shall 
     remain available until September 30, 2017.

                      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 
     Affairs, or for any of the purposes set forth in sections 
     316, 2404, 2406 and chapter 81 of title 38, United States 
     Code, not otherwise provided for, 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, 
     $561,800,000, of which $527,800,000 shall remain available 
     until September 30, 2020, and of which $34,000,000 shall 
     remain available until expended: 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 salaries and 
     associated costs of the resident engineers who oversee those 
     capital investments funded through this account, and funds 
     provided for the purchase of land for the National Cemetery 
     Administration through the land acquisition line item, none 
     of the funds made available 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 made 
     available under this heading for fiscal year 2016, for each 
     approved project shall be obligated: (1) by the awarding of a 
     construction documents contract by September 30, 2016; and 
     (2) by the awarding of a construction contract by September 
     30, 2017: 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.


            Amendment Offered by Ms. Brownley of California

  Ms. BROWNLEY of California. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the 
desk.

[[Page H2596]]

  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       In the ``Department of Veterans Affairs--Departmental 
     Administration--Construction, Major Projects'' account, 
     strike the aggregate dollar amount and insert 
     ``$1,143,800,000''.

  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I reserve a point of order on the 
gentlewoman's amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. A point of order is reserved.
  Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentlewoman from California and 
a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from California.
  Ms. BROWNLEY of California. Mr. Chairman, I rise this afternoon to 
offer an amendment to H.R. 2029. My amendment would restore the funding 
for major construction projects in the Department of Veterans Affairs 
to $1.14 billion to meet the level that the VA has requested.
  As ranking member of the House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on 
Health, I share the outrage of many of my colleagues over the 
unacceptable mismanagement of the VA's major construction program.
  I agree that VA management must be held accountable for their failure 
to manage construction costs for the Denver hospital. Congress must 
reform the VA construction program so that it uses taxpayer dollars 
wisely and efficiently. However, we cannot continue to ignore the sad 
state of disrepair in VA hospitals and clinics across our country which 
are in desperate need of funding for modernization and health and 
safety improvements.
  Most of the VA's medical infrastructure is old and outdated. The 
average building age is approaching 60 years. Many VA health facilities 
urgently need seismic retrofitting or emergency repairs. Others are too 
small to accommodate the growing population of veterans returning home 
from Iraq and Afghanistan, and the aging population of veterans who 
served in Vietnam continues to put great stress on the VA.
  Many veterans in underserved communities like Ventura County are 
counting on us, on Congress, to ensure that new construction projects 
are delivered and that their health care needs will be met. The funding 
levels in the bill would delay VA plans to expand health care 
facilities in many locations, harming VA's ability to provide care to 
veterans.
  If the current funding level in this bill is made law, the VA would 
have to scuttle plans for a rehabilitative therapy building in St. 
Louis, Missouri, two outpatient clinics in Alameda and French Camp in 
California, and a community living center in Perry Point, Maryland. 
Delaying these projects is not the right way to honor our commitment to 
our Nation's veterans.
  Mr. Chair, draconian funding cuts to the VA's major construction 
program are not the only way that veterans are being shortchanged in 
this bill before us today. The majority's bill also fails to meet the 
administration's budget requests in other areas, including medical 
services, medical facilities, and information technology.
  For example, the VA estimates that at the bill's current funding 
level, over 70,000 fewer veterans will receive medical care compared to 
the administration's request. In addition, the VA will not be able to 
pay for cemetery expansions in St. Louis, Portland, Riverside, Puerto 
Rico, and Pensacola, which would have enabled the Department to serve 
18,000 veterans and their family members annually.
  Veteran advocates, including AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, 
Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, agree 
that, in the long run, Congress will be forced to appropriate much 
larger sums to enable the VA to catch up on the deficits being created 
by this bill, not only in capital infrastructure, but in critical 
investments in other VA services in health care.
  If we really want to change the culture of the VA and ensure that 
veterans everywhere can get the services and benefits they have earned, 
Congress must do its part by investing in our veterans.
  When Congress cuts corners, we put the health and well-being of the 
men and women who have served this country at risk.
  I realize, Mr. Chairman, that my amendment is subject to a point of 
order, so I intend to withdraw my amendment, but we must fix this bill 
before it moves forward.
  Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to withdraw my amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentlewoman from California?
  There was no objection.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will read.
  The Clerk read as follows:

                      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, and chapter 81 of title 38, United 
     States Code, not otherwise provided for, 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, $406,200,000, to remain available until September 30, 
     2020, 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 made available under this 
     heading shall be 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.

       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, $80,000,000, to remain available 
     until expended.

             grants for construction of veterans cemeteries

       For grants to assist States and tribal organizations in 
     establishing, expanding, or improving 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 2016 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 the Department of 
     Veterans Affairs for fiscal year 2016, in this or any other 
     Act, under the ``Medical Services'', ``Medical Support and 
     Compliance'', and ``Medical Facilities'' accounts may be 
     transferred among the accounts: Provided, That any transfers 
     between the ``Medical Services'' and ``Medical Support and 
     Compliance'' accounts of 1 percent or less of the total 
     amount appropriated to the account in this or any other Act 
     may take place subject to notification from the Secretary of 
     Veterans Affairs to the Committees on Appropriations of both 
     Houses of Congress of the amount and purpose of the transfer: 
     Provided further, That any transfers between the ``Medical 
     Services'' and ``Medical Support and Compliance'' accounts in 
     excess of 1 percent, or exceeding the cumulative 1 percent 
     for the fiscal year, may take place only after the Secretary 
     requests from the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses 
     of Congress the authority to make the transfer and an 
     approval is issued: Provided further, That any transfers to 
     or from the ``Medical Facilities'' account may take place 
     only after the Secretary requests 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.

[[Page H2597]]

       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 2015.
       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 2016, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs 
     shall, from the National Service Life Insurance Fund under 
     section 1920 of title 38, United States Code, the Veterans' 
     Special Life Insurance Fund under section 1923 of title 38, 
     United States Code, and the United States Government Life 
     Insurance Fund under section 1955 of title 38, United States 
     Code, reimburse the ``General Operating Expenses, Veterans 
     Benefits Administration'' and ``Information Technology 
     Systems'' accounts 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 2016 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 2016 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 to 
     exceed $43,700,000 for the Office of Resolution Management 
     and $3,400,000 for the Office of Employment 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 the ``General Administration'' and ``Information 
     Technology Systems'' accounts 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 cost is more than $1,000,000, unless 
     the Secretary of Veterans Affairs submits a request to enter 
     into such lease to the Committees on Appropriations of both 
     Houses of Congress and (1) the Committees approve the 
     request; or (2) the Committees have not rejected the request 
     before the date that is 15 days after the date on which the 
     request 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, 
     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.  The Secretary of Veterans Affairs may enter into 
     agreements with Indian tribes and tribal organizations which 
     are party to the Alaska Native Health Compact with the Indian 
     Health Service, and Indian tribes and tribal organizations 
     serving rural Alaska which have entered into contracts with 
     the Indian Health Service under the Indian Self Determination 
     and Educational Assistance Act, to provide healthcare, 
     including behavioral health and dental care. The Secretary 
     shall require participating veterans and facilities to comply 
     with all appropriate rules and regulations, as established by 
     the Secretary. The term ``rural Alaska'' shall mean those 
     lands sited within the external boundaries of the Alaska 
     Native regions specified in sections 7(a)(1)-(4) and (7)-(12) 
     of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, as amended (43 
     U.S.C. 1606), and those lands within the Alaska Native 
     regions specified in sections 7(a)(5) and 7(a)(6) of the 
     Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, as amended (43 U.S.C. 
     1606), which are not within the boundaries of the 
     municipality of Anchorage, the Fairbanks North Star Borough, 
     the Kenai Peninsula Borough or the Matanuska Susitna Borough.

                     (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 made available in this title 
     may be used to implement any policy prohibiting the Directors 
     of the Veterans Integrated Service Networks from conducting 
     outreach or marketing to enroll new veterans within their 
     respective Networks.
       Sec. 219.  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. 220.  Amounts made available under the ``Medical 
     Services'', ``Medical Support and Compliance'', ``Medical 
     Facilities'', ``General Operating Expenses, Veterans Benefits 
     Administration'', ``General Administration'', and ``National 
     Cemetery Administration'' accounts for fiscal year 2016 may 
     be transferred to or from the ``Information Technology 
     Systems'' account: Provided, That such transfers may not 
     result in a more than 10 percent aggregate increase in the 
     total amount made available by this Act for the ``Information 
     Technology Systems'' account: Provided further, 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. 221.  Of the amounts made available to the Department 
     of Veterans Affairs for fiscal year 2016, in this or any 
     other Act, under the ``Medical Facilities'' account for 
     nonrecurring maintenance, not more than 20 percent of the 
     funds made available shall be obligated during the last 2 
     months of that fiscal year: Provided, That the Secretary may 
     waive this requirement after providing written notice to the 
     Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress.

                     (including transfer of funds)

       Sec. 222.  Of the amounts appropriated to the Department of 
     Veterans Affairs for fiscal year 2016 for ``Medical 
     Services'', ``Medical Support and Compliance'', ``Medical 
     Facilities'', ``Construction, Minor Projects'', and 
     ``Information Technology Systems'', up to $266,303,000, plus 
     reimbursements, may be transferred to the Joint Department of 
     Defense-Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Facility 
     Demonstration Fund, established by section 1704 of the 
     National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 
     (Public Law 111-84; 123 Stat. 3571) and may be used for 
     operation of the facilities designated as combined Federal 
     medical facilities as described by section 706 of the Duncan 
     Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 
     2009 (Public Law 110-417; 122 Stat. 4500): Provided, That 
     additional funds may be transferred from accounts designated 
     in this section to the Joint Department of Defense-Department 
     of Veterans Affairs Medical Facility Demonstration Fund upon

[[Page H2598]]

     written notification by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to 
     the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress: 
     Provided further, That section 223 of Title II of Division I 
     of Public Law 113-235 is repealed.

                     (including transfer of funds)

       Sec. 223.  Of the amounts appropriated to the Department of 
     Veterans Affairs which become available on October 1, 2016, 
     for ``Medical Services'', ``Medical Support and Compliance'', 
     and ``Medical Facilities'', up to $265,675,000, plus 
     reimbursements, may be transferred to the Joint Department of 
     Defense-Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Facility 
     Demonstration Fund, established by section 1704 of the 
     National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 
     (Public Law 111-84; 123 Stat. 3571) and may be used for 
     operation of the facilities designated as combined Federal 
     medical facilities as described by section 706 of the Duncan 
     Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 
     2009 (Public Law 110-417; 122 Stat. 4500): Provided, That 
     additional funds may be transferred from accounts designated 
     in this section to the Joint Department of Defense-Department 
     of Veterans Affairs Medical Facility Demonstration Fund upon 
     written notification by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to 
     the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress.

                     (including transfer of funds)

       Sec. 224.  Such sums as may be deposited to the Medical 
     Care Collections Fund pursuant to section 1729A of title 38, 
     United States Code, for healthcare provided at facilities 
     designated as combined Federal medical facilities as 
     described by section 706 of the Duncan Hunter National 
     Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 (Public Law 
     110-417; 122 Stat. 4500) shall also be available: (1) for 
     transfer to the Joint Department of Defense-Department of 
     Veterans Affairs Medical Facility Demonstration Fund, 
     established by section 1704 of the National Defense 
     Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (Public Law 111-84; 
     123 Stat. 3571); and (2) for operations of the facilities 
     designated as combined Federal medical facilities as 
     described by section 706 of the Duncan Hunter National 
     Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 (Public Law 
     110-417; 122 Stat. 4500).

                     (including transfer of funds)

       Sec. 225.  Of the amounts available in this title for 
     ``Medical Services'', ``Medical Support and Compliance'', and 
     ``Medical Facilities'', a minimum of $15,000,000 shall be 
     transferred to the DOD-VA Health Care Sharing Incentive Fund, 
     as authorized by section 8111(d) of title 38, United States 
     Code, to remain available until expended, for any purpose 
     authorized by section 8111 of title 38, United States Code.

                    (including rescissions of funds)

       Sec. 226. (a) Of the funds appropriated in title II of 
     division I of Public Law 113-235, the following amounts which 
     became available on October 1, 2015, are hereby rescinded 
     from the following accounts in the amounts specified:
       (1) ``Department of Veterans Affairs, Medical Services'', 
     $1,400,000,000.
       (2) ``Department of Veterans Affairs, Medical Support and 
     Compliance'', $100,000,000.
       (3) ``Department of Veterans Affairs, Medical Facilities'', 
     $250,000,000.
       (b) In addition to amounts provided elsewhere in this Act, 
     an additional amount is appropriated to the following 
     accounts in the amounts specified to remain available until 
     September 30, 2017:
       (1) ``Department of Veterans Affairs, Medical Services'', 
     $1,400,000,000.
       (2) ``Department of Veterans Affairs, Medical Support and 
     Compliance'', $100,000,000.
       (3) ``Department of Veterans Affairs, Medical Facilities'', 
     $250,000,000.
       Sec. 227.  The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall notify 
     the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress 
     of all bid savings for a major construction project within 15 
     days of being identified that total at least $5,000,000, or 5 
     percent of the programmed amount of the project, whichever is 
     less.
       Sec. 228.  None of the funds made available for 
     ``Construction, Major Projects'' may be used for a project in 
     excess of the scope specified for that project in the 
     original justification data provided to the Congress as part 
     of the request for appropriations unless the Secretary of 
     Veterans Affairs receives approval from the Committees on 
     Appropriations of both Houses of Congress.
       Sec. 229.  The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall submit 
     to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of 
     Congress a quarterly report that contains the following 
     information from each Veterans Benefits Administration 
     Regional Office: (1) the average time to complete a 
     disability compensation claim; (2) the number of claims 
     pending more than 125 days; (3) error rates; (4) the number 
     of claims personnel; (5) any corrective action taken within 
     the quarter to address poor performance; (6) training 
     programs undertaken; and (7) the number and results of 
     Quality Review Team audits: Provided, That each quarterly 
     report shall be submitted no later than 30 days after the end 
     of the respective quarter.

                              {time}  1700


                    Amendment Offered by Mr. LaMalfa

  Mr. LaMALFA. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       Page 53, line 2, strike ``and'' after the semicolon.
       Page 53, line 3, insert the following before the colon: ``; 
     and (8) the number of informal claims that are unprocessed''.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from California and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from California.
  Mr. LaMALFA. Mr. Chair, each quarter the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs must submit a report that includes several metrics from every 
VA regional office to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. 
The report includes the average time to complete a disability claim, 
the backlog, error rates, and other important details.
  With this amendment, the Secretary of VA must also include the number 
of informal claims that are unprocessed. This amendment allows Congress 
to receive a more complete picture of the regional office's workload.
  We have seen troubling instances in Oakland and other VA regional 
offices of informal claims not being handled properly and even waiting 
decades for some of those claims to be processed.
  Informal claims should be included in this quarterly report from the 
Secretary, and this amendment simply requires that that be done; 
therefore, giving Congress and veterans a better picture of what that 
load would be and then we can address that appropriately. So that is 
the amendment.
  Mr. DENT. Will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. LaMALFA. I yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania.
  Mr. DENT. I support the amendment.
  Mr. LaMALFA. Again, Mr. Chair, it is a very simple amendment, and it 
will make a clear picture of what the real backlog is of informal 
claims, which has not gotten enough attention in the work of the VA in 
recent years. Again, we keep finding that it is an issue of importance 
and one of great concern as we have discovered what some of the 
regional offices have to deal with.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from California (Mr. LaMalfa).
  The amendment was agreed to.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will read.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       Sec. 230.  The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall submit 
     to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of 
     Congress a reprogramming request if at any point during 
     fiscal year 2016 the funding allocated for a medical care 
     program that is not estimated through the Enrollee Health 
     Care Projection Model is adjusted by more than $25,000,000 
     from the allocation shown in the corresponding congressional 
     budget justification. Amounts may only be reprogrammed as 
     requested under this section if (1) the Committees on 
     Appropriations of both Houses of Congress approve the 
     request; or (2) the Committees have not rejected the request 
     before the date that is 15 days after the date on which the 
     request is received.
       Sec. 231.  Of the funds provided to the Department of 
     Veterans Affairs for fiscal year 2016 for ``Medical 
     Services'' and ``Medical Support and Compliance'', a maximum 
     of $5,000,000 may be obligated from the ``Medical Services'' 
     account and a maximum of $154,596,000 may be obligated from 
     the ``Medical Support and Compliance'' account for the VistA 
     Evolution and electronic health record interoperability 
     projects: Provided, That funds in addition to these amounts 
     may be obligated for the VistA Evolution and electronic 
     health record interoperability projects upon written 
     notification by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to the 
     Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress.
       Sec. 232.  The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall provide 
     written notification to the Committees on Appropriations of 
     both Houses of Congress 15 days prior to organizational 
     changes which result in the transfer of 25 or more full-time 
     equivalents from one organizational unit of the Department of 
     Veterans Affairs to another.

                         (rescission of funds)

       Sec. 233. (a) There is hereby rescinded an aggregate amount 
     of $101,000,000 from the total budget authority provided for 
     fiscal year 2016 for discretionary accounts of the Department 
     of Veterans Affairs in--
       (1) this Act; or
       (2) any advance appropriation for fiscal year 2016 in prior 
     appropriation Acts.
       (b) The Secretary shall submit to the Committees on 
     Appropriations of both Houses of Congress a report specifying 
     the account and amount of each rescission not later than 20 
     days following enactment of this Act.
       Sec. 234.  The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall provide 
     on a quarterly basis to the Committees on Appropriations of 
     both Houses of Congress notification of any single national 
     outreach and awareness marketing campaign in which 
     obligations exceed $2,000,000.

[[Page H2599]]

       Sec. 235.  None of the funds available to the Department of 
     Veterans Affairs, in this or any other Act, may be used to 
     replace the current system by which the Veterans Integrated 
     Service Networks select and contract for diabetes monitoring 
     supplies and equipment.

                     (including transfer of funds)

       Sec. 236.  The Secretary of Veterans Affairs, upon 
     determination that such action is necessary to address needs 
     of the Veterans Health Administration, may transfer to the 
     ``Medical Services'' account any discretionary appropriations 
     made available for fiscal year 2016 in this title (except 
     appropriations made to the ``General Operating Expenses, 
     Veterans Benefits Administration'' account) or any 
     discretionary unobligated balances within the Department of 
     Veterans Affairs, including those appropriated for fiscal 
     year 2016, that were provided in advance by appropriations 
     Acts: Provided, That transfers shall be made only with the 
     approval of the Office of Management and Budget: Provided 
     further, That the transfer authority provided in this section 
     is in addition to any other transfer authority provided by 
     law: Provided further, That no amounts may be transferred 
     from amounts that were designated by Congress as an emergency 
     requirement pursuant to a concurrent resolution on the budget 
     or the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 
     1985: Provided further, That such authority to transfer may 
     not be used unless for higher priority items, based on 
     emergent healthcare requirements, than those for which 
     originally appropriated and in no case where the item for 
     which funds are requested has been denied by Congress: 
     Provided further, That, upon determination that all or part 
     of the funds transferred from an appropriation are not 
     necessary, such amounts may be transferred back to that 
     appropriation and shall be available for the same purposes as 
     originally appropriated: Provided further, 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 
     receive approval of that request.

  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Chair, I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. I yield to the gentleman from California (Mr. 
Lowenthal).
  Mr. LOWENTHAL. Mr. Chair, I thank the ranking member and also the 
chairman for providing me this time to speak on the floor.
  I am going to go back. My congressional district is home to the Long 
Beach Veterans Affairs hospital; the American Gold Star Manor, which is 
a manor that provides affordable housing for mothers who have lost 
their sons to war and for veterans; and my district is also the home of 
Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base.
  Providing outstanding service to our veterans has been a top priority 
throughout my career. That is why I am cosponsoring this amendment to 
address the disability claims and appeals backlogs and hopefully 
provide funding for more full-time employees to address these issues.
  I want to share with you just quickly my concerns.
  There are long delays in Aid and Attendance claims, particularly with 
regard to elderly, frail veterans with rapidly declining health issues. 
And approval is slow and sometimes comes, actually, too late, allowing 
the veterans to suffer for no reason.
  This year, I had a 100 percent service-connected Purple Heart veteran 
with Parkinson's disease who filed for Aid and Attendance in July 2013. 
At that time, he needed caretaking assistance at his home but was 
initially denied.
  In March of 2014, I received a call from his son who informed me that 
his father had fallen and broken his shoulder. During this time, my 
constituent had to produce multiple pieces of paper and doctor's 
confirmation of disability, even though he is an amputee. His son 
called my office and informed my caseworker in the district that he 
needed immediate assistance for his father. My caseworker called my 
staffer in D.C., who ran to the VA Congressional Liaison's office here 
at the Capitol to see what could be done during this emergency. I spoke 
to the VA about the situation, and my constituent received immediate 
assistance because I called. My constituent was finally awarded Aid and 
Attendance in May of 2014.
  Mr. Chair, our veterans should not have to wait for medical care and 
suffer while they are waiting for months and years. Our veterans 
deserve better service than we are giving them. It is unnecessary for 
these types of emergencies to occur.
  Last year, I encouraged the Department to use its funding to hire 
additional staff and stated that I do not believe that providing 
overtime pay for workers who are already stretched thin was enough. I 
am pleased to see there is funding to hire more full-time employees, 
but we still need more workers in order for the VA to respond faster. I 
am still concerned that the Veterans Benefits Administration is not 
requesting adequate resources to expeditiously handle the current 
backlog or new claims, which are expected to increase.
  The VA is still contracting out claims to other regional offices 
rather than the home office. It is making progress. However, claims are 
still taking as long as 2 years for resolution. The VA is encouraging 
veterans to use electronic benefits, eBenefits, though many Vietnam-era 
veterans need assistance with this technology.
  Mr. Chair, in closing, when we ask America's veterans to serve their 
country and sacrifice their lives on our behalf, our Nation needs to 
make a promise to take care of them throughout their lives. Ensuring 
that our veterans receive the best care after their years of service to 
our Nation is a moral responsibility which must happen. I pledge my 
continued support to work with Secretary McDonald and the Department of 
Veterans Affairs, my colleagues, stakeholder groups, and my 
constituents to address these issues.
  Mr. Chair, I ask that you support this amendment.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will read.
  The Clerk read as follows:

                     (including transfer of funds)

       Sec. 237.  Amounts made available for the Department of 
     Veterans Affairs for fiscal year 2016, under the ``Board of 
     Veterans Appeals'' and the ``General Operating Expenses, 
     Veterans Benefits Administration'' accounts may be 
     transferred between such 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 
     receive approval from such Committees for such request.

                         (rescission of funds)

       Sec. 238.  Of the unobligated balances available within the 
     ``DOD-VA Health Care Sharing Incentive Fund'', $15,000,000 
     are hereby rescinded.
       Sec. 239.  The Secretary of Veterans Affairs may not 
     reprogram funds among major construction projects or programs 
     if such instance of reprogramming will exceed $5,000,000, 
     unless such reprogramming is approved by the Committees on 
     Appropriations of both Houses of Congress.

                         (rescissions of funds)

       Sec. 240.  Of the discretionary funds made available in 
     Public Law 113-235 for the Department of Veterans Affairs for 
     fiscal year 2016, $197,923,000 are rescinded from ``Medical 
     Services'', $42,272,000 are rescinded from ``Medical Support 
     and Compliance'', and $15,353,000 are rescinded from 
     ``Medical Facilities''.
       Sec. 241.  The amounts otherwise made available by this Act 
     for the following accounts of the Department of Veterans 
     Affairs are hereby reduced by the following amounts:
       (1) ``Veterans Benefits Administration--Veterans Housing 
     Benefit Program Fund'', $3,098,000.
       (2) ``Veterans Benefits Administration--Vocational 
     Rehabilitation Loans Program Account'', $10,000.
       (3) ``Veterans Benefits Administration--Native American 
     Veteran Housing Loan Program Account'', $25,000.
       (4) ``Veterans Health Administration--Medical and 
     Prosthetic Research'', $3,109,000.
       (5) ``National Cemetery Administration'', $1,654,000.
       (6) ``Departmental Administration--General 
     Administration'', $3,877,000.
       (7) ``Departmental Administration--Board of Veterans 
     Appeals'', $786,000.
       (8) ``Departmental Administration--General Operating 
     Expenses, Veterans Benefits Administration'', $36,568,000.
       (9) ``Departmental Administration--Information Technology 
     Systems'', $7,958,000.
       (10) ``Departmental Administration--Office of Inspector 
     General'', $993,000.


                   Amendment Offered by Mr. Benishek

  Mr. BENISHEK. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       Page 58, after line 25, insert the following:
       Sec. 242.  Not later than 90 days after the date of 
     enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs 
     shall submit to Congress a report that describes the status, 
     including the timeline for completion, of each Community-
     Based Outpatient Clinic to be established by the Department 
     of Veterans Affairs, through construction or lease, that is 
     not yet completed.

  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chair, I reserve a point of order on the gentleman's 
amendment.

[[Page H2600]]

  The Acting CHAIR. A point of order is reserved.
  Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman from Michigan and a 
Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Michigan.
  Mr. BENISHEK. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of my amendment to have 
the Secretary of the VA report to Congress on the status of VA clinics 
currently in the leasing or construction process.
  Our rural veterans deserve access to quality care without having to 
drive hundreds of miles. In many areas, like in northern Michigan, VA 
clinics can serve an important role in providing care to veterans in 
their communities. However, no one is served when the VA takes many 
years to approve and complete these projects.
  In Traverse City, Michigan, an expansion for the VA clinic was 
approved and funded by Congress in 2013. After I sent letters to the 
Secretary asking for an explanation, the program was finally approved 
by the VA in August of 2014. To this day, the VA has yet to make 
measurable progress on this facility, and they have told me that it 
could be as many as 6 more years before this facility is completed.
  Our veterans deserve to know how many facilities are facing similar 
delays. As we work to enforce some accountability at the VA, we can't 
ignore our rural veterans that rely on VA clinics. The VA must be held 
accountable for these delays, and I want to know who in the agency is 
responsible.
  My goal is for all veterans to have a choice in where they receive 
care. We have taken an important step towards that with the Choice Act, 
and I look forward to continuing to work to expand that program. 
However, it is critical that we do not allow the VA to hold veterans 
and taxpayers in limbo as critical, funded projects sit unfinished.
  The money we provided in this bill is not for plush executive 
salaries and full retirement benefits for those that manipulate data. 
It is for our veterans. The VA must return to its focus, to its central 
mission and remove bureaucratic hurdles that keep veterans from the 
care they have earned.
  I yield back the balance of my time.


                             Point of Order

  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I make a point of order against the amendment 
because it proposes to change existing law and constitutes legislation 
in an appropriation bill and, therefore, violates clause 2 of rule XXI.
  The rule states in pertinent part:
  ``An amendment to a general appropriation bill shall not be in order 
if changing existing law.''
  The amendment gives affirmative direction in effect.
  I ask for a ruling from the Chair.
  The Acting CHAIR. Does any other Member wish to be heard on the point 
of order?
  If not, the Chair is prepared to rule.
  The Chair finds that this amendment imposes new duties on the 
Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
  The amendment, therefore, constitutes legislation in violation of 
clause 2 of rule XXI.
  The point of order is sustained, and the amendment is not in order.
  The Acting CHAIR. 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, 
     $75,100,000, 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 7299 of title 38, United States Code, 
     $32,141,000: Provided, That $2,500,000 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, Army

                         salaries and expenses

       For necessary expenses for maintenance, operation, and 
     improvement of Arlington National Cemetery and Soldiers' and 
     Airmen's Home National Cemetery, including the purchase or 
     lease of passenger motor vehicles for replacement on a one-
     for-one basis only, and not to exceed $1,000 for official 
     reception and representation expenses, $70,800,000, of which 
     not to exceed $5,000,000 shall remain available until 
     September 30, 2017. 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.

                      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, 
     $64,300,000, of which $1,000,000 shall remain available until 
     expended for construction and renovation of the physical 
     plants at the Armed Forces Retirement Home--Washington, 
     District of Columbia, and the Armed Forces Retirement Home--
     Gulfport, Mississippi.

                       Administrative Provisions

       Sec. 301.  Funds appropriated in this Act under the heading 
     ``Department of Defense--Civil, Cemeterial Expenses, Army'', 
     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.
       Sec. 302.  Amounts deposited during the current fiscal year 
     into the special account established under 10 U.S.C. 4727 are 
     appropriated and shall be available until expended to support 
     activities at the Army National Military Cemeteries.

                                TITLE IV

                    OVERSEAS CONTINGENCY OPERATIONS

                         DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

              Military Construction, Navy and Marine Corps

       For an additional amount for ``Military Construction, Navy 
     and Marine Corps'', $244,004,000 to remain available until 
     September 30, 2020, for projects outside of the United 
     States: Provided, That such amount is designated by the 
     Congress for Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on 
     Terrorism pursuant to section 251(b)(2)(A)(ii) of the 
     Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.

                              {time}  1715


                   Amendment Offered by Mr. Mulvaney

  Mr. MULVANEY. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       Strike title IV.

  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chair, I reserve a point of order on the gentleman's 
amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. A point of order is reserved.
  Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman from South Carolina 
and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from South Carolina.
  Mr. MULVANEY. Mr. Chairman, I want to read something at the beginning 
of this:
  ``Abuse of the overseas contingency operation global war on terror 
cap adjustment is a backdoor loophole that undermines the integrity of 
the budget process.''
  It goes on to say that the Budget Committee will oppose increases 
above the levels the administration and our military commanders say are 
needed to carry out operations unless it can be clearly demonstrated 
that such amounts are war related.
  That is from last year's House-passed budget report. Last year, this 
body took a position that we were not going to use the OCO budget, the 
global war on terror budget, in order to get around the BCA caps.
  The appropriations bill, as currently offered, does exactly that. It 
spends about $532 million in the OCO budget for matters that the 
Department of Defense admits are not war related. These

[[Page H2601]]

are matters that the Department of Defense included in its original 
base defense budget request, but for which there wasn't enough money 
under the BCA caps.
  So what the appropriators have done is taken those requests which are 
admittedly not war related and buried it in this appropriations bill, 
using the OCO money in order to violate the caps.
  By the way, the money goes to overseas bases, bases in Italy, Poland, 
Bahrain, Niger, Djibouti, and Oman, admitted by the Defense Department 
not to be war related, yet is in the war budget today.
  All I ask, Mr. Chairman, is this: If we agree as a body that we 
cannot live within the BCA caps and we agree that the defense of the 
Nation takes more money than is permitted under the BCA caps, then 
let's break the caps. But let's do it honestly, let's do it openly, and 
let's tell the people here why we have to do it and where the money is 
going.
  The OCO budget has been described by members of both the Democrat 
Party and the Republican Party alike as a slush fund, as a bad way to 
do business. The Defense Department doesn't even like using this type 
of money because it does not allow them to budget properly. It is a 
desperate act, and it is a dishonest act when it comes to following the 
law.
  The Budget Control Act is the law of the land. It passed in the 
House, it passed in the Senate, and it was signed by the President. And 
this appropriations bill seeks to break the law and seeks to do it in 
such a way that isn't even honest about how it is going forward.
  So with that, Mr. Chairman, I respectfully request that folks would 
support the Mulvaney-Van Hollen amendment and strike the OCO-GWOT money 
from this particular appropriations bill.
  With that, Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.


                             point of order

  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I make a point of order against the amendment 
because it proposes to amend portions of the bill not yet read.
  Section 17 of chapter 2 of the House Practice book states in part:
  ``It is not in order to strike or otherwise amend portions of a bill 
not yet read for amendment.''
  I ask for a ruling from the Chair.
  The Acting CHAIR. Does any other Member wish to be heard on the point 
of order?
  Mr. MULVANEY. Mr. Chairman, my understanding is that this amendment 
seeks to strike title IV on page 62, which is exactly where we are when 
I was called to the podium.
  The Acting CHAIR. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
  Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Chair, I wish to be heard.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Maryland is recognized.
  Mr. VAN HOLLEN. My understanding of this is it strikes the provision 
and, therefore, meets the requirements. After all, this is the first 
bill we are debating since the budget was passed. The budget opens the 
door wide to this accounting scam that Republicans on the Budget 
Committee just last year said was a gross runaround of the budget 
rules.
  I want to read, Mr. Chairman, from the report from the Budget 
Committee last year that said that abuse of the OCO cap adjustment is a 
backdoor loophole that undermines the integrity of the budget process.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman must confine his remarks to the point 
of order.
  Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Well, Mr. Chairman, I want to point out that the 
Budget Committee itself has indicated that this violates the budget 
process.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Maryland must confine his 
remarks to the point of order.
  Mr. VAN HOLLEN. So it is hard to understand how this could be a 
violation of the point of order if the Budget Committee says that what 
we are doing violates the budget process or undermines the budget 
process.
  The Acting CHAIR. Does any other Member wish to be heard on the point 
of order?


                         Parliamentary Inquiry

  Mr. MULVANEY. Mr. Chairman, I have a parliamentary inquiry as to the 
point of order.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman may state his parliamentary inquiry.
  Mr. MULVANEY. Is the point of order that we have not yet reached the 
appropriate time for making this particular amendment?
  The Acting CHAIR. The point of order has been stated. The Chair has 
not yet ruled.
  Mr. MULVANEY. Would the gentleman from Pennsylvania restate the 
point?
  Mr. DENT. The point of order is that we are not at the appropriate 
point in the bill for this amendment to be considered.
  Mr. MULVANEY. Mr. Chairman, my understanding is that we are on page 
62. That is the page I think on which title IV is printed. My amendment 
does nothing more than strikes all of title IV. So it seems like this 
is wholly the appropriate time to deal with that particular amendment 
and, in fact, may be out of order if I don't offer it right now.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Chair is prepared to rule.
  The amendment strikes title IV. Only the first paragraph of title IV 
is pending.
  It is not in order to amend portions of the bill not yet read for 
amendment.
  The point of order is sustained.


                        Parliamentary Inquiries

  Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Chairman, parliamentary inquiry, just so I 
understand the ruling.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Maryland may state his 
parliamentary inquiry.
  Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Chairman, as I understood the ruling, because the 
amendment strikes all of this section, as opposed to the portion of the 
section we are currently on, it is being ruled out of order. Is that 
correct?
  The Acting CHAIR. Only one paragraph is currently pending, and the 
amendment sought to strike the entire title.
  Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Parliamentary inquiry: Is there going to be a point 
in time when that entire section is pending?
  The Acting CHAIR. Only the first paragraph of title IV is pending.
  Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Chairman, I understand that the meaning of ``is'' 
is ``is.'' I understand that we are on the first paragraph.
  Parliamentary inquiry: Is there going to be a point in time when the 
entire section is pending, such that this amendment would then be 
considered in order since the amendment is to strike the entire 
section?
  The Acting CHAIR. The bill is being read paragraph by paragraph.
  Mr. MULVANEY. Parliamentary inquiry, Mr. Chairman.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman may state his parliamentary inquiry.
  Mr. MULVANEY. Is the ruling without prejudice as to my ability to 
offer the amendment at a later time?
  The Acting CHAIR. The paragraph that has been read is open for 
amendment at this time.
  Mr. MULVANEY. I respect that, Mr. Chairman. I don't believe that 
responds to my parliamentary inquiry.
  Is the Chair's ruling with or without prejudice as to my ability to 
bring the same amendment at a later time?
  The Acting CHAIR. The Chair cannot give an advisory opinion on a 
future amendment.
  Mr. MULVANEY. I respect that, Mr. Chairman. I am not asking the Chair 
for an advisory opinion. I am asking the Chair to clarify the ruling 
the Chair has already made. Is it with or without prejudice?
  The Acting CHAIR. The Chair has ruled and is ready for other 
business.
  Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the pending paragraph.
  The Acting CHAIR. Does the gentleman seek to offer an amendment?
  Mr. VAN HOLLEN. I ask unanimous consent to offer an amendment at this 
point in time to strike the pending paragraph.
  Mr. DENT. I object.
  The Acting CHAIR. If the gentleman would send his amendment to the 
desk.


                         Parliamentary Inquiry

  Mr. MULVANEY. Parliamentary inquiry, Mr. Chairman.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman may state his parliamentary inquiry.
  Mr. MULVANEY. Again, I am new at this. I understand that we are sort 
of working our way through this.
  Here is my question: If this was the inappropriate time for me to 
bring this amendment, why was I summoned to the podium?

[[Page H2602]]

  The Acting CHAIR. The Chair was inquiring as to the purpose the 
gentleman was seeking recognition.
  Mr. MULVANEY. Further parliamentary inquiry, Mr. Chairman.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman may state his parliamentary inquiry.
  Mr. MULVANEY. My amendment was read.


                  Amendment Offered by Mr. Van Hollen

  Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       Strike the pending paragraph.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from Maryland and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Maryland.
  Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to offer this amendment 
with my colleague, Mr. Mulvaney. And now that we have gotten beyond the 
sort of procedural objections, let's go to the substance of this.
  This is the first appropriations bill that we have on the floor that 
raises the question about the budgets that were passed in both the 
House and the Senate. As I think our colleagues know well by this 
point, both those budgets engage in an incredible accounting scam with 
respect to how we fund the Department of Defense and how we fund our 
military operations.
  For years, we have distinguished between the moneys that we spend on 
our ongoing defense programs, called the base budget, and the moneys 
set aside in the war account, the so-called overseas contingency 
account funds.
  What has happened here is that the President, on the advice of the 
Joint Chiefs of Staff and our military leadership, has requested the 
amount that is necessary to address our overseas contingency 
operations. But instead of abiding by that request and what was 
necessary, the Republican budget does this end-run and ends up using 
our overseas contingency account as a slush fund for funds that have 
been in the base defense budget.
  As I was indicating earlier, Mr. Chairman, this accounting scam, the 
sleight of hand, was something that the Republican Budget Committee 
just last year strongly objected to and indicated that it violated the 
budget process.
  I am going to read another portion of the Republican Budget Committee 
report from last year on this issue where it says the Budget Committee 
will exercise its oversight responsibilities with respect to the use of 
the OCO, the overseas contingency account, designation in the budget 
process, and it will oppose increases above the level the 
administration and our military commanders say are necessary to carry 
out operations. And then it goes on, because those are not war related.
  So what this House is doing now is engaging in this incredible 
sleight of hand, and it is only one big problem in the budget before 
us, along with many other problems.
  But on this point, I would like to now yield to the gentleman from 
South Carolina (Mr. Mulvaney) if he would like to say a word on this 
amendment.
  Mr. MULVANEY. I thank the gentleman.
  Mr. Chair, I will repeat what I said earlier on the amendment that 
was ruled out of order. The BCA is the law. We agreed that it is. I 
didn't vote for it. By the way, I didn't like it very much and was one 
of the few of my party who did not vote for it. But it is the law 
passed in the House, passed by the Senate, and signed by the President.
  We can change it. We absolutely can change it if we want to. And if 
that is the will of this body, then let's do it. But let's do it by 
changing the Budget Control Act. Let's not go around the BCA. Let's not 
use a back door. Let's not use a slush fund, something that is off-
budget.
  I hope my friends in the private sector understand the severity of it 
at this point. We have spending here that is off-budget that doesn't 
count towards the budget. And if we can use it for this, what else can 
we use it for? We are using it now for bases in Poland, Bahrain, Niger, 
Djibouti, and Oman, specifically not war related; yet it is in the war 
budget.
  If we can use it for this, what is to stop us from using it for 
anything? If the law is going to have any meaning, let's respect it. 
And if we want to change it, let's change it. But let's be forthright 
about it.
  Bring a bill to the floor to change the Budget Control Act and make 
the arguments for why we should do that. Let's not be disingenuous. 
Let's not be deceptive. Let's not be mischievous with the budget.
  If we really think it is necessary for the defense of this Nation to 
spend $532 million on base improvements in these overseas countries, 
then have folks come to the floor and tell us why. Let's not slip a 
line into the MILCON-VA budget and just say, Well, everybody always 
votes for VA anyway. Who can vote against the vets? Who can vote 
against MILCON? Let's put it in there. Nobody will notice it.
  That is how we get $18 trillion in debt.
  Mr. Chairman, I support the amendment. In fact, I ask unanimous 
consent to be added as a cosponsor of Mr. Van Hollen's amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. The amendment may not have cosponsors.
  Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent, since the 
original amendment was offered by Mr. Mulvaney, to make this the 
Mulvaney amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. The amendment may not have a cosponsor.
  Mr. VAN HOLLEN. I am asking unanimous consent to make the main 
sponsor Mr. Mulvaney.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman's request cannot be entertained.
  Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Chairman, I am asking unanimous consent.
  The Acting CHAIR. Is the gentleman seeking to withdraw the amendment?
  Mr. VAN HOLLEN. I am willing to withdraw the amendment but only on 
the understanding--parliamentary inquiry--if I withdraw it and 
substitute the same amendment in the name of Mr. Mulvaney, can I do 
that?
  The Acting CHAIR. Any Member may offer an amendment.
  Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Speaker, let's just keep it. This will be known 
as the Van Hollen-Mulvaney amendment.
  I thank the Chair.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman's time has expired.

                              {time}  1730

  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the Van Hollen-
Mulvaney amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Pennsylvania is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I just want to say that there has been 
precedent to use OCO money on similar projects for similar purposes in 
previous years. Specifically, the Bahrain portion that is going to the 
U.S. Navy, there is a pier replacement, ship maintenance support 
facility. We used OCO funds in fiscal years '11, '12, and '13 for 
similar purposes then.
  I should also note, too, that if we were to strike the OCO funding 
from this bill, the missile defense in Poland, the Aegis missile 
defense complex, would also be affected. Again, we had used OCO money 
for similar purposes in fiscal year '15.
  I would argue that there is precedent for using OCO funds for the 
purposes contained in this bill. It is appropriate. I do not agree with 
the characterization that it is a scam, but it is used as precedent.
  I would urge rejection of this amendment, and I yield back the 
balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Van Hollen).
  The question was taken; and the Acting Chair announced that the noes 
appeared to have it.
  Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.
  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to clause 6 of rule XVIII, further 
proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Maryland 
will be postponed.
  Mr. MULVANEY. I have an amendment at the desk to strike the second 
paragraph of title IV.
  The Acting CHAIR. The reading will first progress to that next 
paragraph.
  The Clerk will read the next paragraph.
  The Clerk read as follows:

                    Military Construction, Air Force

       For an additional amount for ``Military Construction, Air 
     Force'' $75,000,000 to remain available until September 30, 
     2020, for

[[Page H2603]]

     projects outside of the United States: Provided, That such 
     amount is designated by the Congress for Overseas Contingency 
     Operations/Global War on Terrorism pursuant to section 
     215(b)(2)(A)(ii) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit 
     Control Act of 1985.


                   amendment offered by mr. mulvaney

  Mr. MULVANEY. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk. I am 
moving to strike the second paragraph of title IV.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       Strike pg. 62, line 15-22.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from South Carolina and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from South Carolina.
  Mr. MULVANEY. Mr. Chairman, unless Mr. Van Hollen has anything to 
add, I believe the same arguments that we just made on his previous 
amendment stand for this one, and I reserve the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. Does any Member seek time in opposition?
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment, and I 
reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. MULVANEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield to the gentleman from Maryland 
(Mr. Van Hollen).
  Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Chairman, I would just observe, in response to 
the distinguished gentleman from Pennsylvania on the Appropriations 
Committee, that our military leadership has said that the funds that 
are requested for this purpose under OCO are not OCO funds, that they 
are not war-related funds. That is coming from the Department of 
Defense. That is coming from the folks who put together the budgets for 
the Department of Defense.
  So to just claim that somehow these expenditures, which have been 
described by Mr. Mulvaney, are now somehow part of the war effort as 
opposed to the ongoing defense budget is to say to the military 
leadership that they don't understand how their budgets work. I think 
they do understand how their budgets work. We are trying to make sure 
that we protect the integrity of the process so that people can't be 
using the war account as a slush fund, which is exactly what this 
measure does.
  Mr. MULVANEY. Mr. Chair, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I oppose this amendment. This amendment 
essentially would strike the OCO funds that would be provided to the 
Air Force, specifically in Oman for the airlift apron. I want to point 
out that the President of the United States requested funding for this 
same project under OCO in fiscal year 2011 for the airlift ramp. I am 
looking at the map actually of the work. It is on the same site.
  What I am saying is OCO has been used for this at the request of the 
President in fiscal year '11. We are talking about using it on the same 
site for the same purpose. So, again, I would argue that the airlift 
apron in Oman is part of a facility that is very much part of our 
counterterrorism operations in that part of the world.
  So again, I would urge rejection of this amendment.
  I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. MULVANEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. Mulvaney).
  The question was taken; and the Acting Chair announced that the noes 
appeared to have it.
  Mr. MULVANEY. Mr. Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.
  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to clause 6 of rule XVIII, further 
proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentleman from South 
Carolina will be postponed.
  The Clerk will read.
  The Clerk read as follows:

                  Military Construction, Defense-Wide

       For an additional amount for ``Military Construction, 
     Defense-Wide'', $212,996,000 to remain available until 
     September 30, 2020, for projects outside of the United 
     States: Provided, That such amount is designated by the 
     Congress for Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on 
     Terrorism pursuant to section 251(b)(2)(A)(ii) of the 
     Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.


                   Amendment Offered by Mr. Mulvaney

  Mr. MULVANEY. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       Strike p. 62 line 23 thru page 63 line 6.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from South Carolina and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from South Carolina.
  Mr. MULVANEY. Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Pennsylvania is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, as I understand this amendment, this would 
essentially eliminate OCO funding for our operation in Djibouti where 
we have infrastructure for fuel storage and distribution facilities.
  Again, OCO funds were used for similar purposes in Djibouti in fiscal 
years '12 and '13 through OCO, I believe at the request of the 
President at the time. Again, Djibouti is a key facility for us 
strategically and one that is being used in our fight in the global war 
on terror. It is obviously very close to Somalia, a hotbed of Islamist 
extremism, as well as close to Yemen, where there is so much hostile 
action.
  So, again, I would urge we reject this amendment because it will 
negatively impact our ability to conduct the global war on terror at a 
facility right in that part of the world. And again, where precedent 
has been set, like in these other situations, precedent has been set 
for using OCO funds. We are doing it again this year, and I think it is 
appropriate.
  I urge rejection of the amendment, and I reserve the balance of my 
time.
  Mr. MULVANEY. Mr. Chairman, I would like to read a portion of the 
language we are seeking to strike. It says: ``For an additional amount 
for `Military Construction Defense-Wide', $212,996,000 to remain 
available until September 30, 2020.''
  So not only are we looking to spend the money today, we are looking 
to have the right to spend this money whenever we want over the next 5 
years. I don't know of any other part of the budget where we do that.
  If this is not a slush fund, Mr. Chairman, I don't know what it is. 
It was set up by a previous administration--an administration, by the 
way, of my party--and has been decried by Members of my party as being 
a slush fund. In fact, I think John McCain called it a slush fund, for 
goodness' sake. I believe Senator Corker called it the same thing. This 
is one of the reasons. We have no idea why we are spending this money. 
It is available until 2020.
  This is a great opportunity, Mr. Chairman, to say no. The money in 
the overseas contingency operation is there to support the troops who 
are overseas fighting a war. It is there to fight the global war on 
terror. It is not there for a slush fund for whatever bases we happen 
to think are convenient at the time and for which we can't find enough 
money under the base budget for that.
  I hope we support not only Mr. Van Hollen's first amendment, but my 
two subsequent amendments.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I would just like to respond to my friend 
from South Carolina. I do understand how construction is done.
  I do want to point out that many of these projects are not all funded 
in one single fiscal year, but over a period of years, both 
domestically and internationally, as is the case here.
  So, again, I would rise in opposition to the amendment and urge its 
rejection.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. Mulvaney).
  The question was taken; and the Acting Chair announced that the noes 
appeared to have it.
  Mr. MULVANEY. Mr. Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.
  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to clause 6 of rule XVIII, further 
proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentleman from South 
Carolina will be postponed.

[[Page H2604]]

  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will read.
  The Clerk read the following:

                                TITLE V

                           GENERAL PROVISIONS

       Sec. 501.  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. 502.  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. 503.  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. 504.  Unless stated otherwise, all reports and 
     notifications required by this Act shall be submitted to the 
     Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, 
     and Related Agencies of the Committee on Appropriations of 
     the House of Representatives and the Subcommittee on Military 
     Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies of 
     the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate.
       Sec. 505.  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. 506.  None of the funds made available in this Act may 
     be used for a project or program named for an individual 
     serving as a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner of 
     the United States House of Representatives.
       Sec. 507. (a) Any agency receiving funds made available in 
     this Act, shall, subject to subsections (b) and (c), post on 
     the public Web site of that agency any report required to be 
     submitted by the Congress in this or any other Act, upon the 
     determination by the head of the agency that it shall serve 
     the national interest.
       (b) Subsection (a) shall not apply to a report if--
       (1) the public posting of the report compromises national 
     security; or
       (2) the report contains confidential or proprietary 
     information.
       (c) The head of the agency posting such report shall do so 
     only after such report has been made available to the 
     requesting Committee or Committees of Congress for no less 
     than 45 days.
       Sec. 508. (a) None of the funds made available in this Act 
     may be used to maintain or establish a computer network 
     unless such network blocks the viewing, downloading, and 
     exchanging of pornography.
       (b) Nothing in subsection (a) shall limit the use of funds 
     necessary for any Federal, State, tribal, or local law 
     enforcement agency or any other entity carrying out criminal 
     investigations, prosecution, or adjudication activities.
       Sec. 509.  None of the funds made available in this Act may 
     be used by an agency of the executive branch to pay for 
     first-class travel by an employee of the agency in 
     contravention of sections 301-10.122 through 301-10.124 of 
     title 41, Code of Federal Regulations.
       Sec. 510.  None of the funds made available in this Act may 
     be used to execute a contract for goods or services, 
     including construction services, where the contractor has not 
     complied with Executive Order No. 12989.
       Sec. 511.  None of the funds made available by this Act may 
     be used by the Department of Defense or the Department of 
     Veterans Affairs to lease or purchase new light duty vehicles 
     for any executive fleet, or for an agency's fleet inventory, 
     except in accordance with Presidential Memorandum--Federal 
     Fleet Performance, dated May 24, 2011.
       Sec. 512. (a) In General.--None of the funds appropriated 
     or otherwise made available to the Department of Defense in 
     this Act may be used to construct, renovate, or expand any 
     facility in the United States, its territories, or 
     possessions to house any individual detained at United States 
     Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the purposes of 
     detention or imprisonment in the custody or under the control 
     of the Department of Defense.
       (b) The prohibition in subsection (a) shall not apply to 
     any modification of facilities at United States Naval 
     Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
       (c) An individual described in this subsection is any 
     individual who, as of June 24, 2009, is located at United 
     States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and who--
       (1) is not a citizen of the United States or a member of 
     the Armed Forces of the United States; and
       (2) is--
       (A) in the custody or under the effective control of the 
     Department of Defense; or
       (B) otherwise under detention at United States Naval 
     Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.


                    amendment offered by mr. nadler

  Mr. NADLER. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       Strike section 512.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from New York and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from New York.
  Mr. NADLER. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  Mr. Chairman, this amendment would strike section 512 of the bill, 
which prohibits the use of funds to construct or expand any facility in 
the United States to house any individual detained at the detention 
facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

                              {time}  1745

  Simply put, this section is designed to prevent the closure of 
Guantanamo.
  Mr. Chairman, we are still holding 122 people at Guantanamo, 57 of 
whom have been cleared for release. These people have been found guilty 
of nothing, are believed to be guilty of nothing, and have been judged 
not to pose any danger. Nonetheless, they are not released. By what 
claim of right do we continue to imprison them?
  As for the detainees who have not been cleared for release, this bill 
is designed to ensure that we will continue to hold them at Guantanamo 
indefinitely. We don't know whether these people are enemy soldiers or 
not or are guilty of anything or not. Some of them may be, and some of 
them probably are not. Those facts must be determined in a fair 
proceeding of some sort, but, at Guantanamo, there are no proceedings. 
The military tribunal process at Guantanamo has been at a complete 
standstill for years, and we cannot hold civilian trials at Guantanamo, 
so we are holding people for no purpose with no proceedings, no 
hearings, no opportunity to determine their guilt or innocence, and we 
are holding them, essentially, forever.
  I recall a briefing last year at which Representative and now-Senator 
Cotton said that these people had been determined to be guilty by 
Congress. Aside from the fact that Congress has not determined anybody 
to be guilty and aside from the fact, if Congress tried to determine 
someone to be guilty of a crime or of anything, that it would be a 
violation of the bill of attainder section of the Congress, it is 
simply not true. These people have been determined to be guilty of 
nothing, and they deserve, like anybody else, to have a day in court. 
How long will we let this shameful episode in American history 
continue?
  To overcome this challenge to one of the founding principles of the 
United States, which is that no person may be deprived of liberty 
without due process of law and, certainly, may not be deprived of 
liberty indefinitely without due process of law, we must close the 
detention facility at Guantanamo now so that they can be properly 
charged and tried in a Federal court. This will afford the detainees no 
additional constitutional rights. The Supreme Court has already ruled 
that detainees at Guantanamo have the same constitutional rights as 
they would if they were to be brought to the United States.
  The government should transfer to Federal court any detainee against 
whom it has evidence. The Federal courts, in contrast to the military 
tribunals, have an excellent record in prosecuting and convicting 
terrorists. Anyone not charged should either be classified as a 
``prisoner of war'' and treated as such or should be released back to 
his home country or elsewhere if that prevents a problem to his life or 
safety. This is not a radical suggestion. It has been our tradition for 
the entire history of our country and has been our unbroken legal 
practice until now.
  The President can and should without delay authorize the Secretary of 
Defense to use existing certification and waiver procedures to 
repatriate and resettle abroad all prisoners who have been cleared for 
release, and he should arrange trial in the United States for all 
prisoners who are not cleared for release.
  We must close this facility. We must try and convict and sentence the 
people who are guilty of acts of terrorism or aggression against the 
United States or, in accord with our moral and constitutional 
principles, release those who are not guilty of offenses against the 
United States. Only so can we restore our national honor. This 
amendment is necessary to start this process

[[Page H2605]]

because without our bringing some of these prisoners to the United 
States for trial, we cannot try them. I urge all of my colleagues to 
support this amendment.
  I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Pennsylvania is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, section 512 has been included in the MILCON-
VA bill for several years, and it is part of the overall policy 
discussion involving Guantanamo Bay. Identical language is also carried 
in the 2015 appropriations bill. Again, I respectfully request that the 
we reject this amendment.
  I would also add that, at Guantanamo Bay, we have about 120 prisoners 
there. Among those who are at that facility are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, 
the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. I believe he is the man who also 
confessed that he decapitated Dan Pearl, the Wall Street Journal 
reporter. He was gruesomely executed by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He is a 
high-value detainee, and there are other high-value detainees there. 
Many of the prisoners down in Guantanamo are Yemeni, but we certainly 
can't send them back to Yemen. It is also clear to me that many of 
these prisoners are very difficult to try and too dangerous to release, 
so I urge opposition to this amendment.
  I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. NADLER. Mr. Chairman, I note in his opposing this amendment that 
the gentleman simply said it is part of a larger policy discussion 
about Guantanamo. He is correct. He said that there is identical 
language in other bills. He is correct. He said that we should remove 
that language from the other bills, and he points out that Khalid 
Sheikh Mohammed and other high-value prisoners are at Guantanamo. He is 
correct.
  We are to bring them to the United States. We are to try them and 
convict them and either sentence them to death or to life in prison 
without parole or whatever. That is our tradition. We don't simply 
declare someone is a bad guy and hold him forever without a trial. Our 
Federal courts in the United States have an excellent record of trying 
and convicting people accused of terrorism. In the military tribunals 
at Guantanamo, they can't even run a trial. It has come to a complete 
standstill.
  It is really missing the point to say that there are some very bad 
people at Guantanamo. Yes, there are. There are also some perfectly 
innocent people at Guantanamo. Those people ought to be released. The 
people who we think are guilty of something should be charged and 
tried. To simply say that someone is not going to be charged and tried 
but be held for life imprisonment without a trial is not what this 
country is about.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the 
amendment.
  I believe we need to set the conditions for the closure of the 
detention facility at Guantanamo. It is in the United States national 
security interests to do so. Guantanamo has become a rallying cry. It 
serves as a recruitment tool for terrorists, and it increases the will 
of our enemies to fight while decreasing the will of others to work 
with America.
  Part of the rationale for establishing Guantanamo in the first place 
was the misplaced idea that the facility would be beyond the law--a 
proposition rejected by the United States Supreme Court. As a result, 
the continued operation of this facility creates the impression in the 
eyes of our allies and our enemies alike that the United States 
selectively observes the rule of law.

  There is no reason that we should impose upon ourselves the legal and 
moral problems arising from the prospect of indefinite detentions at 
Guantanamo. Working through civil courts since 9/11, hundreds of 
individuals have been convicted of terrorism or of terrorism-related 
offenses and are now serving long sentences in Federal prison. Not one 
has ever escaped custody.
  For these reasons, I believe that the time is past due to take the 
actions needed to initiate the closure of the detention facility at 
Guantanamo.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I would also like to remind the Members that 
Bowe Bergdahl was exchanged for five detainees at GTMO who have been 
sent elsewhere outside the United States and outside of Guantanamo. It 
is hard to keep eyes on these folks who have been released in exchange 
for Bowe Bergdahl, who has actually been charged with desertion.
  I also want to remind Members that, a few years ago, former Mayor 
Bloomberg of New York City agreed to allow certain detainees to be 
brought back to New York City for trial. Then, apparently, the mayor 
must have spoken to his police commissioner, who thought that that was 
a really bad idea because it would have choked off much of southern 
Manhattan, and it would have been extraordinarily expensive. It would 
have been a mistake.
  Again, I urge that we reject this amendment and maintain the facility 
at Guantanamo Bay.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from New York (Mr. Nadler).
  The question was taken; and the Acting Chair announced that the noes 
appeared to have it.
  Mr. NADLER. Mr. Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.
  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to clause 6 of rule XVIII, further 
proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentleman from New York 
will be postponed.
  The Clerk will read.
  The Clerk read as follows:


                       spending reduction account

       Sec. 513.  The amount by which the applicable allocation of 
     new budget authority made by the Committee on Appropriations 
     of the House of Representatives under section 302(b) of the 
     Congressional Budget Act of 1974 exceeds the amount of 
     proposed new budget authority is $0.


                   Amendment Offered by Mr. Boustany

  Mr. BOUSTANY. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the 
     following:
       Sec. __. (1) None of the funds made available by this Act 
     may be used to pay any bonus or monetary award under chapter 
     45 or 53 of title 5, United States Code, to an employee of 
     the Chief Business Office of the Department of Veterans 
     Affairs who is responsible for processing emergency medical 
     care claims until the percentage of emergency medical care 
     claims processed within 30 days reaches 90 percent.
       (2) The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall submit 
     quarterly data to Congress on the following:
       (A) The total number of emergency medical claims and the 
     total number of billed charges for such claims.
       (B) The total number of emergency medical claims and billed 
     charges for such claims pending for more than 30 days.
       (C) The number of veterans with unpaid claims under 
     consideration in each Veterans Integrated Service Network.
       (D) The percent of clean claims processed within 30 days.

  Mr. DENT (during the reading). Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent 
to dispense with the reading of the amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman 
from Pennsylvania?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I reserve a point of order on the gentleman's 
amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. A point of order is reserved.
  Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman from Louisiana and a 
Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Louisiana.
  Mr. BOUSTANY. Mr. Chairman, our veterans deserve better than long, 
drawn-out claims processes that inhibit access to high-quality care. 
This is just unacceptable.
  Since the passage of last year's landmark VA reform legislation, the 
VA has demonstrated disturbingly little progress on addressing the 
emergency medical care claims processing backlog that is hurting our 
veterans.
  I requested data earlier this year on the VA's progress in fiscal 
year 2015. I was shocked to find that, as of late March of this year, 
only 14 percent of the claims originating from VISN 16, including my 
home State of Louisiana, have been processed within 30 days.

[[Page H2606]]

That is abysmal. No employee at any business in Louisiana or anywhere 
around this country would be given a bonus with such a poor success 
rate.
  Mr. Chairman, it is high time the VA starts demanding a higher 
standard from its employees. My amendment is fairly simple. It prevents 
this agency from granting bonuses to its emergency medical care claims 
processing staff until the percentage of emergency medical care claims 
processed within 30 days reaches 90 percent.
  This is just unacceptable behavior. Time and time again, we have 
asked the VA and have worked and legislated to get them to clean up 
their act. Our veterans are suffering, and this is no way to treat 
them. That is why I have offered this amendment.
  Mr. Chairman, I understand the gentleman has a point of order raised 
against the amendment because it violates the House rules of 
legislating on an appropriations bill. I just feel compelled to speak 
out because of the plight of our veterans, who are at the mercy of an 
incompetent agency, and it has got to change.
  I hope that all Members of this House on both sides of the aisle will 
work so that we clean up this mess and treat our veterans the way they 
should be treated because they have gone out and fought for us.
  Mr. Chairman, with respect to my friend, the chairman of the 
subcommittee, I ask unanimous consent to withdraw my amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman 
from Louisiana?
  There was no objection.


                  Amendment Offered by Ms. Jackson Lee

  Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the 
     following:
       Sec. __.  The amounts otherwise provided by this Act are 
     revised by reducing the amount made available for 
     ``Department of Veterans Affairs--Departmental 
     Administration--Information Technology Services'' (and the 
     amount specified under such heading for operations and 
     maintenance), and by increasing the amount made available for 
     ``Veterans Health Administration--Medical Services'', by 
     $2,000,000.

  Ms. JACKSON LEE (during the reading). Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous 
consent that the amendment be considered as read.
  The Acting CHAIR. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentlewoman from Texas?
  There was no objection.
  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentlewoman 
from Texas and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from Texas.
  Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, my first task is to thank the ranking 
member, Mr. Bishop, and the chairman of the subcommittee, Mr. Dent, 
both of whom I have worked with, and I consider them champions of 
veterans and champions of the legislation that we have before us in 
terms of the needs that are there.

                              {time}  1800

  However, there are many needs that should be addressed, Mr. Chairman. 
I hold in my hand a list of veterans who have fallen upon hard times, 
one in particular who has three grown daughters who are serving in the 
military. She, herself, served in the Navy for 5 years, had a divorce, 
and really needed to have housing assistance and medical care, but her 
options were insufficient.
  My amendment is a simple amendment to, again, remind us of the 
importance of these individuals who still suffer. The Jackson Lee 
amendment makes a modest but important improvement to the bill by 
increasing the amount of funding for Supportive Services for Veteran 
Families account by $2 million, offset by a reduction in the same 
amount to the $4 billion allocated to the VA's information technology 
systems.
  Today in our country, there are approximately 107,000 veterans, male 
and female, who are homeless on any given night, and perhaps twice as 
many--200,000--experience homelessness at some point during the course 
of the year.
  All you need do, Mr. Chairman, is go home to your district and be 
able to engage with your veterans associations and your own 
constituents, and you will find that they will come up to you because 
they are homeless.
  The VA Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program helps 
veterans and their families who may have fallen on hard times or hit a 
rough patch in life and need help from the country they selflessly 
risked their life to defend.
  The veterans don't have to remind us that we owe them an obligation 
of support. They don't have to say it. We know that. When they put on 
the uniform, they ask no questions; they are selfless.
  The SSVF program ensures that eligible veteran families receive the 
outreach, case management, and assistance in obtaining veterans and 
other benefits. Many are suffering from PTSD or traumatic brain injury. 
They have lived, and we are grateful for it. Many Vietnam vets are just 
being diagnosed. This program is crucial to helping them get an extra 
step in life.
  I would ask my colleagues to be reminded of the kinds of veterans 
whom we see every day who are willing to put on that uniform and 
sacrifice without asking one single question. I ask my colleagues to 
support the Jackson Lee amendment.
  Mr. Chair, the Jackson Lee amendment will enable this vital program 
to serve more veteran families in need of help by providing a bit more 
funding for grants to provide nonprofit private organizations and 
consumer cooperatives the ability to provide supportive services.
  The main point is that there is a need, and I would only say that we 
need to follow the words of a veteran who said, after getting services, 
``I have a home, and I enjoy being inside.''
  Let's give more of our veterans and veteran families that very 
important quote, ``I have a home, and I enjoy being inside.''
  I ask my colleagues to support the Jackson Lee amendment.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chair, before I begin, let me express my 
appreciation and thanks to my good friends, Chairman Dent and Ranking 
Member Bishop, for their hard and constructive work in shepherding this 
legislation to the floor.
  Chairman Dent and I worked together constructively for many years on 
the Homeland Security Committee and has always distinguished himself as 
one of the most bipartisan members of the House.
  And Ranking Member Bishop has for years been one of the ablest 
Members of this body; I thank them both for commitment to the important 
work of ensuring that our veterans receive the care and support they 
have earned from a grateful nation.
  The Jackson Lee Amendment makes a modest but important improvement to 
the bill by increasing the amount of funding for the ``Supportive 
Services for Veterans' Families'' account by $2 million, offset by a 
reduction of the same amount to the $4 billion allocated to the VA's 
``Information Technology Systems'' account.
  Today, in our country, there are approximately 107,000 veterans (male 
and female) who are homeless on any given night.
  And perhaps twice as many (200,000) experience homelessness at some 
point during the course of a year.
  The VA's ``Supportive Services for Veterans' Families'' Program helps 
veterans, and their families, who may have fallen on hard times or hit 
a rough patch in life and need a little help from the country they 
selflessly risked their life to defend.
  The Jackson Lee Amendment will enable this vital program to serve 
more veterans' families in need of help by providing a bit more funding 
for grants to private non-profit organizations and consumer 
cooperatives that provide supportive services to very low-income 
veteran families living in or transitioning to permanent housing.
  The SSVF Program ensures that eligible veteran families receive the 
outreach, case management, and assistance in obtaining VA and other 
benefits.
  These services may include health care, daily living, legal services, 
fiduciary and payee services, personal financial planning, child care, 
transportation, housing counseling.
  The SSVF Program enables VA staff and local homeless service 
providers to work together to effectively address the unique challenges 
that make it difficult for some veterans and their families to remain 
stably housed.
  Many homeless veterans, including in my own state of Texas, lack 
housing because they lost their job or could no longer afford rent; 
many suffer from an untreated mental illness that keeps them from 
working.
  Every day the SSVF program makes a real difference in the lives of 
real people.

[[Page H2607]]

  Veterans like the Air Force veteran who, hoping to utilize the skills 
he learned in the service, instead bounced from job to job after being 
discharged and found himself sleeping at night on the cold cement under 
a bridge in Chicago.
  Through the Thresholds Veterans Project, funded through the SSVF, 
this hero received steady community service support and eventually was 
placed in his own studio apartment.
  He now says, in his own words: I have a home. I enjoy bein' inside.''
  Veterans like the one in Texas who because he lost his job at a 
manufacturing plant and was unable to pay the bills, was forced to seek 
shelter for himself and his family at a homeless shelter.
  Fortunately, the homeless shelter was a SSVF grantee and was able to 
assist the veteran obtain employment and his family in securing 
affordable low-cost housing.
  There are thousands of similar success stories made possible by the 
SSVF Program that I could share but all of them share a common theme: 
they involve veterans who served their country proudly, fell down on 
their luck, picked themselves back up, and found affordable and 
sustainable housing for their families because of the assistance and 
support made possible by the SSVF program.
  Ensuring that veterans have a place of their own to call home is the 
very least we can do.
  I urge my colleagues to support the Jackson Lee Amendment and commit 
ourselves to the hard but necessary work of ending veteran homelessness 
in America.
  I urge my colleagues to support the Jackson Lee Amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR (Mr. Rodney Davis of Illinois). The question is on 
the amendment offered by the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Jackson Lee).
  The amendment was agreed to.


                     Amendment Offered by Mr. Jolly

  Mr. JOLLY. I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the 
     following:
       Sec. __.  None of the funds made available by this Act may 
     be used to carry out the closure or transfer of the United 
     States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from Florida and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Florida.
  Mr. JOLLY. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  This is a very simple measure. It simply prohibits the 
relinquishment, the closure, or the transfer of Naval Station 
Guantanamo Bay out of the possession of the United States.
  In 1903, as a result of the Cuban-American treaty, the United States 
began to occupy Naval Station Guantanamo Bay for at least as long as 
necessary or in perpetuity for naval operations. The treaty stated that 
the U.S. shall exercise complete jurisdiction and control of the base, 
while also recognizing the sovereignty of Cuba.
  Today, Naval Station Guantanamo is a front line for our regional 
security in the Caribbean. It supports our Navy logistical work; drug 
interdiction; DHS migrant operations; and, importantly, disaster and 
humanitarian relief, including responding to the 1980s and 1990s mass 
migration, as well as the 2010 Haiti earthquake response.
  Very importantly is what this measure does not do. This measure does 
not touch the detention facility and the politics of the detention 
facility. This focuses solely on the national security implications of 
maintaining the Navy station 90 miles off the shores of Florida. 
Importantly, it is an issue that has been brought right now as a result 
of the President's decision to begin to normalize relations with Cuba.
  Also, importantly, this doesn't take a position on normalizing 
relations with Cuba. In fact, you could make the argument that 
normalizing relations with Cuba actually enhances and improves and 
increases our national security because it allows us additional 
operational units and boots on the ground at our Navy station there, 
engaging with the locals, improving our intelligence, improving our 
ability to respond.
  The moment the President began to offer normalized relations, the 
Castro regime demanded the return of Guantanamo. This is a matter of 
our national security to maintain it. You need not make this political.
  Simply look at the advice and opinions of the previous three 
commanders of U.S. Southern Command. Current General John Kelly has 
called GTMO indispensable to the Departments of Defense, Homeland 
Security, and State.
  The commander before him, Admiral Stavridis, said it is of immense 
strategic value. Prior to him, General Douglas Fraser, contemplating 
the eventual closure of the detention facility said, even absent a 
detention facility, the strategic capability provided by U.S. Naval 
Station Guantanamo Bay remains essential for executing the national 
priorities of the United States.
  Mr. Speaker, this is a matter of national security. We have a process 
for realigning and closing naval facilities. This legislation simply 
says, for purposes of national security, this amendment prohibits any 
transfer or closure of Naval Station Guantanamo.
  I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. I claim the time in opposition, but I am not 
opposed to the gentleman's amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. Without objection, the gentleman is recognized for 
5 minutes.
  There was no objection.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, I think sometimes people get 
confused about the role of Guantanamo Bay naval facility's mission. 
There is a joint task force on detainee operations, and there is the 
actual facility.
  No one has ever floated the idea of closing the base and giving it 
back to Cuba, so when the detainee mission ends, which it will, we will 
still need to have this facility. It is the southernmost military 
facility of the Department.
  I don't support detainee operations, but I do support the regular 
mission of the Guantanamo Bay naval facility, and therefore, I will not 
oppose the gentleman's amendment.
  I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. JOLLY. Mr. Chairman, I yield the time I have remaining to the 
gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Dent), the chairman of the 
subcommittee.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I just wanted to state, too, that the 
underlying legislation does not include any funds to close the naval 
station at Guantanamo Bay, a facility I have visited.
  I also should point out, as the distinguished ranking member just 
stated, Mr. Bishop, that the naval station is a key strategic location 
for SOUTHCOM, and I would support the gentleman's amendment.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Chair, I yield back the balance of my 
time.
  Mr. JOLLY. Mr. Chair, I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Florida (Mr. Jolly).
  The amendment was agreed to.


                  Amendment Offered by Mr. Blumenauer

  Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Chair, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the 
     following:
       Sec. __.  None of the funds made available by this Act may 
     be used to implement, administer, or enforce Veterans Health 
     Administration directive 2011-004 (or directive of the same 
     substance) with respect to the prohibition on ``VA providers 
     from completing forms seeking recommendations or opinions 
     regarding a Veteran's participation in a State marijuana 
     program''.

  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chair, I reserve a point of order on the gentleman's 
amendment. I haven't seen the amendment yet.
  The Acting CHAIR. A point of order is reserved.
  Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman from Oregon and a 
Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Oregon.
  Mr. BLUMENAUER. I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  Mr. Chair, 36 States and the District of Columbia have passed laws 
that provide legal access to medical marijuana in some form, and over 1 
million patients now use medical marijuana to treat conditions ranging 
from seizures, anxiety, chronic pain, nausea associated with 
chemotherapy, and post-traumatic stress at the recommendation of their 
physician.
  Over 213 million people reside in those jurisdictions; yet, according 
to Directive 2011-004, the Department of Veterans Affairs prohibits its 
medical

[[Page H2608]]

providers from completing forms brought by their patients seeking 
recommendations or opinions regarding a veteran's participation in a 
State medical marijuana program.
  The amendment I am offering ensures that no funds made available to 
the VA can be used to implement this prohibition. The amendment will 
not encourage doctors or patients to recommend or use medical 
marijuana. It would not authorize the possession or use of marijuana at 
VA facilities.
  It would simply free up VA providers to have an honest conversation 
about treatment options and recommend medical marijuana in accordance 
with State law if they think it is appropriate. It would not force 
veterans to not work with their primary care provider.
  I am joined in offering this bipartisan amendment by Congressman Heck 
from Nevada, Congressman Rohrabacher, and a series of other Members, 
some of whom you will hear from.
  Over 20 percent of the 2.8 million American veterans who served in 
Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD and depression. They should not 
be forced outside the VA system to seek a simple recommendation about a 
treatment that might help them manage these conditions.
  I will say, while nobody has ever died from a marijuana overdose, we 
are watching veterans have prescriptions for opiates who suffer from 
PTSD, for example, more than others, and their suicide rate is high. 
There is real danger in not being able to provide balanced treatment.
  Our VA physicians should not be denied their First Amendment right to 
have an honest conversation about options and offer a recommendation 
they think could bring relief and well-being to a patient. Our veterans 
should not be treated as second class citizens in the States that 
permit medical marijuana.
  I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I withdraw my reservation of a point of 
order.
  The Acting CHAIR. The reservation of a point of order is withdrawn.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chair, I claim the time in opposition to the amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Pennsylvania is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I do rise in opposition to my friend's 
amendment. We had a similar debate in the full committee just last 
week. The VA must comply with all Federal laws, including the 
Controlled Substances Act.
  This act designates schedule I drugs, such as marijuana, as having no 
currently accepted medical use. There are criminal penalties associated 
with the production, distribution, and possession of these drugs.
  The standing VA policy does not deny veterans who participate in 
State marijuana programs from also participating in VA substance abuse 
or clinical programs. It simply prohibits VA clinicians from completing 
forms for their participation in such State programs or for providing 
or paying for marijuana authorized by a State program.
  Veterans are able to participate in State programs. They just cannot 
possess marijuana at VA facilities. Changing the VA directive does not 
change the DEA's interpretation of Federal law on marijuana.
  DEA has advised VA that its doctors cannot issue anything that could 
be construed as a prescription or endorsement of medical marijuana, so 
the amendment won't change the situation for veterans unless the VA 
physicians are willing to risk prosecution.
  At this point, again, I would have to urge opposition.
  I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, I support the amendment offered 
by Mr. Blumenauer.
  Just recently, in Georgia, Governor Deal signed legislation that 
immediately legalized the use of medical marijuana to treat serious 
medical conditions. Georgia became the 36th State, plus Washington, 
D.C., to legalize marijuana extracts to treat diseases.
  I believe that we should not limit the Veterans Health Administration 
in providing optimal pain care for our veterans. If medical marijuana 
is legal in the State, then the VA should be able to discuss that 
treatment option and allow the veteran to make his or her own choice.
  I believe that the VA's published policy guidance related to the use 
of medical marijuana by veteran patients has become outdated. I believe 
supporting a veteran's right to use alternative methods to deal with 
pain is the right thing to do.
  I support the amendment. I urge its adoption.
  I yield to the gentleman from California (Mr. Farr).

                              {time}  1815

  Mr. FARR. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
  Mr. Chairman, I hope that you heard the amendment because it said 
nothing about the doctor's ability to issue a prescription for use of 
medical marijuana. This simply lifts a gag order.
  Now, these doctors have taken an oath of office to do no harm. Their 
ability is to talk to patients. They can tell patients that there is 
medical marijuana available. They can also tell patients that you 
shouldn't try it, you shouldn't use it.
  What you want is just an honest dialogue. You want to give doctors 
their professional capability to have a discussion with the veteran. 
That is all this bill does.
  Our veterans are living in a civilian community. In 33 States, this 
is legal. When they walk in with admitted problems and they want 
medical attention, the doctor cannot have a thorough discussion with 
them.
  That is all this amendment adds. It says, Let's let these doctors be 
like the civilian doctors in the same offices in the same States, only 
maybe those civilian doctors can issue prescriptions where the veteran 
doctor can't.
  Because of the reasons that the chairman talked about of how this 
drug is listed, this is very limiting, so let's lift the gag order. We 
owe it to our veterans to give them complete information when they ask 
for it, even if it means discussing medical marijuana.
  I ask for an ``aye'' vote.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Chair, I yield to the gentlewoman from 
California (Ms. Lee).
  Ms. LEE. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
  Mr. Chairman, I rise in very strong support of this bipartisan 
amendment, which I am very proud to cosponsor with my colleagues.
  This would finally put an end to the misguided VA policy that keeps 
our veterans from receiving the medicine that they need. To date, 23 
States, the District of Columbia, and Guam have passed legislation 
allowing legal access to medical marijuana.
  What is more, similar amendments saying that the Federal Government 
should respect states' rights and the will of voters on this issue have 
passed the House with bipartisan support.
  This amendment represents the will of more than 70 percent of voters 
who support patient access to medical marijuana and is supported across 
party lines.
  Veterans should have the benefit of being able to know what the 
options are. So many of our veterans are suffering from PTSD and other 
medical problems, and possibly, this would help in terms of relieving 
their pain and providing for the quality of life that they so deserve.
  This amendment would put an end to the policy that keeps our veterans 
from receiving the medicine, counseling, and care they so deserve, and 
I hope we have an ``aye'' vote on this.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. May I inquire of the chair how much time is 
remaining?
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Georgia has 1 minute remaining.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. I yield to the gentlewoman from Nevada (Ms. 
Titus).
  Ms. TITUS. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
  I want to say, very simply, that we shortchange our veterans if we 
don't give them the opportunity to have every possible medical 
treatment that is out there.
  We know that certain States have legalized medical marijuana. In 
those States, our veterans deserve to have that as on option. To 
shortchange them would just be unconscionable, and I urge a ``yes'' 
vote.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my 
time.

[[Page H2609]]

  Mr. BLUMENAUER. May I inquire as to how much time is remaining?
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Blumenauer) has 2\1/
2\ minutes remaining, and the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Dent) 
has 3\1/2\ minutes remaining.
  Mr. BLUMENAUER. I yield 1\1/2\ minutes to the gentleman from 
California (Mr. Rohrabacher).
  Mr. ROHRABACHER. Mr. Chairman, the question we are discussing is 
simply whether Veterans Affairs physicians can recommend the use of 
marijuana or not recommend the use of marijuana to their patients.
  As Republicans, we supposedly believe in the doctor-patient 
relationship, but apparently, some of my colleagues believe that that 
relationship is not relevant when it comes to VA doctors and their 
patients, the patients who happen to be our Nation's great heroes who 
went off to defend us in war.
  It is criminal that we send our men and women off to war, where their 
minds and bodies are broken, and then deny them the ability to obtain a 
medical recommendation from a legitimate VA doctor upon their return 
home.
  Why is it we have faith in the medical qualifications of Congress to 
determine the best medical practices rather than those people who are 
doctors in the Department of Veterans Affairs?
  I would submit that perhaps marijuana is a better option for some 
patients--and maybe not--but we should stop this heavy-handed, top-down 
approach and allow the Department of Veterans Affairs physicians and 
their patients to determine for themselves the best use and the best 
treatment that they would be able to have.
  Let's respect these people and their rights. I thought we Republicans 
believed in the doctor-patient relationship. Either you do or you 
don't. If you vote this down, you don't believe in the doctor-patient 
relationship for our veterans, of all people.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I understand my colleagues are very sincere 
in their attempt. I am sympathetic to at least listening to the 
arguments for medicinal marijuana, but this discussion must be driven 
by the science.
  I would love to hear from the National Institutes of Health, Food and 
Drug Administration, and the medical community formally about their 
views on this issue prior to us legislating on this matter.
  At this time, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Maryland, Dr. 
Harris.
  Mr. HARRIS. Mr. Chairman, as a veteran and a physician and someone 
who has treated veterans, I appreciate the sacrifice our men and women 
in uniform have made and our duty to give them the best possible care.
  That means care based on real science, not promise, not hope, not 
conjecture, not politics, not as part of an agenda, but real science.
  The chairman says we should wait for good science and we should wait 
to hear from the experts. We don't need to wait. We have heard. Dr. 
Nora Volkow, the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the 
NIH, says medical marijuana, in the current state of medical knowledge, 
is not a good idea.
  There just isn't very good science behind what it works for and what 
it doesn't; so I agree, when good science is in hand, let's give 
doctors carte blanche to discuss that. That science isn't available.
  Worse than that, Mr. Chairman, this bill does nothing to advance the 
knowledge of science on this issue because it doesn't say we are going 
to sign veterans up for research so they can help other veterans answer 
the question of whether or not it helps.
  It doesn't do anything like that. It doesn't make it easier for them 
to enlist in research protocols to address the scientific questions. 
Now, the chairman of the subcommittee asked, Well, we should hear from 
the FDA; we should hear from DEA.
  We hear from all of them. They say medical marijuana is not 
scientifically based at this time. I have offered this to the Members, 
but the author of the amendment and I have been to the NIH. He knows my 
interest in getting to the bottom of what works and what doesn't.
  At this point in time, we are not doing our veterans a service. We 
could. If we asked to engage in more scientific research, we could do 
them a service. If this amendment, in fact, encouraged in any way, 
shape, or form further research on what works and what doesn't, we 
could be doing them a service.
  Sadly enough, Mr. Chairman, it doesn't; and that is why I oppose this 
effort--not helping our veterans, but this specific effort.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, may I inquire as to how much time is 
remaining?
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Dent) has 1 
minute remaining. The gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Blumenauer) has 1 
minute remaining.
  Mr. DENT. At this time, I yield the balance of my time to the 
distinguished gentleman from Louisiana, Dr. Fleming.
  Mr. FLEMING. I thank my friend, the chairman, for yielding.
  As a practicing physician and a veteran myself, the way we approach 
health care is not to just allow any healthcare provider to do whatever 
he or she wants to do at the time. That is simply not the way health 
care works.
  Let's look specifically at the problem of PTSD, which is one of the 
worst problems that we are dealing with today among veterans.
  What have we found just in the last year? Smoking pot increases 
psychotic episodes by a factor of two to four times normal. The 
conversion to schizophrenia, a permanent mental disorder, is enhanced 
by pot by a factor of two--double.
  Why in the world would we give a drug that is addictive, that is 
prohibited under schedule I, that is not accepted for any specific 
mental disease or disorder and enhances psychosis and schizophrenia, 
why are we going to give that to our veterans, especially those with 
PTSD? That is just absolutely insane.
  Mr. DENT. I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. BLUMENAUER. First, it isn't just PTSD that medical marijuana is 
used for. There is a whole host of other conditions that were 
available.
  Second, the marijuana medical train has left the station. A million 
Americans have a legal right to use medical marijuana, and they do so. 
You want to treat veterans differently.
  Third, medical marijuana is nowhere near as addictive as what is 
happening to our veterans right now. Veterans seen by agency doctors 
are dying from prescription drug overdoses nearly twice the national 
average.
  Nobody dies from an overdose of marijuana; and the VA doctors 
prescribe significantly more opiates, which are highly addictive, to 
patients with PTSD and depression than other veterans, even though 
those people suffering those conditions are more at risk of overdose 
and suicide.
  Get your facts straight. I am happy to do more research; I have work 
coming forward, but, in the meantime, don't treat these veterans as 
second class citizens.
  If you want to be concerned, be concerned about the explosion of 
addictive drugs that are being prescribed to people who we should be 
giving more care.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Blumenauer).
  The question was taken; and the Acting Chair announced that the noes 
appeared to have it.
  Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.
  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to clause 6 of rule XVIII, further 
proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Oregon will 
be postponed.


                  Amendment No. 1 Offered by Mr. Babin

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

       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the 
     following:
       Sec. __.  None of the funds made available by this Act may 
     be used to carry out the Appraised Value Offer program of the 
     Department of Veterans Affairs.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from Texas and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Texas.
  Mr. BABIN. Mr. Chairman, I rise to offer an amendment to terminate 
the

[[Page H2610]]

VA's abused Appraised Value Offer Program so that these funds can be 
used to better serve the needs of our Nation's veterans, rather than VA 
bureaucrats.
  The VA spent nearly $300,000 of taxpayer money to move a VA employee 
140 miles, specifically from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia. That is 
$300,000 that could have been used to care for numerous deserving 
veterans who have served this Nation in uniform, but instead was spent 
to move someone 140 miles.
  At the request of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, the 
Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General is 
investigating this abuse, and here is what we have learned so far.
  Under the VA's Appraised Value Offer Program, the VA paid more than 
$80,000 to one of its government employees and $211,000 to a Federal 
contractor that was tasked with selling that employee's home.
  At a time when the VA is struggling to meet the medical needs of our 
veterans, it is unconscionable that the VA would waste $300,000 in 
taxpayer money to move someone 140 miles.
  Unfortunately, this is just another disturbing example of the lack of 
transparency and accountability at the VA. The folks at the VA are 
already under scrutiny for their shocking failure to properly care for 
veterans, and now, to spend $300,000 on this is absolutely abusive. 
Clearly, the VA cannot be trusted to exercise common sense with this 
program, and it is time to end it.
  As a military veteran and a father of a decorated Navy SEAL, I am 
deeply frustrated with the abuse and mismanagement at the VA. Our 
veterans must be the VA's first priority, not its bureaucrats.
  I would like to thank House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff 
Miller for shedding light on this important issue and holding the VA 
accountable for failing to put veterans first.
  I urge my colleagues to support this amendment and to end this 
outrageous abuse within the Department of Veterans Affairs.

                              {time}  1830

  Mr. DENT. Will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. BABIN. I yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania.
  Mr. DENT. I just wanted to state I do not object to the gentleman's 
amendment. He raised the Philadelphia issue. I am very much aware of it 
and certainly concerned about it, and I understand the purpose.
  I also understand the purpose of the Appraised Value Offer Program, 
when a valued employee would otherwise stand to lose thousands in the 
sale of a house to move at the request of their employing agency. But 
sometimes the cost of the program seems a little excessive, in my view.
  In conference, we may need to tweak the language to make sure that we 
aren't jeopardizing VA's efforts to move talented staff to areas where 
they are needed. But as I said, I do not object to the amendment.
  Mr. BABIN. Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Texas (Mr. Babin).
  The amendment was agreed to.


                     Amendment Offered by Ms. Adams

  Ms. ADAMS. Mr. Chair, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the 
     following:
       Sec. __. (1) Subject to paragraphs (2) and (3), amounts 
     made available under the ``General Operating Expenses, 
     Veterans Benefits Administration'' account for fiscal year 
     2016 may be used by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to 
     provide discretionary competitive grants for State and local 
     governments to establish or expand technology systems that 
     develop a coordinated network of private, public and 
     nonprofit services and resources to better serve veterans and 
     their family members. A State or local government awarded a 
     grant under this section shall work with an entity that has 
     experience working with comprehensive coordinated networks, 
     protects privacy of veterans and their families, ensures the 
     quality of providers, and has a metrics system to effectively 
     measure success of the network.
       (2) Amounts used as described in paragraph (1) may not 
     result in a more than 10 percent aggregate decrease in the 
     total amount made available by this Act for the ``General 
     Operating Expenses, Veterans Benefits Administration'' 
     account.
       (3) Each grant made under paragraph (1) shall be subject to 
     the approval of the Committees on Appropriations of the House 
     of Representatives and the Senate.

  Mr. DENT (during the reading). Mr. Chair, I reserve a point of order 
on the gentlewoman's amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. A point of order is reserved.
  The Clerk will read.
  The Clerk continued to read.
  Ms. ADAMS (during the reading). Mr. Chair, I ask unanimous consent 
that we dispense with the reading.
  The Acting CHAIR. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentlewoman from North Carolina?
  There was no objection.
  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentlewoman 
from North Carolina and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from North Carolina.
  Ms. ADAMS. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank Chairman Dent and Ranking 
Member Bishop for allowing me to present my amendment.
  Mr. Chair, I rise today to highlight the need for better access to 
resources and services for our veterans and military families.
  The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and other Federal agencies are 
providing a vast array of services and resources that our heroes 
deserve, but the Federal Government alone is not able to address every 
challenge our servicemen and -women and their families are facing and 
will face in years to come. Many community providers and local 
governments are starting their own initiatives to assist veterans in 
applying for benefits with VA and other organizations.
  For those 37,000 veterans living in the 12th Congressional District 
of North Carolina, it is important that community-based groups work 
collaboratively with local, State, and Federal Government service 
providers so that recipients know where all of these different benefits 
and resources are and how to access them.
  Additionally, we need to make sure we are holding service providers 
accountable and that performance measures are in place.
  My amendment encourages the VA to assist with establishing and 
expanding technology systems at the local and State level to create a 
more unified network of veteran services. These networks would include 
private, public, and nonprofit partners who are qualified to serve 
veterans and their families.
  My amendment directs funding to a grant program that has not yet been 
authorized by law, and will be subject to a point of order.
  I look forward to working with the House Veterans' Affairs Committee 
and with the Appropriations Committee to make this funding a reality 
for our community providers in the future.
  The veterans in my district, in Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Rowan, 
Davidson, Forsyth, and Guilford Counties, have noted that they have 
difficulties finding and accessing the services that are available to 
them and their families.
  As more servicemen and -women come home from serving overseas, 
Congress must support innovation and local solutions to providing 
services for our Nation's veterans.
  I thank the chairman and the ranking member for allowing me to 
present my amendment.
  Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to withdraw the amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentlewoman from North Carolina?
  There was no objection.


                 Amendment No. 2 Offered by Mr. Rothfus

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

       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the 
     following:
       Sec. __.  None of the funds made available by this Act may 
     be used by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to pay a 
     performance award under section 5384 of title 5, United 
     States Code.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from Pennsylvania and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Pennsylvania.
  Mr. ROTHFUS. Mr. Chairman, I rise today to stand with our Nation's 
veterans and their families. We owe these

[[Page H2611]]

brave individuals and their loved ones a debt that can never be repaid. 
When our Nation called, they answered. Our veterans served bravely in 
theaters around the world, kept us safe, and helped to spread American 
values and the freedoms that we hold dear.
  Our veterans made unimaginable sacrifices to their health, to their 
well-being, and to their families. They fulfilled their commitment to 
our great Nation, and we must now uphold the commitments we made to 
them. It is for that reason that I rise in strong support of the 
Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act under 
consideration today. It is also why this amendment is so important.
  For the last 2 years, I have offered this amendment with the same 
simple message: VA senior executives need to take responsibility, fix 
the problems, and do their jobs. As public servants, these senior 
executives have a solemn obligation to ensure that veterans receive the 
respect, support, and care that they have earned.
  But one only needs to take a quick survey of the tremendous 
investigative work that Chairman Miller, Congressman Mike Coffman, and 
the rest of my colleagues on the Veterans' Affairs Committee have been 
doing to see that, despite our efforts to reform and improve the agency 
culture at the VA, little to nothing has changed.
  The VA is still failing veterans in Pennsylvania and across the 
country. Veterans still have difficulty accessing care, claims and 
appeals are still backlogged, whistleblowers are still being retaliated 
against, and reckless, wasteful spending has reached new levels.
  For example, in my home State of Pennsylvania, the inspector general 
recently conducted an investigation at the Philadelphia regional office 
after receiving numerous complaints that there was data manipulation 
and that management was mistreating and retaliating against staff. The 
IG confirmed a number of these allegations and found tens of thousands 
of unanswered veteran inquiries.
  Many of us are also familiar with the VA Hospital project in Aurora, 
Colorado. Over a decade ago, veterans in Denver were promised a new 
medical facility; yet, due to gross mismanagement, the project is well 
behind schedule and is now going to cost taxpayers more than $1 billion 
over budget.
  To his credit, Secretary McDonald has publicly recognized many of his 
Department's failings, has spoken of increased transparency and 
accountability, and acknowledges that a wholesale culture change will 
be necessary. But this transformation has not yet occurred, and 
accountability is certainly still lacking.
  To date, only a few of the senior executives who have been found 
responsible for the misconduct at the VA have actually been terminated. 
Some have been placed on extended paid leave, some reassigned, while 
others have been promoted.
  In fiscal year 2013, the VA shelled out some $2.8 million in bonuses 
solely to its executives, an increase from the previous year, when the 
agency paid out $2.3 million.
  I have always maintained that taxpayer-funded bonuses to senior 
executives of an organization with this sort of abysmal performance 
record are ridiculous. These dollars would be better spent providing 
our veterans with the first-rate service and care they rightly deserve.
  That is why I am offering this amendment again this year, to direct 
that none of the funds appropriated may be used to pay for senior 
executive bonuses. The amendment was adopted the last 2 years and was 
included in bills that passed out of this Chamber with wide bipartisan 
support.
  Congress certainly has an important role to play in reforming the VA. 
We need to continue our oversight activities and pass the sorts of 
reforms that are included in bills brought to the floor by Chairman 
Miller and the Veterans' Affairs Committee. However, while we do that, 
we also need to ensure that not a single dime is spent on paying 
bonuses to senior executives until the problems at the VA are fixed.
  I would like to thank Chairman Miller and Congressmen Fitzpatrick, 
Kelly, Tipton, Crawford, and Huelskamp for their support.
  I urge all of my other colleagues to stand with our Nation's veterans 
and support increased transparency.
  Mr. DENT. Will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. ROTHFUS. I yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania.
  Mr. DENT. I just want to say I rise in support of the amendment.
  A number of Members have offered amendments relating to the VA 
performance bonus awards. The gentleman's amendment is the most 
comprehensive, and I would encourage other Members to join with Mr. 
Rothfus rather than offer their own amendments.
  We have all certainly been outraged by the behavior of some VA 
employees and the consequences for veterans' health and well-being 
resulting from incompetence, deceit, and deception. A ban on all senior 
executive service performance bonuses is a needed wake-up call to the 
VA bureaucracy which, as we have seen, needs to change its culture to 
ensure veterans' needs are their top priority.
  I support the amendment.
  Mr. ROTHFUS. I thank the chairman.
  I yield my remaining time to the gentleman from Arkansas (Mr. 
Crawford).
  Mr. CRAWFORD. I will make it quick, Mr. Chairman.
  I rise in support of this amendment. Just last year, the House voted 
unanimously to strip out funding for bonuses to Senior Executive 
Service employees at the VA because we were appalled by the heinous 
treatment of our veterans. And even though I opposed the legislation, 
later, both Chambers voted to reinstate many of these bonuses. Some of 
these executives are the very people who contributed to the plight of 
our VA hospitals.
  We can't allow this negligent behavior to continue to impact the care 
of those who sacrificed so much on behalf of our Nation's security. In 
fact, no award should be reinstated until significant improvements are 
made toward transparency.
  I want to make this point. In my home State of Arkansas, $8 million 
of Federal funds were used to build solar panels in a VA parking lot. 
But those panels have sat unplugged and inoperable for years, and now 
some of the panels are being torn down in order to make room for a 
parking garage that they knew in advance was coming, and yet they spent 
that money recklessly on another project. This is exactly the type of 
poor planning and behavior that shouldn't be rewarded, even though it 
has been.
  This amendment makes sure that no Federal funds in the MILCON-VA 
Appropriations Act are used to pay performance awards to VA senior 
officials. I encourage its passage.
  The Acting CHAIR. The time of the gentleman has expired.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, I claim the time in opposition.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, we are all outraged with regard 
to the claims backlog and the incidences of poor quality health 
services and safety. The current claims backlog is unacceptable.
  There is no question that the VA has struggled to successfully 
deliver one of its key missions: to provide timely ratings of 
disabilities. However, the VA has reduced the backlog by 44 percent.
  Should we ignore that?
  It is also clear that some VA health facilities have had serious 
issues that put the health, safety, and well-being of our veterans at 
risk. This, too, is unacceptable. Where these failures have occurred, 
it is hard to imagine how VA leaders of these facilities could have 
received high performance ratings and substantial bonuses.
  However, this amendment will not provide any solution in the short-
term and, in fact, may have long-term consequences and compound the 
very problems that it attempts to address. This amendment would make 
the VA a less attractive option than other agencies when it comes to 
recruiting and retaining quality executive leaders, and it will not 
have the very talent that it needs to solve the problems that it faces 
today, like the claims backlog and the healthcare deficiencies.
  Furthermore, SES pay and bonuses are governed by title 5 of the 
United States Code and administered by the Office of Personnel 
Management. Any change to title 5 to address VA would then also apply 
to all other Federal agencies.

[[Page H2612]]

  Attempting to do an across-the-board, one-size-fits-all fix will 
penalize those dedicated VA executives who are working hard and well to 
find solutions to the VA's problems. This is nonsense. I urge all 
Members to vote ``no.''
  Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Rothfus).
  The amendment was agreed to.


                  Amendment Offered by Ms. Jackson Lee

  Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the 
     following:
       Sec. __.  None of the funds made available by this Act for 
     benefits for homeless veterans and training and outreach 
     programs may be used by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in 
     contravention of subchapter III of chapter 20 of title 38, 
     United States Code.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentlewoman 
from Texas and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from Texas.
  Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, I thank the chairman and ranking 
member of the subcommittee again for the work, and I raise again a 
picture of three ladies who look attractive in this picture.
  Mr. Chairman, and colleagues, these are homeless vets. These are vets 
who bonded with each other in a homeless shelter.
  The good news is that we have made progress on providing services for 
homeless vets. But I want to emphasize, through this amendment, that we 
will continue to raise and focus on the needs of homeless vets.
  I offer the Jackson Lee amendment because I believe reducing and 
eliminating homelessness among veterans, those who risked their lives 
to protect our freedom, should also be one of the Nation's highest 
priorities. I would like this bill to have it as its highest priority.

                              {time}  1845

  Homelessness among the American veteran population is on the rise in 
the United States. We must be proactive in giving back to those who 
have given us so much.
  Even though the administration has done an enormous job, has made 
great strides in bringing down the numbers of homeless vets, for those 
that they bring down, then, for some reason--whether it is the loss of 
a job or medical issues--vets are becoming homeless every day.
  My amendment will help remind us of our obligation to provide our 
veterans the assistance needed to avoid homelessness, which includes 
adequately funding the program for Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing 
and, as well, to be able to ensure those centers are there for our 
veterans.
  Today in our country, we have mentioned the numbers of veterans that 
exist: 100,000 veterans, male and female, are homeless; 200,000 
experience homelessness. In my hometown of Houston, for example, 
between the years of 2010 and 2012, the number of homeless vets 
increased from 771 to 1,162.
  I want to acknowledge the city of Houston that has worked on their 
Homeless Veterans Project; the George Hotel that has worked on the 
Homeless Veterans Project; many other veteran organizations; U.S.VETS, 
who has worked on the Homeless Veterans Project; and a grant that came 
some years ago to the Houston Housing Authority to work on the Homeless 
Veterans Project.
  But this amendment is to, again, establish in this important 
legislation the idea that we must fight for our veterans, and we must 
ensure that every year, we take the temperature of the Nation's 
homeless vets, the temperature that says, if it is high, the numbers 
have been going up; if it is low, we are doing our job because the 
numbers of homeless vets are going down.
  Let me thank the many shelters that deal with our vets, and 
particularly in my district, St. John's United Methodist Church for the 
work they have done, along with many other entities that believe that 
cutting the numbers of homeless vets should be the end.
  I yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania.
  Mr. DENT. I just wanted to let the gentlelady know that we support 
the amendment, which was accepted last year. I know the gentlelady is 
offering it to reaffirm the congressional obligation to provide 
veterans the assistance they need to avoid homelessness.
  I accept the amendment.
  Ms. JACKSON LEE. Reclaiming my time, let me thank the chairman. With 
that, I thank my colleagues and ask my colleagues to support the 
Jackson Lee amendment to end homelessness for our veterans here in 
America.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chair, none of the funds made available by this 
Act for the Department of Veteran Affairs--Benefits for Homeless 
Veterans and Training and Outreach Programs may be used in 
contravention of the title 38, Part II, Chapter 20, Subchapter II and 
III of the U.S. Code
  This amendment will help ensure that the rate of homelessness among 
veterans in the United States does not increase.
  I thank Subcommittee Chairman Dent and Ranking Member Bishop for 
their hard work in shepherding this important legislation to the floor.
  I offer the Jackson Lee Amendment because I believe reducing and 
eliminating homelessness among veterans, those who risked their lives 
to protect our freedom, should also be one of the nation's highest 
priorities.
  Homelessness among the American veteran population is on the rise in 
the United States and we must be proactive in giving back to those who 
have given so much to us.
  My amendment will help remind us of our obligation to provide our 
veterans the assistance needed to avoid homelessness, which includes 
adequately funding for programs Veterans Administration Supportive 
Housing VASH) that provide case-management services, adequate housing 
facilities, mental health support, and address other areas that 
contribute to veteran homelessness.
  VASH is a jointly-administered permanent supportive housing program 
for disabled Veterans experiencing homelessness in which VA medical 
Centers provide referrals and case management while Public Housing 
Agencies (PHAs) administer the Section 8 housing vouchers.
  Mr. Chair, our veterans deserve the best services available, and I 
believe that we could be doing much more for them.
  Today, in our country, there are approximately 107,000 veterans (male 
and female) who are homeless on any given night. And perhaps twice as 
many (200,000) experience homelessness at some point during the course 
of a year.
  Many other veterans are considered near homeless or at risk because 
of their poverty, lack of support from family and friends, and dismal 
living conditions in cheap hotels or in overcrowded or substandard 
housing.
  While significant progress has been made, ending homelessness among 
veterans remains a big challenge.
  In my hometown of Houston for example, between the years 2010 and 
2012, the number of homeless veterans increased from 771 to 1,162.
  We must remain vigilant and continue to fight for those who put on 
the uniform and fought for us.
  Providing a home for veterans to come home to every night is the very 
least we can do.
  Mr. Chair, programs like VASH have succeeded in changing lives. In 
2012 alone, 35,905 veterans lived in the public housing provided by 
VASH.
  I have seen the impact of such grants in my home state of Texas, and 
within my congressional district in Houston, and I am sure that this 
funding has positively impacted many communities across this country.
  In Texas, there are committed groups in Houston, working to eradicate 
the issue of homelessness.
  For example, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center has been 
involved in changing veterans' lives in a mighty way by providing 
Veterans and their families with access to affordable housing and 
medical services that will help them get back on their feet.
  Mr. Chair, we cannot let this issue of homelessness continue.
  I urge my colleagues to support the Jackson Lee Amendment and commit 
ourselves to the hard but necessary work of ending veteran homelessness 
in America.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Jackson Lee).
  The amendment was agreed to.


            Amendment No. 6 Offered by Mr. Roe of Tennessee

  Mr. ROE of Tennessee. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.

[[Page H2613]]

  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
  The text of the amendment is as follows:

       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the 
     following:
       Sec. __.  Not more than $4,400,000 of the funds provided by 
     this Act under the heading ``Department of Veterans Affairs--
     Departmental Administration--General Administration'' may be 
     used for the Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs, 
     and the amount otherwise provided under such heading is 
     hereby reduced by $1,500,000.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from Tennessee and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Tennessee.
  Mr. ROE of Tennessee. Mr. Chairman, I am offering this amendment that 
would cut $1.5 million from the budget of the VA's Office of 
Congressional and Legislative Affairs, or OCLA. The OCLA is tasked with 
being the liaison between Congress and the VA. It is their job to 
provide information to Congress to help with casework and basic 
information.
  What is unfortunate is that, even after the Committee on Veterans' 
Affairs' investigation into the largest scandal in VA history 
continues, it is still the perception that the VA will do everything in 
its power to withhold information to prevent negative news from being 
made public. Unfortunately, as many veterans can tell you, timeliness 
is not a word the VA understands or cares to learn.
  In VA's budget submission, they assert: ``The mission of OCLA is to 
improve the lives of veterans and their families by advancing pro-
veteran legislation and maintaining responsive and effective 
communications with Congress.''
  As of April 24, the Committee on Veterans' Affairs had 78 outstanding 
requests for information with OCLA, and over half of these have been 
pending for over 60 days. On average, it is now taking the OCLA 69 days 
to respond to the committee's requests. There is one that dates back 
all the way to 2012. These numbers do not reflect responsive or 
effective communications. What is even more disappointing is that the 
requests have gone unanswered despite the fact that the OCLA's budget 
has gone up by 36 percent since fiscal year 2009.
  I understand that other parts of the Federal Government, such as the 
Office of General Counsel, the Office of Management and Budget, and in 
some cases, the President's own staff may be delaying Congress' 
requests for months. However, OCLA is chartered with being Congress' 
connection to the rest of the VA, and, as such, they bear the burden of 
these untimely responses.
  The current delays in getting information to Congress is not a new 
phenomenon, as the VA Committee has now held three separate hearings 
that have exposed VA's lack of transparency to Congress and showed that 
even when we do receive information we have requested, it is so old or 
so heavily redacted that it is basically useless.
  These requests are critically important to Congress' role in 
providing meaningful oversight over the second-largest agency in the 
Federal Government. It is our duty to be a strong check on the 
executive branch. While Secretary McDonald is trying everything he can 
to change the culture at the VA, Congress must send a message that 
providing answers to our questions 69 days after we have requested it 
is simply unacceptable to us, unacceptable to the taxpayers, and, most 
importantly, it is unacceptable to the veterans. Passage of this 
amendment would send that message.
  I thank Chairman Dent for his hard work on this bill.
  Mr. DENT. Will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. ROE of Tennessee. I yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chair, I rise in support of the gentleman's amendment.
  I certainly share Dr. Roe's frustration with the VA Congressional and 
Legislative Affairs Office stalling the delivery of important 
information Congress has requested to fulfill its oversight 
responsibilities.
  Frankly, the only time I have seen that office act with lightning 
speed was in its delivery to all Members of the House last week in an 
inaccurate and critical portrayal of this appropriations bill.
  So, again, I support your amendment.
  Mr. ROE of Tennessee. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman 
from Pennsylvania (Mr. Costello) to speak on the amendment.
  Mr. COSTELLO of Pennsylvania. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support 
of Dr. Roe's amendment to address the lack of accountability and 
transparency at the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of 
Congressional and Legislative Affairs.
  As the gentleman from Tennessee mentioned, OCLA is meant to serve as 
a bridge between Congress and the VA to help facilitate access to 
information that we, as a legislative body, request in our oversight 
role.
  Since I have been in Congress and a member of the Veterans' Affairs 
Committee all of 4 months, it is clear that more transparency is 
needed.
  Let me give you a clear example of a pending request, an unusually 
long unfulfilled request that is still outstanding. Back in December, 
as part of the committee's continued investigation into malfeasance at 
the Philadelphia RO, the committee requested copies of all EEO 
complaints and MSBP files that have been filed at this location since 
2008.
  Late last year, we were told that the files were in boxes and ready 
to be shipped to Washington, D.C., for our review. It is now 5 months 
later, and after numerous requests, we have only received a few of the 
files we requested. The inability of the VA to provide these documents 
is mind-boggling. I don't know how else to describe it.
  The bottom line is: ignoring reasonable, relevant requests is 
unacceptable. There has to be accountability. This amendment does that. 
It does not impact or diminish in any way the treatment and care of our 
veterans. I urge adoption of Dr. Roe's amendment to demand 
accountability.
  Mr. ROE of Tennessee. Mr. Chairman, I urge my colleagues to adopt 
this amendment.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. I claim the time in opposition.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Chair, I think that the concerns raised by 
the gentleman in offering the amendment are perhaps well taken from 
time to time. But I think this amendment is punitive. I think it is 
counterproductive. And I think it is going to make it much more 
difficult to get the results that the gentleman is seeking.
  Because of that, I think that the amendment should be defeated. It is 
a bad amendment. And I think it would be bad for morale for the 
Department. And I think it would be bad generally for the public. I 
urge opposition and a ``no'' vote on this amendment.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Roe).
  The amendment was agreed to.


                     Amendment Offered by Mr. Pocan

  Mr. POCAN. Mr. Chair, I have an amendment at the desk.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chair, I reserve a point of order on the gentleman's 
amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. A point of order is reserved.
  The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       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 withhold any report of an Inspector General from 
     any member of Congress in any case where the member of 
     Congress has requested that such report be provided.

  Mr. POCAN (during the reading). Mr. Chair, I ask unanimous consent 
that the amendment be considered as read.
  The Acting CHAIR. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman 
from Wisconsin?
  Mr. DENT. I object to the unanimous consent. I don't know which 
amendment we are talking about here.
  The Acting CHAIR. Objection is heard.
  The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk continued to read.
  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from Wisconsin and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Wisconsin.

[[Page H2614]]

  Mr. POCAN. Mr. Chair, I thank Subcommittee Chairman Dent and Ranking 
Member Bishop for all of their work on this bill.
  This amendment is a simple amendment to make sure that Members of 
Congress have access to inspector general reports, should they request 
one.
  We recently came across this issue when there was a bipartisan field 
hearing in Tomah, Wisconsin, regarding the Tomah VA facility.
  The Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General had a report 
regarding the overprescription of opiates resulting in multiple deaths 
in the area. And in this case, the VA Office of Inspector General 
completed a report that uncovered these practices, and they gave the 
recommendations to the local and regional manager. However, the report 
and these recommendations were never reported to the Department of 
Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald, any congressional committees 
of jurisdiction, or the public, as the report was administratively 
closed. What is more, the initial report was requested by a Member of 
the House of Representatives, and the VA Office of Inspector General 
failed to even provide the completed report to the Member of Congress.
  Ultimately, that Member of Congress had to do a Freedom of 
Information request, a very unusual request, in order to get a copy of 
that report. Instead, it was left largely to local facilities to 
implement the recommended changes without any oversight from the 
Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs or from the Members of 
Congress who had specifically requested that report. It is all about 
sunlight. I think we function better if we could have that information. 
And we should make sure that those reports are available to every 
Member of Congress. This amendment would simply make sure that no funds 
can be expended in withholding a report, as this report was in the 
State of Wisconsin.
  I yield back the balance of my time.


                             Point of Order

  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I make a point of order against the amendment 
because it proposes to change existing law and constitutes legislation 
in an appropriations bill and, therefore, violates clause 2 of rule 
XXI.
  The rule states in pertinent part:
  ``An amendment to a general appropriation bill shall not be in order 
if changing existing law.''
  The amendment imposes additional duties.
  Therefore, I would request a ruling from the Chair.
  The Acting CHAIR. Does any other Member wish to be heard on the point 
of order?
  If not, the Chair will rule.
  As the Chair ruled on an analogous amendment on June 13, 2011, this 
amendment includes language requiring a new determination by the 
relevant executive branch official of the current membership of a body 
in the legislative branch. The amendment, therefore, constitutes 
legislation in violation of clause 2 of rule XXI.
  The point of order is sustained, and the amendment is not in order.

                              {time}  1900


                     Amendment Offered by Mrs. Noem

  Mrs. NOEM. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the 
     following:
       Sec. __.  None of the funds made available by this Act may 
     be used to end, suspend, or relocate hospital-based services 
     with respect to a health care facility of the Department of 
     Veterans Affairs that is--
       (1) the subject of an environmental impact statement in 
     accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 
     (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.);
       (2) designated as a National Historic Landmark by the 
     National Park Service; and
       (3) located in a highly rural area.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentlewoman 
from South Dakota and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from South Dakota.
  Mrs. NOEM. Mr. Chairman, the Department of Veterans Affairs is 
entrusted with the protection of a multitude of historic facilities. As 
I noted last year during debate on the VA's budget, the National Trust 
for Historic Preservation has found serious deficiencies in the manner 
in which the VA operates these facilities.
  These VA facilities, especially the medical facilities, are more 
important than ever. We are seeing thousands of veterans returning home 
after fighting in conflicts abroad, many suffering from chronic 
service-related injuries. The last thing we want to do is to force 
these veterans to travel hundreds of miles to receive treatment, as is 
often the case in rural States like South Dakota.
  The health of these historic medical facilities is directly connected 
to our veterans' health, and this amendment would prohibit the VA from 
curtailing healthcare services at the historic facilities located in 
rural areas.
  I thank the chairman and his staff for all of their assistance on 
this amendment, and I urge everyone's support for this amendment as 
well.
  Mr. DENT. Will the gentlewoman yield?
  Mrs. NOEM. I yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I am aware the South Dakota delegation has 
been struggling with the VA's determination to move services out of 
historic facilities into a new geographic area. We had language in last 
year's bill forcing the VA to do a full analysis of the consequences of 
the facility moving.
  I have no objection to including the amendment Representative Noem is 
offering this year.
  Mrs. NOEM. I thank the gentleman. I appreciate those words of 
support. It certainly is important to the veterans in our State and in 
many States across the country that often find it very difficult to 
travel to local VA facilities, but now, with the closure of some of 
these facilities, they would have to travel hundreds of miles.
  Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentlewoman from South Dakota (Mrs. Noem).
  The amendment was agreed to.


                     Amendment Offered by Mr. Pocan

  Mr. POCAN. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the 
     following new section:
       Sec. 5__.  None of the funds made available in this Act may 
     be used to enter into a contract with any person whose 
     disclosures of a proceeding with a disposition listed in 
     section 2313(c)(1) of title 41, United States Code, in the 
     Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System 
     include the term ``Fair Labor Standards Act''.

  Mr. POCAN (during the reading). Mr. Chair, I ask unanimous consent 
that the amendment be considered read.
  The Acting CHAIR. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman 
from Wisconsin?
  There was no objection.
  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from Wisconsin and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Wisconsin.
  Mr. POCAN. Mr. Chairman, hopefully, the second time is the charm. 
This is an amendment on behalf of myself, Representative Ellison, and 
the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
  This amendment would bar taxpayer dollars from going to companies 
that have recent wage theft convictions or civil penalties reported in 
the government's contracting database.
  No hard-working American should ever have to worry that their 
employer will refuse to pay his or her work, overtime, or take money 
out of their paycheck, especially if they work for a Federal 
contractor.
  As a small-business owner who has had previous contracts, it is not a 
right, but an earned responsibility and privilege to have these 
contracts, and any employer that would do wage theft--which is 
considered to pay less than the minimum wage, to be shorting someone 
their hours, being forced to work off the clock, not being paid 
overtime, or not being paid at all--should not be able to get these 
Federal contracts.
  A recent National Employment Law Project survey found that 21 percent 
of Federal contract workers were not paid overtime, and 11 percent have 
been forced to work off the clock. Eighteen Federal contractors were 
recipients of one of the largest 100 penalties issued

[[Page H2615]]

by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the Department 
of Labor between 2007 and 2012, and almost half of the total initial 
penalty dollars assessed for OSHA violations were against companies 
holding Federal contracts in 2012.
  Overall, 49 Federal contractors responsible for large violations of 
Federal labor laws were cited for 1,776 separate violations of these 
laws and paid $196 million in penalties and assessments; yet, just in 
fiscal year 2012, these same companies were awarded $81 billion in 
taxpayer dollars.
  The Federal Government cannot look the other way when Federal 
contractors take advantage of their employees. Those who violate the 
Fair Labor Standards Act deserve more than a slap on the wrist; they 
don't deserve to do business with the government anymore. Those 
contractors who engage in wage theft should not be rewarded with 
contracts to do business with the Federal Government.
  This was included in last year's appropriation. We would appreciate 
consideration again in this year's appropriation, to make sure that we 
are protecting the workers for these Federal contractors.
  Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Pennsylvania is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I do have some concerns with this amendment. 
As I read it, it appears to be a ``one strike and you are out'' type 
amendment.
  Mr. WALBERG. Will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. DENT. I yield to the gentleman from Michigan.
  Mr. WALBERG. I thank the chairman. I appreciate the concern that my 
colleague has on this issue. I know it is sincere. I think there is 
every one in this Chamber that has concerns that our laborers, our 
employees, and individual citizens be treated fairly and treated with 
respect, safety, and all of the rest by their employers.
  Mr. Chairman, we all agree that bad actors who deny workers basic 
protections, including wage and overtime pay, shouldn't be rewarded 
with government contracts funded by taxpayer dollars. That is a given.
  There is a suspension and disbarment process already in place under 
current law. If an employer has a history of bad behavior, Federal 
agencies know about it and have the authority to deny that employer 
Federal contracts. My question is: Has anyone suggested the current 
process isn't working? I don't believe so, Mr. Chairman.
  Earlier this year, we held a joint subcommittee hearing, in fact, on 
this issue in relation to the President's executive order that 
functions to blacklist Federal contractors for alleged Federal and 
State labor law violations, including the FLSA.
  The committee received a substantial load of evidence regarding the 
inherent flaws of the President's executive order, which, like this 
amendment, supersedes agencies' current authority to exclude 
problematic contractors, causing significant delays and disruption to 
the Federal procurement system.
  There is agreement on both sides of the aisle that the FLSA is the 
cornerstone of workers' wage and hour protections, but in many ways, 
the regulations implementing the law are flawed and outdated.
  For that reason, we have asked for consideration with the President, 
with the administration, the Department of Labor, both sides of the 
aisle, to look at reforming and fixing the Fair Labor Standards Act 
that has been in place an awful long time before present practices and 
doesn't fit with the 21st century workplace.
  A report by the Government Accountability Office found that 
litigation stemming from FLSA claims continues to be a significant 
problem. These aren't all from bad actors, but in many cases, it 
comes--if not most cases--from an employer trying to keep up with 
present law, present functions, and present regulations that don't even 
fit with FLSA.
  Mr. Chairman, I would ask my colleagues to reject this amendment. We 
have in place opportunities now that can and should be used. We even 
have instances where the Labor Department has violated, and, under this 
amendment that is being offered, they would be held at risk as well.
  It is not an amendment that is needed; it is an amendment that will 
disrupt the process, and it is an amendment that will not move us 
forward and really make changes with FLSA that can and should be made.
  I urge rejection.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. POCAN. Mr. Chairman, I would just like to say I agree with the 
gentleman. I was at the hearing, and I heard the conversation that was 
there. The difference we had is that the hearing--I understand there 
was a disagreement with the executive order, but I would hate for us to 
confuse the disagreement with the executive order with the action that 
we can do here in Congress.
  We had concluded this last year in the appropriations bill, the exact 
same language, to the best of my understanding; and I know that, since 
then, there has been an executive order that we are trying to have a 
conversation with the executive branch about.
  However, it is not fair to the contractors who abide by the law that, 
when you bid against someone who doesn't abide by the law because they 
are shortchanging their employees, that makes it an unfair practice.
  We think the bottom line is we should be protecting those good 
contractors; we should be protecting the employees who don't get their 
fair pay; and, despite any disagreement we might have with the 
executive branch, I think we should, at minimum, as a Congress, stand 
up for those workers and for those good contractors.

  Mr. Chairman, I have been in business for 28 years as a small-
business owner. I know that, when I bid on something, I want to know I 
am at a fair and even playing field.
  We are not making a fair playing field when you have this number of 
people who are getting violations who already get Federal contracts and 
are really getting a slap on the hand, $196 million in penalties versus 
81 billion in taxpayer dollars in contracts awarded.
  Clearly, there is an imbalance, and that becomes a cost to business 
for a bad company, but you are punishing the good companies and the 
good workers by doing that.
  I would certainly hope that we would support this amendment, and I 
yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I will try to keep it brief.
  I do have concerns about the amendment. There is an agreement on both 
sides of the aisle that the FLSA is the cornerstone of workers' wage 
and hour protections, but in many ways, the regulations implementing 
the law are flawed and outdated. A report by the GAO found that 
litigation stemming from the FLSA claims continue to be a significant 
problem.
  These aren't all bad actors. Often, they are employers trying to do 
the right thing, but are simply tripped up by an overly complex 
regulatory structure.
  I would urge opposition, and I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Pocan).
  The question was taken; and the Acting Chair announced that the noes 
appeared to have it.
  Mr. POCAN. Mr. Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.
  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to clause 6 of rule XVIII, further 
proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Wisconsin 
will be postponed.


                Amendment No. 5 Offered by Mr. Ratcliffe

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

       At the end of the bill (before the short title), add the 
     following new section:
       Sec. 5__.  None of the funds made available by this Act may 
     be used to propose, plan for, or execute a new or additional 
     Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from Texas (Mr. Ratcliffe) and a Member opposed each will control 5 
minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Texas.

[[Page H2616]]

  Mr. RATCLIFFE. Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank Chairman Dent and 
Ranking Member Bishop for their hard work on behalf of the 57,000 
veterans in my district and on behalf of veterans and servicemembers 
across the country.
  I am also grateful for the support of Congressmen MacArthur, Hurd, 
and Norcross in offering this bipartisan amendment, one which would 
simply prohibit any funds made available in this act from being used to 
propose or execute a new or additional round of BRAC.
  Mr. Chairman, I am honored to represent the Fourth Congressional 
District of Texas, home to the Red River Army Depot. The depot has 
supported the warfighters since 1941. Although the depot community has 
weathered many changes over the years, their commitment to mission 
remains the same. It is reflected on the placard placed in each of the 
vehicles there which reads, ``We build it as if our lives depend on it. 
Theirs do.''
  The Red River Army Depot is a vital job creator in northeast Texas, 
and it is a critical component of our national defense.
  Mr. Chairman, in this fiscal environment, we need to be careful 
stewards of taxpayer dollars and focus our limited resources on 
addressing critical national security objectives and military 
readiness. Having another round of BRAC won't help us achieve this 
goal.
  In fact, the Government Accountability Office reports that the last 
round of BRAC in 2005 cost the American taxpayers $35.1 billion, which 
was 67 percent more than the original cost estimate.
  At the same time, the expected savings from the last round of BRAC 
were 73 percent less than was advertised. Starting another round of 
BRAC would weaken our capabilities and increase our vulnerability in 
the face of the critical threats facing our Nation.
  I would like to thank my colleagues who have supported this 
amendment.
  Mr. DENT. Will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. RATCLIFFE. I yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania.
  Mr. DENT. I want to let the gentleman know I support the amendment.
  Mr. RATCLIFFE. I thank the gentleman. I would like to yield the 
remainder of my time to the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. MacArthur).

                              {time}  1915

  Mr. MacARTHUR. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman from Texas.
  I have been fighting against BRAC since January, when I led a 
bipartisan letter urging then-Defense Secretary Hagel to not call for 
another round of base closures. But a BRAC was included in the 
President's budget, and here we are today.
  Along with the gentleman from Texas, I am bringing this amendment and 
fighting against BRAC for two reasons:
  First, BRAC is not cost effective. As was mentioned, the 2005 BRAC 
was supposed to cost $21 billion. Just a few years later, it has now 
skyrocketed to $35 billion. On top of that, the savings were reduced by 
73 percent. So it cost the taxpayers more and saved them less. Once 
more, the Department of Defense won't even recoup its upfront costs 
until 2018, 13 years after it started.
  And second, I oppose BRAC because it destroys local economies. I know 
this all too well as Fort Monmouth in my home State was shuttered in 
2005. That area is still recovering from the loss.
  My district is home to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, which is 
responsible for 105,000 local jobs in southern New Jersey. It is a $7 
billion impact on just one local community. Like so many other military 
bases around the country, it is the backbone of our community. If it is 
closed, the area would be devastated.
  Spending more, saving less, ruining local economies, and reducing our 
military capability should not be done based on what we know today. In 
closing, I urge passage of this amendment.
  Mr. RATCLIFFE. I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman 
from Texas (Mr. Hurd).
  Mr. HURD of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I am proud to cosponsor this 
amendment alongside my colleague from Texas, the honorable John 
Ratcliffe, and my colleague from New Jersey, the Honorable Tom 
MacArthur.
  Government action that both wastes the taxpayer dollars and hurts 
local economies just doesn't make sense, especially when the same 
action negatively impacts national security. But that is precisely what 
another round of base realignment and closures would do.
  Laughlin Air Force Base, located near Del Rio, Texas, in the 23rd 
Congressional District of Texas, is responsible for training more Air 
Force pilots than any other base in the world. It is an integral 
component of our Nation's military readiness, and they are a vital part 
of Del Rio's economy and community. Yet every year they wait to see if 
the powers that be up here have decided in their infinite wisdom to put 
Laughlin Air Force Base back on the chopping block, devastating Del Rio 
and endangering our Nation's air superiority.
  I encourage my colleagues to support this amendment, which will 
prohibit funds from being used to propose, plan, or execute another 
round of BRAC closures. Protecting our military readiness in 
communities such as Del Rio is vital.
  Mr. RATCLIFFE. I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Texas (Mr. Ratcliffe).
  The amendment was agreed to.


                    Amendment Offered by Mr. Grayson

  Mr. GRAYSON. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the 
     following:
       Sec. __.  None of the funds made available by this Act may 
     be used to enter into a contract with any offeror or any of 
     its principals if the offeror certifies, as required by 
     Federal Acquisition Regulation, that the offeror or any of 
     its principals:
       (A) within a three-year period preceding this offer has 
     been convicted of or had a civil judgment rendered against it 
     for: commission of fraud or a criminal offense in connection 
     with obtaining, attempting to obtain, or performing a public 
     (Federal, State, or local) contract or subcontract; violation 
     of Federal or State antitrust statutes relating to the 
     submission of offers; or commission of embezzlement, theft, 
     forgery, bribery, falsification or destruction of records, 
     making false statements, tax evasion, violating Federal 
     criminal tax laws, or receiving stolen property; or
       (B) are presently indicted for, or otherwise criminally or 
     civilly charged by a governmental entity with, commission of 
     any of the offenses enumerated above in subsection (A); or
       (C) within a three-year period preceding this offer, has 
     been notified of any delinquent Federal taxes in an amount 
     that exceeds $3,000 for which the liability remains 
     unsatisfied.

  Mr. GRAYSON (during the reading). Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous 
consent to waive the reading of the amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman 
from Florida?
  There was no objection.
  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from Florida and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Florida.
  Mr. GRAYSON. Mr. Chairman, this amendment is identical to other 
amendments that were inserted by voice vote into every appropriations 
bill that was considered under an open rule during the 113th Congress. 
My amendment expands the list of parties with whom the Federal 
Government is prohibited from contracting due to serious misconduct on 
the part of the contractors.
  Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Florida (Mr. Grayson).
  The amendment was agreed to.


                 Amendment Offered by Mr. Hurd of Texas

  Mr. HURD of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the 
     following:
       Sec. __.  None of the funds made available by this Act may 
     be used in contravention of subtitle D of title VIII of the 
     Carl Levin and Howard P. ``Buck'' McKeon National Defense 
     Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from Texas and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.

[[Page H2617]]

  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Texas.
  Mr. HURD of Texas. Mr. Chairman, one thing we can all agree on is our 
veterans deserve better. For far too long, our Nation's veterans have 
failed to receive the health care they have earned and the health care 
they have needed.
  One of the reasons is due to the VA's inability to join the 21st 
century when it comes to information technology. Something as simple as 
allowing a veteran's medical records to be available digitally to their 
health care providers shouldn't be something beyond the capabilities of 
the greatest Nation in the world.
  My amendment ensures the Department of Veterans Affairs and their 
chief information officer will take the appropriate steps and get the 
VA moving in the right direction. It will create accountability with 
their acquisition and use of information technology.
  Let's do what is right and make sure the VA is using the right 
technology to ensure that our veterans are getting timely, quality 
care.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Texas (Mr. Hurd).
  The amendment was agreed to.


               Amendment Offered by Mr. Roe of Tennessee

  Mr. ROE of Tennessee. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the 
     following:
       Sec. __.  None of the funds made available by this Act may 
     be used to pay an award or bonus under chapter 45 or 53 of 
     title 5, United States Code, to any employee of the Office of 
     Construction and Facilities Management of the Department of 
     Veterans Affairs.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from Tennessee and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Tennessee.
  Mr. ROE of Tennessee. Mr. Chairman, I am offering an amendment that 
would prevent bonuses from being awarded to the Office of Construction 
& Facilities Management, the branch of the Department of Veterans 
Affairs in charge of all construction projects costing more than $10 
million and which is perhaps the least deserving of performance bonuses 
in the entire agency.
  In January, the House Veterans' Affairs Committee held a hearing to 
examine the enormous shortcomings of this office. We found that 
construction of a VA hospital in Denver--Aurora, to be specific--is 
projected to outpace the budget by $1 billion. This project that 
started supposedly in 2010 was supposed to be completed in 2013. The 
original budget was $600 million, with a $10 million change order. Now 
they estimate the completion date is 2017.
  Mr. Chairman, the Romans built the Colosseum in 8 years, and I don't 
think they were $1 billion over budget. That is $1,700 a square foot to 
build this hospital. Can you imagine how many veterans the VA could 
have treated with $1 billion. That is 1,000 million dollars.
  How many doctors and nurses could have been hired with $1 billion 
that the VA's Office of Construction & Facilities Management has set 
fire to? The answer is: a lot.
  The Denver project, if that was just it, that would be fine, but it 
is not an isolated incident.
  In Orlando, a hospital project initially estimated to cost $254 
million is almost 5 years behind schedule and projected to be $372 
million over budget. That is 143 percent overrun.
  In New Orleans, a major hospital being built to replace a VA facility 
lost to Hurricane Katrina was initially estimated to cost $625 million 
and is just over halfway completed, running 66 percent over budget at a 
cost of a whopping $1.035 billion.
  And in Las Vegas, a hospital initially projected to cost $325 million 
is almost complete after being delayed for more than 7 years, coming in 
$260 million over budget.
  These four projects alone have wasted billions of dollars of taxpayer 
money and delayed the delivery of health care to veterans for almost 14 
years.
  If this is the performance we should expect, the VA really has no 
business being in the construction industry. My friend, Congressman 
Coffman, who chairs the House Veterans' Affairs Committee Oversight and 
Investigation Subcommittee and represents the Denver area, has 
introduced legislation that would allow construction to continue at 
Denver while placing the responsibility of any further future VA 
construction projects over $10 million in the hands of the Army Corps 
of Engineers, who have a great track record, I might add.
  I hope that we are able to consider an approach like Mr. Coffman's 
and clean up this mess once and for all. But in the interim, it is 
critical that we send a message to this office that business as usual 
can't be tolerated.
  The VA branch responsible for these cost overruns and delays should 
not have jobs in the construction realm, much less receive performance 
bonuses. This amendment would see that the taxpayer does not pay for 
performance bonuses to an office that has caused more harm than good.
  I urge adoption of this amendment, Mr. Chairman, and I reserve the 
balance of my time.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, I claim the time in opposition, 
although I do not oppose the gentleman's amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. Without objection, the gentleman is recognized for 
5 minutes.
  There was no objection.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, I think we are all very, very 
disturbed by what has happened with Denver, and we are also disturbed 
about the practices of the construction office. But I just wanted to 
take this opportunity to maybe kind of clarify what has happened in 
response to try to mitigate the situation.
  In January, Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson announced the restructuring 
of the Office of Construction & Facilities Management, having them 
report directly to the Deputy Secretary through the Office of 
Management.
  The VA also initiated an administrative investigative board in 
January to find the truth and to document the misconduct on the 
project. Secretary Gibson has included the VA Office of General Counsel 
in the review, and the administrative investigative board is expected 
to complete its review and make recommendations to the Deputy Secretary 
this month.
  Additionally, the U.S. Corps of Engineers is conducting a separate 
review of the VA's Construction office to evaluate the structure and 
the processes so that changes can be made in the future.
  I just thought that the Record ought to be set straight that everyone 
is disgusted with the way that these projects have been handled and 
that we are taking steps, and the Department is taking steps, to make 
sure that this bad situation is corrected.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. ROE of Tennessee. Mr. Chairman, I would say--and I agree with 
that; I am on the Veterans' Affairs Committee--I have been involved 
personally in four hospitals being built in my hometown. All came in on 
time, under budget.
  When you have a bank, a lender, lending you money, they will stop you 
from going this much over budget. That is exactly what we didn't have 
here. I cannot imagine spending $1 billion more to build a facility and 
then maybe offering someone a bonus.
  There are some measures being put in right now, but right now I 
think--and I appreciate the gentleman not objecting to this amendment--
we need to make sure this never happens again to waste the taxpayers' 
money.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Roe).
  The amendment was agreed to.


                    Amendment Offered by Mr. Stivers

  Mr. STIVERS. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the 
     following:
       Sec. __.  None of the funds made available by this Act may 
     be used to pay the salary of any employee of the Department 
     of Veterans Affairs who is a member of an Amputee Clinic Team 
     (as described in VHA Handbook 1173.3, ``Amputee Clinic Teams 
     and Artificial Limbs'', dated June 4, 2004) and who is not 
     credentialed in accordance with VHA Directive 2012-030, 
     ``Credentialing of Health Care Professionals'', issued on 
     October 11, 2012.


[[Page H2618]]


  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from Ohio and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Ohio.

                              {time}  1930

  Mr. STIVERS. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of my amendment, 
which would help ensure that VA orthotists and prosthetists, who are 
responsible for caring for our veterans, are fully qualified and are 
able to perform the duties entrusted to them.
  This February, the CBS affiliate in Columbus, Ohio, ran a story 
exposing flaws at the Chalmers P. Wylie VA Ambulatory Care Center, 
which serves constituents from my district. The story revealed that 
dozens of veterans--and possibly many more--who have not come forward 
had received ineffective care by uncertified prosthetists. One veteran 
was even told that his fitting was supposed to be painful. After 
several unsuccessful visits, he turned to a non-VA provider, Willow 
Wood, which is near Columbus, Ohio, where he was immediately provided 
with a successful, pain-free fitting.
  The VA does claim to be following a credentialing directive, which is 
VA directive 2012-030. Mr. Chairman, I will soon be introducing 
comprehensive legislation to address this issue, but in the meantime, 
this amendment would force the VA to honor its word by ensuring that no 
salaries are paid to uncertified prosthetists and orthotists. Our 
veterans have made tremendous sacrifices for our country, and they 
deserve the best.
  Mr. DENT. Will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. STIVERS. I yield to the gentleman.
  Mr. DENT. I support the amendment.
  Mr. STIVERS. That was easy.
  Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Stivers).
  The amendment was agreed to.


                     Amendment Offered by Mr. Byrne

  Mr. BYRNE. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the 
     following:
       Sec. __.  None of the funds made available by this Act may 
     be used to transfer any funds from the Veterans Choice Fund 
     established by section 802 of the Veterans Access, Choice, 
     and Accountability Act of 2014 (Public Law 113-146; 128 Stat. 
     1802).

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from Alabama and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Alabama.
  Mr. BYRNE. Mr. Chairman, I rise today to offer an important 
clarifying amendment that will help ensure our Nation's veterans have 
the choices they deserve when seeking medical care.
  Last year, Congress passed the Veterans Access, Choice, and 
Accountability Act. In addition to many important reforms, this bill 
created a VA Choice Card program. Under the law, veterans who are 
experiencing wait times of more than 30 days or who live more than 40 
miles from a VA facility can seek private care. This was great news for 
veterans all across the Nation who had been stuck in a backlog or who 
lived a significant distance from a VA clinic. Like many of my 
colleagues, I praised this legislation as a major step forward. 
Unfortunately, due to a self-serving interpretation, the VA has put up 
barriers that restrict veterans' access to private care.
  First, the VA calculated the 40-mile requirement in a straight line, 
or as the crow flies, instead of calculating based on driving distance. 
After much pushback from veterans' organizations and from Members of 
Congress, the VA recently changed the interpretation to driving 
distance. I applaud the VA for making that change. However, the VA is 
still misinterpreting the law. The VA says, if a veteran lives 40 miles 
from a VA facility of any kind regardless of what services are offered, 
then he is not eligible for private care. My district paints a good 
picture of why this is problematic.
  We have a VA outpatient clinic in Mobile that only provides minimal 
services, but the VA claims that, since that clinic is there, our 
veterans cannot seek private care even if the services they need are 
not provided by the local clinic. That is especially frustrating 
because Mobile is home to a number of large, first class hospitals 
which could provide adequate care to our veterans. For example, if a 
veteran needed orthopedic surgery, he would be forced to travel to 
Pensacola or to Biloxi to seek that care even though he could get that 
surgery done right in his hometown. That is not how the legislation was 
intended to work.
  Recently, VA Secretary Bob McDonald asked Congress for the ability to 
shift money away from the VA Choice Card program into other accounts. I 
am disappointed that the Secretary would already be giving up on this 
program while it is still in its infancy. It is even more frustrating 
considering that one of the biggest obstacles to the program's success 
is the VA's own self-serving interpretation. My simple amendment would 
clarify that the VA cannot move money out of the Choice Program 
account. We need to give this program time to work and allow veterans 
access to private care instead of forcing them to travel hundreds of 
miles out of the way to receive care.
  Additionally, I have introduced stand-alone legislation, which is 
supported by Republicans and Democrats from 15 different States, that 
would correct the VA's interpretation and make clear that veterans are 
eligible for private care when they live more than 40 miles from a VA 
facility that provides the care the veterans need.
  I am optimistic that the House will act on this commonsense bill. 
Today, I urge my colleagues to support my amendment. Let's prevent the 
VA from transferring funds away from the Choice Card program, and let's 
work together to give our veterans the choices they need and deserve 
when seeking medical treatment.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Alabama (Mr. Byrne).
  The amendment was agreed to.


                     Amendment Offered by Mr. Gosar

  Mr. GOSAR. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the 
     following:
       Sec. __.  None of the funds made available by this Act may 
     be used to--
       (1) carry out the memorandum from the Veterans Benefit 
     Administration known as Fast Letter 13-10, issued on May 20, 
     2013; or
       (2) create or maintain any patient record-keeping system 
     other than those currently approved by the Department of 
     Veterans Affairs Central Office in Washington, D.C.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from Arizona and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Arizona.
  Mr. GOSAR. Mr. Chairman, last year, in the midst of the explosive 
allegations about the Phoenix VA's keeping secondary unofficial records 
of claims and appointment requests, I offered a similar amendment that 
passed this body which prohibited funds from being used to create or to 
maintain unofficial recordkeeping systems at the Department of Veterans 
Affairs. This year, I am proud, once again, to offer this commonsense 
policy with the support of my friend and colleague from Georgia.
  As many of you know, several whistleblowers came forward with 
allegations that the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Healthcare System had 
been using secondary unofficial records of veterans claims and 
appointment requests to misrepresent the actual wait times that 
veterans faced as they sought health care. Some employees within the VA 
even received bonuses as a result of these manipulations. It is 
unfortunate that, over the past year, many of these once unthinkable 
allegations have become substantiated.
  Recently, an inspector general's investigation uncovered actual memos 
from VA leadership that encouraged this type of behavior. This is 
outrageous. The memo I speak of is known as the ``Fast Letter 13-10,'' 
and it was handed down directly from the Office of the Director of 
Veterans Benefits Administration to the Philadelphia VA Regional 
Office.
  I am appalled but not totally surprised to learn of this memo. I have

[[Page H2619]]

said this before, but it is sad that we have to pass amendments to 
prevent this type of behavior. When government bureaucrats don't use 
good judgment or common sense, Congress must address these issues. No 
matter what the investigation shows and no matter who was involved, 
this practice must be prevented in the future.
  This amendment would prohibit the practice of altering or falsifying 
veterans wait-time data pursuant to the Fast Letter or any other 
purpose. We should have only one, uniform patient recordkeeping system 
within the VA in order to provide accountability as well as uniformity 
and to prevent employee manipulation.
  I urge my colleagues to support this amendment, and I thank the 
distinguished Chair and ranking member.
  Mr. DENT. Will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. GOSAR. I yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania.
  Mr. DENT. I do not think any of us wants to allow the VA funds to be 
used in any way that would falsify records on the claims backlog. I 
have no objection to the amendment.
  Mr. GOSAR. I thank the distinguished chairman.
  Mr. Chairman, I yield the balance of my time to the gentleman from 
Georgia (Mr. Carter).
  Mr. CARTER of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, veterans continue to be one of 
the most neglected groups in our country. These men and women have 
sacrificed their lives to ensure that our values and principles remain 
true; yet we still have people within the VA system who neglect these 
sacrifices and who disregard these men and women.
  As my colleague from Arizona mentioned, this flawed guidance from the 
VA headquarters is wrong and completely disrespectful to our country's 
veterans. The memo that was issued by the VA, commonly known as ``Fast 
Letter 13-10,'' was a deliberate attempt to make VA bureaucrats appear 
as if they were delivering services and benefits to veterans faster 
than they really were. Through these internal actions, some VA offices 
were ``eliminating'' the backlog of benefit claims with a stroke of a 
pen.
  Just because you lie about the details does not make the problem 
disappear. With one memo, the VA managers disregarded every performance 
measure that had been put in place to protect our veterans and their 
benefits. Mr. Chairman, I believe this brings up a large point--the 
problems within the Federal civil service and, as an employee within 
the VA stated, the dysfunctional culture of management corruption.
  For the time being, we must address this issue. I join my friend from 
Arizona in offering this amendment. We must ensure that VA managers 
care for our veterans in a timely and effective manner. I urge my 
colleagues to support this amendment.
  Mr. GOSAR. Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Gosar).
  The amendment was agreed to.


                     Amendment Offered by Mr. Hill

  Mr. HILL. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       At the end of the bill (before the short title) add the 
     following new section:
       Sec. 5__.  None of the funds made available by this Act may 
     be used by the Department of Veterans Affairs to carry out 
     any new Key Renewable VA Energy Project under the 
     Department's Green Management Programs.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from Arkansas and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Arkansas.
  Mr. HILL. Mr. Chairman, in 2012, an award of $8 million was provided 
to design and build a 1.8-megawatt solar system at the John L. 
McClellan VA Medical Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. It has been 
almost 2 years since that planned activation was to begin operating. 
However, reports in our local media have indicated that there is 
additional engineering and that it is not functioning and not 
operational. Further, sections of the solar panels for this system are 
now being torn down in order to be relocated to make way for a parking 
deck that was planned before the installation had begun of the solar 
panels. Many questions remain unanswered about this project and when 
the VA plans to fully implement this supposed cost-saving system to 
provide energy for the facility.
  Further, I found from the VA's own Web site a list of 40 key energy 
projects that are designated as ``works in progress'' by the VA under 
its key renewable energy program. Some of these date back to 2010; yet 
they have not been completed and have not been made operational. There 
are over 90 solar projects that have been funded under this program and 
198 projects that have been funded under the VA's Green Management 
Program. Some of these projects individually have cost the taxpayers up 
to $20 million. The Little Rock project is only projected to save 
$150,000 annually in energy costs, which would make the payback on that 
$8 million investment some 50 years.
  On April 8, I sent a letter to Secretary McDonald, asking for answers 
about these solar systems, in Little Rock particularly, about the 
relocation of the panels at the facility, and about the activation 
date. Senator John Boozman and I have called for an IG investigation 
into this project and into other aspects of the key renewable energy 
program to ensure that the taxpayers' hard-earned dollars are 
safeguarded.
  This amendment would simply prevent any new funding for these 
projects this fiscal year, allowing Congress the additional time to 
conduct oversight and allowing the VA to ensure that this program is 
effective.

                              {time}  1945

  It is essential that we demand accountability and transparency when 
utilizing taxpayer dollars for these kinds of government projects. I 
urge the passage of this amendment.
  I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chair, I claim the time in opposition.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Pennsylvania is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chair, I rise reluctantly in opposition to the 
amendment. I feel the gentleman's amendment is a bit too broad. It is 
overly broad, in my view. I understand the gentleman's frustration with 
the VA's delay in getting the Little Rock solar panel project up and 
running. I certainly support the inspector general investigation into 
the problems.
  I am concerned that blocking all renewable energy projects, currently 
budgeted at $86 million for fiscal year 2016, would have the unintended 
impact of blocking some worthwhile projects that would save money, 
reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
  I would respectfully suggest maybe the gentleman would consider 
withdrawing the amendment, and we will try to work with him to get this 
amendment in a better form, one that we might be able to support. I 
just want to put that out there for his consideration at this time.
  I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. HILL. I thank the chairman for his comments. I appreciate his 
consideration. I would be happy to work with the gentleman to revise my 
amendment.
  Mr. Chair, I ask unanimous consent to withdraw my amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman 
from Arkansas?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Chair, I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, I just want to speak to this 
amendment. The VA Green Management Program is a sustainability program 
that integrates energy and water conservation, environmental 
compliance, vehicle fleet management, sustainable building design and 
operation, greenhouse gas management, and climate change adaptation.
  Since its inception in 2007, the VA Green Management Program has 
reduced VA's energy costs from $504 million in 2010 to $459 million in 
2014, despite significant growth in mission. Additionally, the Green 
Management Program has put in place energy performance contracts 
requiring no appropriated funds that will save VA over $9

[[Page H2620]]

million annually. Other significant achievements include it reduced VA 
energy use per square foot by 21 percent since 2003, reduced VA water 
consumption per square foot by 28 percent since 2007, increased VA's 
vehicle fleet to 55 percent alternatively fueled vehicles, and reduced 
VA-generated greenhouse gases 12 percent since the 2008 baseline.
  In the absence of the Green Management Program funding, a number of 
programs, processes, and projects will not be carried out. These 
activities save taxpayers significant amounts of money; improve indoor 
and outdoor environments at VA facilities for the benefit of veterans, 
for visitors, employees, and surrounding communities; and help assure 
the VA compliance with Federal laws, with regulations, with executive 
orders, Presidential memoranda.
  I would urge Members to oppose it. I am happy that the gentleman has 
withdrawn the amendment. I think his concerns are well placed, and I 
join the chairman in agreeing to work with him to see if we can't 
address those specific concerns in his location.
  I yield back the balance of my time.


                  Amendment Offered by Mr. Farenthold

  Mr. FARENTHOLD. I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the 
     following:
       Sec. __.  None of the funds made available by this Act may 
     be used to pay the salary of any employee of the Department 
     of Veterans Affairs who received an unsatisfactory work 
     performance review in fiscal year 2015.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from Texas and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Texas.
  Mr. FARENTHOLD. Mr. Chairman, my amendment is very straightforward. 
If an employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs has received a 
work performance review rated as unsatisfactory in the last fiscal 
year, he will not be able to receive a salary for this fiscal year 
2016.
  Mr. Chairman, there have been all sorts of media reports about how 
Secretary McDonald has been trying to reform the VA but has been having 
trouble getting rid of the bad apples. This is one way we could help 
him do that. For instance, the VA employees in the 27th Congressional 
District of Texas that I represent and across the Nation continue to 
provide vital care to our veterans. In the 27th District, our local 
medical center is well below the national standards for both customer 
service and phone standards.
  Mr. Chairman, an official report from the VA inspector general found 
that about 1,700 veterans were in need of care and were at risk of 
being lost or forgotten after being kept off official waiting lists. 
Schedulers for the Veterans Affairs were instructed to change the dates 
for which veterans had requested an appointment in order to hide 
delays. At the Phoenix VA, official data showed that veterans waited an 
average of 24 days for an appointment when in reality the average wait 
was 115 days. That is absolutely unacceptable.
  The VA OIG reported in May of 2014 that 17 veterans deaths had 
occurred while waiting for VA treatment in the Phoenix VA, and on June 
5 of that same year, the VA reported they had identified an additional 
18 deaths. People are dying because of unsatisfactory performance at 
the VA.
  Earlier this month it was reported that out of 280,000 employees 
working for the VA, only eight had been ``punished'' for any of the 
offenses. In fact, the only person who has actually been fired is 
Sharon Helman. She wasn't fired immediately for unsatisfactory work 
performance. Instead, she was on paid administrative leave for over 7 
months before they finally got around to firing her. She was that 
former VA person in Phoenix and was only fired after it was discovered 
she was accepting gifts from a lobbyist. We have no way of dealing with 
the problems, and we are looking for a solution to this.
  Mr. Chairman, the VA OIG found that, under Ms. Helman's leadership, 
35 veterans had died, and it took us 7 months to fire her for an 
unrelated offense. The VA still is struggling with this.
  Clearly, Congress needs to find a better approach to help root out 
the bad apples in the VA. My amendment is one way we can do this. If 
you are receiving the worst possible performance review, you ought not 
to be getting paid with taxpayer money for your unsatisfactory work.
  I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I claim the time in opposition to the 
amendment, though I am not necessarily opposed.
  The Acting CHAIR. Without objection, the gentleman from Pennsylvania 
is recognized for 5 minutes.
  There was no objection.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chair, I appreciate the gentleman for raising this 
important issue. I certainly share his concern about the service our 
veterans are receiving from VA employees. However, I do have some 
concerns with the breadth of this amendment. It seems, again, a little 
bit overly broad.
  If the gentleman would withdraw his amendment, I will continue to 
work with him to ensure greater accountability for poor-performing 
employees. Again, I thank the gentleman for highlighting this important 
issue, but I just think the amendment is a little overly broad. The 
breadth is a bit more than I think is necessary at this moment, but we 
might be able to work this out.
  Would the gentleman consider withdrawing the amendment?
  Mr. FARENTHOLD. Mr. Chair, I understand the concerns that the 
chairman of the subcommittee has. The breadth was necessary in order to 
get by the requirement to not be legislating within an appropriations 
bill. If the chairman is willing to work with me on finding a scalpel 
rather than an ax to prune these bad apples out of the tree, I am 
willing to withdraw the amendment.
  Mr. DENT. I will do that.
  Mr. FARENTHOLD. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to withdraw the 
amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman 
from Texas?
  There was no objection.


                    Amendment Offered by Mr. LaMalfa

  Mr. LaMALFA. I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the 
     following:
       Sec.__. For an additional amount for ``Department of 
     Veterans Affairs--Departmental Administration--General 
     Operating Expenses, Veterans Benefits Administration'', there 
     is hereby appropriated, and the amount otherwise provided by 
     this Act for ``Department of Veterans Affairs--Departmental 
     Administration--General Administration'' is hereby reduced 
     by, $5,000,000.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from California and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from California.
  Mr. LaMALFA. Mr. Chairman, first of all, let me thank those who have 
helped with this legislation here, my colleagues from California, Mr. 
Costa, Mr. Ruiz, and my colleague from Massachusetts, Mr. Moulton, on 
helping bring this forward. I also thank the chairman and the members 
of the committee as well as the desk staff here tonight in helping to 
make this happen.
  Again, this bill simply reduces the amount budgeted for the general 
administration of Veterans Affairs to instead be posted toward the 
Veterans Benefits Administration; therefore, helping to take a bite out 
of the huge backlog that we have of veterans waiting to have their 
claims processed after having served with us. This $5 million shift, I 
think, will be helpful in that backlog, as we already know that the VA 
is at least 171,000 claims behind in their process. These 171,000 
claims are behind by more than 125 days, which is unacceptable.
  Of course, the VA's top priority should be making sure that veterans 
have their claims processed and are receiving the benefit they should 
be getting. Our veterans should not have had to return from fighting a 
war and have to instead fight a bureaucracy at home.
  Mr. DENT. Will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. LaMALFA. I yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania.
  Mr. DENT. I do not oppose this amendment. I am prepared to accept it.
  Mr. LaMALFA. I thank the chairman.
  Mr. Chairman, again, this will be an important step towards helping 
reduce

[[Page H2621]]

that backlog and getting our veterans claims processed and the service 
they deserve. I ask for an ``aye'' vote.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from California (Mr. LaMalfa).
  The amendment was agreed to.


            Amendment Offered by Mr. Jody B. Hice of Georgia

  Mr. JODY B. HICE of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the 
desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the 
     following:
       Sec. __.  None of the funds made available by this Act may 
     be used to pay a Federal employee for any period of time 
     during which such employee is using official time under 
     section 7131 of title 5, United States Code.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from Georgia and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Georgia.
  Mr. JODY B. HICE of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, I rise today to offer an 
amendment that will help our Nation's veterans increase efficiency in 
the Federal workforce and uphold the integrity of tax dollars. Title 5 
of the U.S. Code allows for a practice in which Federal employees are 
permitted to engage in union-related activities while at work while not 
doing the job for which they were hired. This practice is known as 
official time, and it costs the taxpayers literally millions of man-
hours every year and hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
  The Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the agencies with the 
most egregious use of official time. This agency is singlehandedly 
responsible for almost one-third of all the reported official time 
usage in the entire Federal Government.
  Mr. Chairman, this one agency has more than 250 individuals who do 
nothing but operate on official time. That is to say, 100 percent of 
their time at work is used doing union activity rather than what they 
were hired to do, which is to help our veterans. That is unacceptable. 
It costs the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
  On the other hand, Mr. Chairman, as of April 1, there were some 
431,000 veterans who have been waiting for over 30 days to get an 
appointment at a VA medical facility. In my home State alone, more than 
20,000 veterans have waited more than 30 days for appointments, be it 
in Atlanta, Augusta, or Dublin. We have veterans literally begging for 
access to health care, and yet they are being told while waiting in 
line that people appreciate their service to our country, appreciate 
the fact that they have been willing to lay their lives down for our 
country, but when it comes to their medical conditions, they will have 
to wait because of lack of resources.

                              {time}  2000

  Mr. Chairman, to allow hundreds of VA employees to give 100 percent 
of their work hours to union activity while telling veterans that we do 
not have the resources to provide for their medical needs is 
inexcusable.
  We need to stop this practice that allows VA employees to prioritize 
their union over our veterans. The day that veterans are put in second 
place to union activities is the day that Congress must get involved, 
and that has day come.
  According to the most recent OPM report, the VA spends over $45 
million taxpayer dollars every year on this practice. That is $45 
million that could go to serve the medical needs of our veterans.
  Mr. Chairman, what we have before us is a tremendous opportunity to 
help our veterans while, at the same time, saving taxpayer dollars and 
increasing the overall efficiency of our Federal workforce. This 
amendment cuts through all the bureaucratic red tape and the sweetheart 
deals for unions and helps our Nation's deserving veterans.
  Mr. Chairman, this amendment is an opportunity to put our veterans 
first, above special interests, and I ask my colleagues to support this 
amendment.
  I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the 
amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR (Mr. Collins of Georgia). The gentleman is 
recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. I believe that this amendment really serves no 
purpose but to erode collective bargaining rights for civil service 
Federal employees, and it may violate collective bargaining agreements 
that have been negotiated between workers and these agencies.
  The VA employs some 342,000 people, and to complain because 200 of 
them spend their time representing and making sure that the conditions 
of employment within the scope of employment of their coworkers under 
collective bargaining agreements are maintained, I believe, is just 
punitive.
  Federal unions are legally required to provide representation to all 
members of a bargaining unit, whether or not the workers elect to pay 
voluntary unions dues. Representation for employees working their way 
through administrative procedures is a cost-effective process for 
administering and adjudicating agency policies.
  The alternative to official time is for government agencies to pay 
for costly third-party attorney and arbitrator fees. Eliminating 
official time would increase cost, time, and effort for the agencies, 
the workers, and the taxpayers.
  Official time is essential to maintaining workplace safety. Union 
representatives use official time to set procedures to protect 
employees from on-the-job hazards. Official time is also used to allow 
employees to participate in work groups with the management team to 
improve the processes.
  Under current law, official time may not be used to solicit 
membership, to conduct internal union meetings, elect union officers, 
or to engage in any partisan political activities. The notion that 
official time is used for these purposes is just false.
  I would urge a ``no'' vote on this amendment. I think that it is 
punitive, and it has no purpose but to erode collective bargaining 
rights for civil service Federal employees.
  I think that is not consistent with the laws of the United States of 
America.
  I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. JODY B. HICE of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, how much time is 
remaining?
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman has 1\1/2\ minutes remaining.
  Mr. JODY B. HICE of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, I understand my 
colleague's concerns, but to say it is unnecessary is a bit beyond my 
understanding.
  Yes, there are some 259 individuals at the VA that dedicate 100 
percent of their time to union activity when they were hired to do 
veterans work, but there are hundreds of others who don't give 100 
percent of their time, but hundreds of additional hours on a regular 
basis.
  We have reached out. After I introduced H.R. 1658, the Federal 
Employee Accountability Act, we literally heard from veterans all 
across the country. Many of these fine men and women, being veterans 
now, also were and are employees at the VA. With one unified voice, 
they expressed that they had deep frustration and disappointment with 
how they have seen veterans treated.
  Mr. Chairman, I would like to quote just one of those individuals who 
served in our Air Force and is a current employee at the VA. He said, 
``The union is the number one obstacle to providing care to vets.''
  I just see, ultimately, Mr. Chairman, that the choice before us is 
clear. Members of this body can stand with union bosses, or they can 
stand with the people who have stood on the front line to defend our 
liberties and our freedom, the Nation's veterans.
  I choose to stand with our brave veterans, and I urge my colleagues 
to do the same.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, I would like to point out that 
many of the employees--as a matter of fact, I think the number is 34 
percent--at the Department of Veterans Affairs are, indeed, veterans.
  They are people who, in fact, put their lives on the line and have 
given and served and sacrificed for this country. Of course, they are 
now continuing to work for their colleagues and their coworkers on the 
job in their capacity as bargaining representatives in the VA.

[[Page H2622]]

  I would point out that, under the law, they have the right to do 
this. The law supports them in doing this. We should not interfere with 
that because too many of them--34 percent--are, in fact, veterans.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Jody B. Hice).
  The question was taken; and the Acting Chair announced that the ayes 
appeared to have it.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.
  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to clause 6 of rule XVIII, further 
proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Georgia will 
be postponed.


              Amendment No. 3 Offered by Mr. King of Iowa

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

       At the end of the bill, before the short title, add the 
     following new section:
       Sec. 514.  None of the funds made available by this Act may 
     be used to implement, administer, or enforce the prevailing 
     wage requirements in subchapter IV of chapter 31 of title 40, 
     United States Code (commonly referred to as the Davis-Bacon 
     Act).

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 223, the gentleman 
from Iowa and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Iowa.
  Mr. KING of Iowa. Mr. Chairman, my amendment is an amendment that I 
brought up in previous appropriation cycles.
  What it does is defunds and eliminates the Davis-Bacon federally 
mandated wage scale components in the construction of MILCON on this 
underlying bill. It recognizes a whole series of history that has been 
built since the early thirties on the Davis-Bacon Act.
  I have spent my life in the construction business, Mr. Chairman. I 
started a construction business in 1975. We are celebrating our 40th 
year in business, and, almost every one of those 40 years, we have 
dealt with Davis-Bacon wage scales. I have made out, personally, that 
payroll over and over again.
  I have also seen the inefficiencies that are created. The net effect 
is a de facto union scale. It is not a prevailing wage, but a de facto 
union scale. The net effect is it creates inefficiencies, and it 
increases and inflates the cost of our construction projects.
  Our records, over the years that I have been in business, show that 
Davis-Bacon wage scales--the federally mandated wage scales--range 
between an additional 8 percent up to 38 percent; so I just bring that 
back to a bit of a moderate, careful average, and we have a 20 percent 
increase.
  The bottom line on this is that, if you want to build 5 miles of 
road, repeal Davis-Bacon. If you are willing to accept 4 miles of road, 
accept a federally mandated union scale. That is true with whatever 
else we might be doing in all of our military construction and 
everything else.
  This is a substantial savings on this bill, and I would point out 
that this is the last Jim Crow law that I recall that is still on the 
books. It was designed to lock Black construction workers out of the 
construction work in New York back in the thirties during the Great 
Depression.
  When there was a Federal building contract that was let and the 
contractor went to Alabama and brought in African Americans to do that 
work, undercutting the essentially White labor union forces within New 
York, two New Yorkers--both of them Republicans, Davis and Bacon--got 
together and brought this Jim Crow law. Now, we are dealing with union 
scale mandates.
  I would point out I used to have this debate with the gentleman from 
Massachusetts, Mr. Frank. He would make the argument that two 
consenting adults should be able to agree to whatever it is those two 
can do.
  I would say I agree, and there is no reason for the Federal 
Government to be involved in a relationship between an employer and 
employee that agree to a wage scale.
  We pay prevailing wages. They are not union scale wages, as a rule; 
but they are prevailing wages. We do that because we want to hire the 
best people. We do the best work that we can do under the plans and 
specifications offered to us--government work and private sector work 
altogether--for 40 years.
  We are about to hear that the quality of the work isn't that, that 
the government knows best, and government should intervene between a 
relationship between two consenting adults. We are about to hear some 
kind of response on why we shouldn't get rid of the last Jim Crow law 
on the books.
  Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the 
amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, Davis-Bacon is a pretty simple 
concept and a fair one. What the Davis-Bacon Act does is protect the 
government, as well as the workers, in carrying out the policy of 
paying decent wages on government contracts.
  The Davis-Bacon Act requires that workers on federally funded 
construction projects be paid no less than the wages paid in the 
community for similar work. It requires that every contract for 
construction to which the Federal Government is a party in excess of 
$2,000 contain a provision defining the ``minimum wages'' paid to 
various classes of laborers and mechanics.
  Mr. Chairman, the House has taken numerous votes on this issue, and 
on every vote, this body has voted to maintain Davis-Bacon requirements 
because it makes good sense, it saves the taxpayers money, and it is 
useful.
  Last year, we avoided including divisive language like this, and it 
is my hope that we stop attacking the working class and defeat the 
amendment before us today and move on to more important matters.
  I urge all Members to vote ``no'' on this, as we have repeatedly year 
after year.
  At this point, I yield to the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Kildee).
  Mr. KILDEE. I thank my friend for yielding.
  Mr. Chairman, we have been through this fight before. Thankfully, we 
have been able to prevail with help on both sides of the aisle.
  The gentleman referred to the 1930s. Anybody who is a student of 
history and a student of the U.S. economy knows that it was the period 
following the 1930s that we finally saw a steady progress toward 
greater wage equality in this country and we saw the middle class 
emerge and the strongest period of economic growth and income equality 
in our history, a period which is at risk right now.
  I would urge the gentleman to take a look at the period that followed 
the enactment of Davis-Bacon, how the middle class was born, and I 
would also urge us to consider that, if not the Federal Government, who 
can we expect to set the example that a decent wage should be paid for 
a decent day's work. That is all this law does, and I support it 
wholeheartedly and urge my colleagues to reject this amendment.
  Mr. KING of Iowa. I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Again, let's avoid including divisive language 
like this. This is a policy rider that is unnecessary. We have defeated 
it over and over again.
  Davis-Bacon saves the government money. It requires quality work and 
quality labor be done on Federal contracts, and it pays a fair day's 
wages for a fair day's work.
  I urge all Members to vote ``no'' and reject this amendment, and I 
yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. KING of Iowa. Mr. Chairman, may I inquire as to how much time I 
have remaining?
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman has 2 minutes remaining.
  Mr. KING of Iowa. Mr. Chairman, first, in response to the gentleman's 
argument of a fair wage for a fair day's pay, that is determined by 
supply and demand in the marketplace. This is the United States of 
America, and on the flashcard the USCIS puts out, they say: What is the 
American system of America? It is free enterprise capitalism.
  You have to pay the going rate to get the people to do the job. That 
has been the case for a long time. I have done that for 40 years, and 
the quality of the work is there, and we are proud of the work that we 
do.

[[Page H2623]]

  I don't know how anyone argues that the Federal Government has got to 
intervene in setting the marketplace for wages on construction projects 
$2,000 or more, but not intervene in the price of gas or the price of 
electricity or the price of some of the commodities that we are dealing 
with on a regular basis.
  If we are going to have a robust economy, we have got to get a value 
received for the work that is done, and that value received is 
determined by supply and demand in the marketplace, not by a de facto 
mandated union scale. I know how these scales are reached. I know how 
these conferences go.
  Mr. Chairman, we want to save the taxpayers money. We want to build 5 
miles of road, not 4. We want to build five bases, not four. We want to 
put five different components out there, instead of four, and get a 
return on the taxpayers' dollar so that we maximize the utilization of 
the hard-earned tax dollars that come from some of the people that are 
working on these projects.

                              {time}  2015

  They want a return on their investment, too. You can't argue that 
there is fiscal responsibility in this country if we are going to 
impose an additional 20 percent on every dollar that is spent to 
produce construction projects on MILCON in America.
  So, Mr. Chairman, I urge the adoption of my amendment, and I yield 
back the balance of my time.
  The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the 
gentleman from Iowa (Mr. King).
  The question was taken; and the Acting Chair announced that the noes 
appeared to have it.
  Mr. KING of Iowa. Mr. Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.
  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to clause 6 of rule XVIII, further 
proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Iowa will be 
postponed.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Pennsylvania is recognized for 5 
minutes.
  Mr. DENT. Mr. Chairman I yield to my colleague from New Jersey (Mr. 
Payne) for a colloquy.
  Mr. PAYNE. Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank Chairman Dent and 
Ranking Member Bishop for your work on this bill. And congratulations 
to Congressman Dent on the work he has done on H.R. 2029, his first 
bill as chairman of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs 
Appropriations Subcommittee.
  I admire Chairman Dent's and Ranking Member Bishop's commitment to 
our veterans of America. They have demonstrated day-to-day that they 
are here for our people in the armed services.
  I would like to especially acknowledge this bill's provisions 
relating to the importance of early detection and treatment of 
colorectal cancer. As the bill notes, the VA has made screening 
patients for colorectal cancer a priority, and I am encouraged by the 
steps that this bill would take to ensure that the VA continues to 
dedicate the resources and attention to this important issue which it 
deserves.
  Almost every family in America, including our veterans, including 
Members of Congress, including people all over this Nation, have been 
touched by cancer. My father, former Congressman Donald Payne, who 
served New Jersey's 10th Congressional District for 23 years, prior to 
me coming here and taking his place, succumbed to this preventable and 
treatable disease.
  Chairman Dent, thank you for your partnership on this issue. I am 
looking forward to continuing to work together to advance the fight 
against colorectal cancer and lessen the needless loss of life.
  The committee report encourages the VA to support additional research 
and development in the field, including investigating a less costly 
blood test for colorectal cancer. I applaud this language, and I also 
understand that both the FDA and CMS have approved a new DNA, 
noninvasive, stool-based colorectal cancer screening test that is 
pending review with the Federal supply services for availability in the 
VA health system.
  For clarity, does this committee also encourage the VA to consider 
and review such stool-based test screening?
  Mr. DENT. Thank you, Congressman Payne, for your shared interest in 
this very important topic.
  Mr. Chairman, I commend my colleague for his steadfast support of 
colorectal cancer awareness research, prevention, and treatment 
efforts. As the second leading cause of death in men and women in the 
United States, we have both seen the personal toll that colorectal 
cancer can have on family members and loved ones. Congressman Payne 
obviously lost his father; I lost my brother-in-law. It was very 
painful for all of us. We lost them all too soon.
  It has been a privilege to work together with you on an issue that 
has raised awareness and increased preventive screenings. This is an 
issue that affects far too many of our veterans and, as you mentioned, 
this bill takes steps to support the VA's prevention and treatment 
efforts.
  The report's language should not be misconstrued as only focusing on 
blood tests, and I certainly encourage the VA to expedite its review of 
alternative colorectal cancer screening tests, including DNA stool-
based noninvasive tests. We certainly want to encourage the VA in that 
regard.
  I look forward to continuing to work with on you these important 
matters. Again, I want to really commend Congressman Payne for his 
determination and steadfast interest in advancing therapies and 
treatments for colorectal cancer.
  Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. DENT. 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. 
Newhouse) having assumed the chair, Mr. Collins of Georgia, Acting 
Chair 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. 2029) making appropriations for military construction, the 
Department of Veterans Affairs, and related agencies for the fiscal 
year ending September 30, 2016, and for other purposes, had come to no 
resolution thereon.

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