House Republicans Are Ready to Shut Down the Government, Even Though It Will Hurt Veterans

Members of the National Guard walk past the Dome of the Capitol Building on Capitol Hill
Members of the National Guard walk past the Dome of the Capitol Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

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As we stare down the prospect of another government shutdown due to House Republican time-wasting, House Republicans continue to argue that their party is the party for veterans. Their actions say otherwise.

Last month, House Republicans jammed through an embarrassing military construction/Veterans Affairs appropriations bill. My Democratic colleagues and I fought for veterans' funding after House Republicans called for 22% cuts to all spending in April. President Joe Biden held the line and reached an agreement with Speaker Kevin McCarthy to fund the VA.

Before the ink was even dry, Republicans began to renege on this agreement. Programs like SNAP (previously known as food stamps) and Medicaid that veterans rely on still face steep cuts as Republicans break the deal they struck. Even worse, they added draconian provisions to the spending bill meant to dictate how veterans live their lives.

This reneging is yet another unserious offer after many insincere offers by my colleagues across the aisle. They wasted valuable time this summer with poison pill amendments in an effort to appease the most extreme members of their party. They left town after passing only one appropriations bill, significantly increasing the possibility of a government shutdown. Their direct actions will knowingly hurt veterans more than any of their proposals.

Democrats, on the other hand, will always put veterans first and stand up for what is right, even if that means voting against an unserious bill. We stand up for all veterans. The House Republican proposal continues their marginalization of groups who have never felt welcome at the VA and who often forgo benefits and care they have earned because of this marginalization.

Under my leadership last Congress, the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs passed, and President Biden signed into law, the Honoring Our PACT Act. This is the largest expansion of veterans' benefits in a generation. The Honoring Our PACT Act presumes a connection between service and exposure to toxic substances, including burn pits, providing the opportunity for health benefits. It recognizes the rare cancers and other diseases veterans have been facing.

This builds on our work with the Blue Water Navy Act that for the first time ever made a connection between Vietnam-era veterans' service and their potential exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides. These legislative efforts would not have been possible without Democratic leadership that puts veterans first.

Democrats continue to be committed to helping veterans, not just speaking in platitudes. One Democratic member has been championing legislation to allow disabled veterans to receive care in their own homes, where they want to be. Another has advocated for a bill to ensure veterans who have been scammed by bad-actor schools don't lose their education benefits.

Even in the last few months, we have been pushing our colleagues in the majority to expand pandemic-era homelessness benefits for veterans, eliminate harmful forced arbitration for members of the Reserve and National Guard, ensure vulnerable veterans can remain on SNAP, and take concrete steps to prevent veteran suicide. This is how House Democrats are delivering for veterans. We will continue these efforts in the face of opposition from our Republican colleagues.

Now, my fellow members of Congress must work with the Senate to put together a real spending bill that helps veterans and staves off a government shutdown. House Democrats will be part of that effort. Will our colleagues on the other side of the aisle join us?

-- Congressman Mark Takano represents California's 39th District and is the ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. From 2019 to 2023, he served as chairman of the committee.

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