This was a vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and determining which amendments could be offered to the bill providing approximately $121 billion for veterans programs in 2011. The $121 billion total included funding for veterans’ medical care, assistance for homeless veterans, and the maintenance of veterans’ medical facilities. In addition to the veterans funding, the bill provided nearly $19 billion for military base construction projects in 2011.
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) urged support for the resolution and the underlying bill: “…For more than 9 years our country has been engaged in two conflicts halfway around the world. The number of wounded military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan has put a financial strain on the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA expects to treat more than 6.1 million patients in 2011, including more than 439,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan….I am very proud of what this bill does for our Nation's veterans. Their service has earned them world-class health care and benefits, and Congress has a moral obligation to provide the best benefits possible.”
Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) criticized the Democratic majority for limiting amendments to the bill, arguing that annual spending measures – known as “appropriations” bills – had traditionally been brought up under a process allowing for unlimited amendments: “The Congress' constitutional obligation [to pass annual appropriations bills]…has traditionally manifested itself in an open appropriations process. That process allows every member of the House to propose any amendments…to the 12 appropriations bills. That's the way it's been done, certainly since I've been here, and I know for decades and decades and generations before.”
Still, Diaz-Balart urged support for the underlying veterans bill: “The underlying legislation continues our commitment to the brave men and women who sacrifice so much to keep the nation safe, supporting our service members on base, deployed abroad, and to care for them when they come home.”
The House agreed to resolution by a vote of 243-178. 243 Democrats voted “yea.” All 171 Republicans present and 7 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House proceeded to formal floor debate on legislation providing approximately $121 billion for veterans programs and nearly $19 billion for military base construction projects in 2011.