House passes bill that increases spending on veterans

Bill typically receives bipartisan support, but this time around Republicans had procedural complaints.

The House Friday approved a significant boost in funding for veterans by passing a $133.7 billion Military Construction-VA Appropriations bill for fiscal 2010. The sum includes $108 billion for Veterans Affairs, a $14.5 billion increase over fiscal 2009.

The bill, approved 415-3, includes $24.6 billion for military construction, $472 million less than for fiscal 2009. Discretionary spending topped $77.9 billion, $2 billion more than the fiscal 2009 discretionary level.

The bill typically receives a high degree of support from lawmakers due to the bipartisan support for veterans' issues.

But Republicans kept up their drumbeat of criticism over the process. During debate on the rule for the bill, which was approved 241-179, Republicans again blasted Democrats for limiting amendments on appropriations bills to get all 12 spending bills through the House by the end of the month.

Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said House Appropriations Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., has "set an arbitrary timeline to finish the fiscal 2010 spending bills, which has forced this Democrat-run Rules Committee to limit every single Republican and Democrat's chances to offer amendments on this floor." He added the majority party has usually not limited amendments to the appropriations bills.

"What the heck is the majority afraid of?" he asked.

Obey said that Republicans have used structured rules, in which amendments were allowed but limited, and that Republicans declined offers from Democratic leaders to establish time limits for debate.

"There are a limited number of hours between now and the time we recess," Obey said. "If we want to get our work done, we have to limit the debate time that we spend on these bills. There is nothing radically new about this. We are simply trying to get the job done and we are going to do that if it takes all summer."

Meanwhile, the Senate late Thursday approved the fiscal 2010 $42.9 billion Homeland Security appropriations bill, 84-6. Approval of the bill came after Democrats and Republicans agreed to include several amendments in the bill, including one from Sen. David Vitter, R-La., that would prohibit funding customs and border agency activity preventing the importation of prescription drugs from Canada for personal use.