Federal Issues Update: Military Construction – Veterans Affairs Appropriations
April 15, 2016
On April 13, the House Appropriations Committee approved its fiscal year 2017 Military Construction – Veterans Affairs spending bill, which is typically the least controversial of the 12 annual appropriations measures. The legislation would provide $81.6 billion in discretionary funding to house, train, and equip military personnel, provide housing and services to military families, and help maintain base infrastructure. The legislation also funds veterans’ benefits and programs. It should be noted that the proposed funding amount is nearly $1.8 billion above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. The bill also includes $172 million in funding from the Overseas Contingencies Operations (OCO) account, a war fund that is not subject to the discretionary spending caps.
While Democrats on the committee urged the panel to attach emergency supplemental funding to help combat the Zika virus, Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) opposed the effort, arguing that the Obama administration had not supplied the committee with enough information about where and how the money would be spent. Instead, Rogers announced that the committee would draft a separate supplemental for Zika, once the necessary information was supplied to the panel.
In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee on April 14 unanimously approved its Military Construction bill. The legislation includes $83 billion in discretionary funding, a $3.1 billion boost from the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. In addition, Senate appropriators adopted an amendment that would allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana to veterans in states where it is legal and prohibit funds in the bill from being used to interfere with veterans participating in state-approved medical marijuana programs.