VETERAN-RELATED LEGISLATIVE ACTIONS
The House and Senate were scheduled to be in recess this week. However, the Senate worked some overtime on Monday, passing two continuing resolutions (CR) to avoid another looming federal government shutdown. During a pro forma session on Thursday, September 29, the House passed the first CR by unanimous consent. The first CR, which includes $2.65 billion in disaster relief funding, will keep the government functioning until next Tuesday October 4. At that time, the House will then consider the second CR, which will fund the federal government until November 18. It is hoped that these measures will allow Congress to pass the 12 necessary appropriations measures to fund government operations for the balance of fiscal year (FY) 2012.
LEGISLATIVE FOCUS FOR THE WEEK: Legion Views on Arlington Cemetery Administration - Part II. Last week this column reported on the joint hearing held on September 22 by the Subcommittees on Oversight and Investigation of the House and Senate Armed Services committees, which included an update on the status of Arlington National Cemetery. While no American Legion witnesses appeared at the hearing, our organization did submit written testimony for the hearing record. The gist of that statement said that, while Director Kathryn Condon has done a commendable job in the year since she took over in June of 2010, in terms of a long term solution the policy of the Legion is for administrative duties of the cemetery to be passed on to the VA's National Cemetery Administration (NCA).
Legion Legislative staff attended the hearing to monitor the situation. During the course of the hearing, several Members of Congress quoted extensively from the Legion's written statement, agreeing wholeheartedly with our organization's conclusions.
Update on Flag Amendment Bills
Senator Orrin Hatch's (UT) office continues to solicit additional cosponsors for Senate Joint Resolution (S.J. Res.) 19, a proposed constitutional amendment to protect the American flag from physical desecration. Its text states simply: "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States." The cosponsor total for the Senate legislation stands at 28, with the addition late last week of Sen. Olympia Snowe (ME).
To date, H.J. Res. 13 - the House companion to the Senate measure - has accumulated 59 cosponsors. Please contact your representatives' and senators' offices, and ask them to become cosponsors of the flag amendment in their respective chambers. If they are already cosponsors, be sure to thank them for their support.
Update on American Legion Charter Legislation
H. R. 2369, the bill to amend the charter of The American Legion is posted on THOMAS, the Library of Congress tracking website for Congressional legislation. [You can search for the bill on the THOMAS website at: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php.] The bill amends the charter to clarify statutorily the autonomous, independent nature of our posts and departments. It would also facilitate credit card processing of online membership renewals. The bill is in the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives awaiting action. The Legislative team was approached this week by the Committee Chairman's staff. They are compiling the information necessary to push for quick passage of the amendment.
On the Senate side, Senator Tester (MT) and Senator Heller (NV) will be introducing the companion bill early next week. Once that bill is introduced, The American Legion will be sending a legislative action alert pressing for co-sponsors. After the visits on the hill corresponding with the National Commander's testimony, we received a tremendous number of phone calls from interested Senators. We have urged them to co-sponsor the Senate bill when it is introduced next week.
I was in Washington, DC last week for the National Commander’s appearance before the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs committees. I also visited my senators and congressman. How do I report on our meetings?”
First and foremost, thank you for coming to our nation's capitol to support Commander Wong's testimony. Second, it is vitally important that visits with your elected officials are reported to the Legislative Division as soon as possible. Go to The American Legion website (www.legion.org) and click on "What We Do" just under the Legion bannerhead. Then, in the drop-down menu, click on "Legislative." This will take you to the Legislative home page. On the left-hand side of that page is the "Info Center." Look in that menu for the "Call-In Report Sheet." When you click on that link, it will take you to a separate page with a link to that document. By clicking on that link you will come to the "Call-In Status Report" document. Simply print that document out, fill it in, and either snail-mail it to the Legislative Division in Washington, DC, or fax it to us (the instructions are at the bottom of the page).
Although the date might be wrong (we're working on that) we urge you to use this form after every meeting with members of congress. In reading these, we often see issues or comments that require followup by our staff here in Washington. You providing us these updates, following meetings in Washington D.C. or in your home district/state will continue to build on the teamwork we share in carrying out The American Legion's legislative agenda.