VETERAN-RELATED LEGISLATIVE ACTIONS
Both chambers of Congress were not in actual session this week. Traditionally, the Second Session of a Congress does not begin until late in January. This is partly due to that fact that, officially, the First Session of a particular Congress opens on January 3 of an odd-numbered year, then adjourns on January 3 of the next, even-numbered year. This occurs in spite of the fact that both chambers of Congress are in recess. The two or three weeks between the “adjournment” of the First Session and return of Congress for the Second Session is a district work period for Members of Congress.
The House will be back in session on January 17, while the Senate will return on January 23.
Update on Flag Amendment Bills
Sen. 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 29.
To date, H.J. Res. 13 – the House companion to the Senate measure – has accumulated 64 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.
Do you have a list of the National American Legion’s Legislative Issues? If so, could I get a copy? Thank you.
Answer:We have nearly 300 resolutions that could be considered our Legislative Issues. If you are looking for a document in that context, the legislative team can send it to you (it’s over 70 pages long and merely restates the resolved clauses). However, a number of attendees to the Washington Conference have asked this question in preparation for their attendance in late February. As noted to them, our legislative agenda for 2012 has not been totally finalized but we anticipate the following issues being of some concern in the coming months. The most important issue that we will be pursuing in the coming three months will be funding related: • As mentioned in press meetings last week, DOD has changed their defense strategy for the future. This changing strategy, whether predicated by budgetary cuts or true visions of the national defense needs, will dramatically change the military as we know it today. The American Legion is preparing to analyze and counter the FY13 DoD budget proposal. Early indications seem to infer a reduction in Army and Marine Corp end strength and other force changes. Moreover, we anticipate changes in retirement, health care, and other benefits associated with service. • The VA budget must be adequate to meet the needs of the nearly 2 million service members who served while continuing to serve the needs of the veterans from other eras. The American Legion is concerned with current proposals and funding levels within the VA and will be carefully scrutinizing and advocating for adequate budgets to meet VA’s needs. • In the coming months, the “VOW to Hire Heroes Act,” now Public Law 112-56, will be implemented. This program, a reeducation opportunity for veterans from previous eras, will go a long way towards addressing the nearly 1 million veterans who are currently unemployed. We will remain concerned about the implementation of the program within the states. At the same time several other proposals currently being circulated on Capitol Hill might dramatically impact the VETS program. The American Legion will be mindful of the manner in which those are considered. Finally, we need to make certain the VETS program is adequately funded in FY2013 to curb the jobless rate of veterans. • During the First Session, at least ten bills relating to veterans were passed by the House and never considered by the Senate. The American Legion will most likely encourage passage and action on those bills by the Senate during our upcoming Washington Conference. • Although we were successful in extending the VA Home Loan program, the VA Home loan limit is lower than FHA loan guarantee limits. We will be addressing this injustice in the coming months. • We will continue to pursue co-sponsors for the Flag Protection Amendment and a few other pieces of legislation that need co-sponsors to move. Beyond these points, the rest will be evolving in the coming two months as we work with Congressional leadership on their agenda and priorities. With 2012 being an election year, very little in the way of substantive legislation will be accomplished. If anyone has further questions or needs clarification on any of these items, please don’t hesitate to contact me.