LEGION-RELATED LEGISLATIVE ACTIONS
Both the House and Senate were in recess this week for the Fourth of July district work period. Both chambers will return to Washington next week (July 9-13).
Update on Congressional Appropriations
The appropriations process in the House and Senate is moving forward in the usual congressional manner. However, as with past years, disputes between the two chambers on a few issues are likely to make the process difficult and Congress will pass a continuing resolution to fund the federal government on October 1, rather than pass all 12 appropriations bills.
The House has passed five of the 12 bills and six others have passed the House Appropriations Committee. The Interior-Environment bill has been approved by the committee, but the text of the bill has not been released to the full House. The Labor-HHS-Education bill has not yet been considered by the committee. The Senate Appropriations Committee has passed nine of the 12 bills; however, none of these bills have passed the full Senate.
Although the appropriations process is moving along, there are many issues that will need to be resolved. There is always the question of policy riders, specifically those related to the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank Act. As with last year, this year's process will have a fight over funding levels, since the House currently has $19 billion less in overall discretionary budget authority than the Senate as the Senate is using the Budget Control Act discretionary caps as its guide. Each bill in the House has consistently had lower funding levels than the companion bill in the Senate. Further complicating the matter is the sequester, which may induce some maneuvers to try to anticipate or blunt its impact if no resolution can be achieved. In short, it's business as usual for the appropriations process.
LEGISLATIVE DIVISION ACTIONS
American Legion National Legislative Council
The Legislative Division is beginning the task of compiling the National Legislative Council Consolidated Activities Report for 2011-2012. The forms have been emailed to each Department Vice Chairman. Department Adjutants and National Executive Committeemen were also sent a copy.
NEC Resolution No. 28, passed October 19-20, 1994 reads in part: each National Vice Chairman of the Legislative Council shall submit an annual report on the Council member activities in his/her Department to the National Legislative Council Chairman not later than July 31 each year. We need 100 percent of the reports returned in order to compile the Report for the Pre-Convention National Executive Committee meeting. If you have any questions or need further assistance, please contact Jeff Steele at (202)-263-2987 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 35. To date, H.J. Res. 13 – the House companion to the Senate measure – has accumulated 88 cosponsors, with the addition last week of Rep. Tim Huelskamp (KS).
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.
I would like to know why the American Legion hasn't come out against what the DOD is proposing to do in regards to military retirees’ health benefits. They are suggesting an enrollment fee for those who are 65 and over. They also want to increase the prescription medicine co-pay. Then they are also talking about doing away with the 20 year retirement system and replacing it with a civilian type of retirement plan. They are saying that if they don't get this, they will have to make more cuts in personnel. That is a bunch of BS. Why aren't you standing up with the other military organizations who are fighting this?
Answer:First, thank you for your concern over the protection of TRICARE and Military Retirement. The American Legion is very concerned with these proposals and has been involved every step of the budget process in opposing the proposals offered by DOD and the administration on TRICARE. We issued a press release opposing them when the budget was published. We joined many other veterans’ organizations in opposing them in hearings and meetings on Capitol Hill. We also issued talking points opposing them in March when over 800 members marched to the Hill and talked about The American Legion's position on the DOD budget. We issued press releases praising the committees when the House and Senate bills did not include dramatic increases in TRICARE and protected users from capricious increases in the future. A simple Google query with "American Legion TRICARE" lists several articles and our own press releases, one less than a month old outlining our opposition. Each and every day our staff is on Capitol Hill continuing to communicate the Legion’s position. Now that President Obama threatens to veto the appropriations bills because they didn't increase TRICARE, we will work to make certain the fortitude and convictions the House and Senate have already shown will continue in the coming months. The American Legion stands proudly with many other organizations that are fighting this unfair proposal. Press releases alone will not protect our military retirees. Everyone should be contacting their Members of Congress to speak out on this proposal. With dedicated Legionnaires, such as yourself voicing concern over issues of importance like this, we will continue to make a difference in the lives of America’s Veterans