4 Democrats oppose party funding bill despite White House veto threat

Four vulnerable House Democrats bucked their party Wednesday in a vote to approve the annual Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) military construction funding bill, just days after the White House House had threatened to veto the measure against partisan riders that the party has called “poison pills.” .”

The GOP-led House voted largely along party lines Wednesday morning to approve the bill, which calls for about $379 billion in total funding for the 2025 fiscal year for the VA and military construction and housing programs. Two Republicans voted against the measure.

Part of the bill's funding includes more than $337 billion in VA funding, about a third of which will go to veterans' medical care, and north of $17 billion for Defense Department military construction and family housing.

Reps. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-Wash.), Jared Golden (D-Maine), Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas) and Mary Peltola (D-Alaska) joined nearly all Republicans in advancing the bill, while Reps. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) and Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) opposed their party and voted against the measure.

The Hill has reached out to member offices for comment.

Democrats have come out strongly against the bill, which includes a clause they say would restrict the VA from implementing a Biden administration rule that gives veterans greater access to abortion counseling and abortions in certain circumstances.

Under the rule, the VA may offer veterans access to abortions if their lives or health are in danger, or if they became pregnant due to rape or incest.

But the Biden administration has attacked language in the bill that it says would “limit abortions to cases of rape or incest, or” when a woman suffers from a physical condition, causes physical injury or physical illness, including a life-threatening physical condition by or arising from the pregnancy itself, which, as determined by a doctor, would endanger the woman's life unless an abortion is performed.”

“This change would prevent VA from providing necessary care when women's health is at risk,” the Office of Management and Budget said Monday.

Democrats have also targeted other riders that they say would prevent the VA from implementing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and block access to gender-affirming care, among other measures.

The Biden administration cited similar measures in its opposition to the funding plan earlier this week, calling out Republicans for “once again wasting time on partisan bills” that contain “numerous, partisan policies with devastating consequences.”

In a statement Wednesday, Gluesenkamp Perez criticized Republicans for engaging what she described as “culture wars” in the bill and said her decision to support it anyway was due to the level of funding veterans faced.

“This bill has a significantly better level of funding for veterans than was passed in FY 24 – including support for veterans' health care, claims processing, health care providers, toxic exposure care, facility construction and more,” she said.

“The legislation also included two of my amendments to address the failures for veterans in Lewis County affected by the closure of the Chehalis VA clinic and for veterans in Skamania County who lost eligibility for federal funding for free transportation to VA medical appointments,” she continued.

“Unfortunately, despite its important provisions for our veterans, extreme members of Congress have used this bill to fuel pointless, partisan culture wars. I voted against these damaging amendments and I refuse to participate in clickbait politics.”

Golden said in a statement: “American service members and veterans should not be treated as political pawns for partisan politics. There is still a long way to go before this bill becomes law and I am confident that many of the concerns raised – many of which I share – will be resolved. In the meantime, I voted to support our service members.”

The Cook Political Report rates Gluesenkamp Perez and Golden's races as “toss-ups” as the 2024 election season heats up. The other three Democrats are also running in what the nonpartisan election forecaster has deemed “competitive races.”

The bill marks the first of 12 partisan funding plans that Republicans hope to pass before the August recess — a month before the government faces a funding shortfall.

“The bill delivers on the Republican commitment to bring bills to the floor that comply with the Fiscal Responsibility Act, while honoring our commitment to our nation's veterans and our troops,” said Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), Chief of the subcommittee. who drafted the bill, said this week about the bill.

However, the bill is seen as one of the easier funding plans GOP leadership is working on this summer, as upcoming plans such as the annual bills to fund the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services and Agriculture, which bridge the rifts during the conference from last year are still exposed, still lurking.

In a statement explaining his vote, Rosendale said he “could never vote for this reprehensible appropriations package that condones and funds the VA's use of the same process that destroys countless more lives than Planned Parenthood in one year.”

“I could never vote for this despicable appropriations package that condones and funds the VA's use of the same process that destroys countless lives than Planned Parenthood in one year,” Rosendale said, before also addressing the costs, saying, “by After the first appropriations bill voted on this budget year, it sets a terrible precedent on spending: more than $30 billion more than last year's bill.”

“This bill also fails all veterans who rely on the VA for health care because it does nothing to terminate or restructure the VA's contract with Oracle-Cerner, whose failed digitalization efforts have increased medical costs and hampered the receipt of medical have made care for veterans more difficult,” he added.

Updated 1:50 PM ET.

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