Congressional Digest: Budget Reconciliation, Defense Bill Part Of Week’s Agenda

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It was a busy week in the nation’s capital as a bill supporting budget reconciliation was approved in the House while a veto of the defense bill drew scorn from the state’s congressional delegation.

The following is a breakdown of the week that was in the nation’s capital:

The House on Friday voted 240-189 to approve a budget reconciliation bill that next heads to the Senate and a possible veto by President Barack Obama.

The bill was supported by 239 Republicans, including U.S. Reps. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, French Hill, R-Little Rock, Steve Womack, R-Rogers and Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, as well as one Democrat, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn.

Seven Republicans and 182 Democrats voted no on the bill. (Link here for vote results.)

Womack said the bill will empower people through rolling back the Affordable Care Act and prohibiting funding for Planned Parenthood. However, some Republicans in the Senate have said they may oppose the bill because it doesn’t do enough to repeal Obamacare.

“The last time the budget was reconciled, the process was used as a mechanism to force Obamacare down the throats of the American people. Since that time, the House has tirelessly worked to roll back this abrasive health care law,” Womack said. “Today, we have given the Senate the opportunity use a simple majority to send a commonsense repeal of harmful provisions in the Affordable Care Act and of funding for Planned Parenthood to the President’s desk while achieving $130 billion in savings and scaling back the government’s intrusion into the lives of everyday Americans. I am proud to stand behind the Reconciliation process.”

Westerman agreed.

“The Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act repeals the employer and individual mandates in Obamacare. This bill puts Americans in charge of their healthcare, instead of Washington bureaucrats,” Westerman said. “It is my hope that President Obama listens to the American people and their representatives in Congress. This bill reflects their values – individual control over healthcare and fiscally-sound budgeting that will reduce deficit spending over the next decade,” Westerman said.

Members of the state’s congressional delegation on Thursday hammered the decision by Obama to veto the $611 billion defense authorization bill, calling the decision dangerous in a dangerous world.

According to published reports, President Obama cited problems with $38 billion in spending as a reason for the veto.

“The president believes that the men and women who serve in our armed forces deserve adequate and responsible funding, not through a gimmick or not through a slush fund but one that would, could withstand scrutiny,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in a briefing.

Westerman said the decision was wrong.

“Vetoing the NDAA has put our national security at risk. President Obama’s action put petty politics ahead of national defense and shows a lack of leadership,” Westerman said. “Through his veto, he has sent a dangerous message to the men and women of our military, our allies around the world, and our enemies seeking to do us harm.”

Hill said the decision was politics.

“President Obama has stooped to a new low by choosing to advance his own domestic agenda over our national security interests. Largely due to his indecisive and ineffective foreign policy, America and her allies face unprecedented threats in the Middle East, East Asia, and Eastern Europe. Just last week, the President announced he would keep boots on the ground in Afghanistan, yet now, today, he has vetoed the legislation that authorizes pay and benefits for the men and women who fight our wars. This isn’t the type of action that is befitting of a Commander-in-Chief, and I encourage the House and Senate to override this veto.”

The veto also drew condemnation from the state’s two Senators.

“NDAA is critical to our national security and the protection of our troops who are in harm’s way. As conflict spreads through the Middle East and Russia continues its aggressive actions, we have an obligation to ensure our military is trained, equipped and prepared for the threats we face,” U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., said in a statement.

“Vetoing the National Defense Authorization is an act unbecoming of a Commander in Chief. This bill contains countless important programs, policies, and authorizations—things that our troops on the front lines need today. Things like bigger cannons on Stryker vehicles in Europe to face down Vladimir Putin or improving our retirement and healthcare programs to recruit and retain the best warfighters. But more than that, this bill is about keeping the faith of the men and women of the armed services,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.