Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, delivered the following opening remarks, as prepared, during the Rules Committee hearing on H.R. 3967, the Honoring Our PACT Act:
Thank you, Chairman McGovern and Ranking Member Cole.
For the second time this year, I am testifying today in opposition to a veterans’ bill.
I would prefer to be here in support of legislation to help veterans.
That I cannot do that today is a sad reflection on the partisan nature of the V.A. Committee under this Democrat Majority.
The PACT Act is a perfect example of that.
I care deeply about veterans suffering from toxic exposure.
Chairman Takano does too.
I would have hoped that we could work together on this.
My staff reached out to the Majority repeatedly requesting the opportunity to do that.
Those requests were denied.
That is a shame – especially since the V.A. Committee used to be the most bipartisan Committee in Congress.
Because we did not work together to resolve our differences, the PACT Act has serious flaws that prevent me from supporting it.
Those flaws also threaten our ability to do anything meaningful this Congress for toxic-exposed veterans.
The PACT Act would grant benefits for certain veterans with certain conditions with very little – if any – scientific basis while telling other veterans to wait for research.
That would create a fundamental unfairness between veterans with similar service and exposure histories.
And, again, Democrats are proposing to do that without scientific consensus.
The PACT Act could also flood V.A. with so many new mandates that the veterans already receiving care and benefits wait longer.
Veterans wait too long for their doctor’s appointments and disability checks as it is.
Making them wait longer could spell disaster for them.
The PACT Act would also spell disaster for taxpayers.
The bill was changed significantly less than two weeks ago, and the Majority rejected my efforts to discuss those changes.
Just an hour ago, C.B.O. provided an updated cost estimate on the bill.
It costs more than $300 billion in new mandatory and discretionary offsets.
There are some who would say that this is just a cost of war.
I’m a veteran from a military family.
My son and grandson currently serve.
I know what war costs.
I also know that veterans pay taxes too.
Like many others in this country thanks to the Biden economy, veterans are struggling to make ends meet.
And, they are also paying more everywhere from the grocery store to the gas pump right now.
We are not doing right by them by failing to be fiscally responsible on their behalf.
I have offered an amendment to replace the PACT Act with the Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act.
The Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act would let toxic-exposed post-9/11 combat veterans get V.A. care.
It is bipartisan, and it already passed the Senate.
Every day that the House fails to send it to the President is another day that a sick veteran doesn’t get the care they need.
Nothing could be more unacceptable.
I hope my amendment will be made in order.
It is the right first step to get toxic-exposed veterans the care they need now.
And, it will buy us time to work on a bipartisan, bicameral basis to deliver other benefits and services to toxic-exposed veterans – which we should have done all Congress and haven’t even started to do yet.
I am happy to answer questions and yield back.