My thoughts on the FY16 Budget Resolution
On Wednesday of this week, the House voted on a number of budget proposals that serve as useful policy documents to lay out important priorities for our country, including the FY16 Budget Resolution (H.Con.Res 27). I did not vote on this measure because I left Washington for El Paso on Tuesday night to participate in the Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment (SPEA) on Wednesday in El Paso. Essentially, the SPEA is a formal review of our country’s military installations in preparation for a reduction in force that will take the Army from 490,000 active duty today to 420,000 by the end of the decade.
Voting on legislation — especially a bill that sets budget priorities for our government and country— is one of the most basic and important responsibilities of my job. However, the importance of the SPEA to ensuring that the Army understands the value of Fort Bliss and its relationship with the community required that I fly back home and miss this vote. Wednesday afternoon I flew back to Washington, and inserted an explanation in the Congressional Record about what my vote would have been had I voted on the budget proposals. H.Con.Res 27: The House Majority sponsored a budget (H.Con.Res. 27) authored by Rep. Tom Price. I would have voted against this budget resolution for a number of reasons. H.Con.Res. 27 seeks to balance the budget over ten years — a laudable goal — but I believe it goes about doing it in the wrong manner. The budget cuts $5.5 trillion from non-defense discretionary spending and entitlements, a large portion of which would come from cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, and other programs that provide assistance to low-income families and children, support students going to college, fund infrastructure projects, and support CBP Officers and Agents along the border. For example, 35,000 fewer children would eligible for Head Start; more than 50,000 students would be denied Pell grants that help them pay for college and their access to an overall quality education would be affected by $220 billion in overall cuts to education funding; SNAP nutrition assistance would see a $125 billion cut; and efforts to improve our aging road infrastructure, bridges, and ports of entries would be diminished with nearly $200 billion less in funding. The budget resolution also proposes a $1.9 billion decrease in the VA budget. This will undoubtedly impact El Paso’s ability to deliver world-class health care to our veterans all the while making it even more difficult to attract more doctors to the VA. I also believe the Price budget unfairly places more a tax burden on middle-class families, which would see an increase of more than $2,000 a year. It also unfairly shields the Department of Defense from many of the same cuts that non-defense agencies are being asked to make. This is not a budget that is good for El Paso and our country.
I would have supported a budget alternative: the Representative Van Hollen substitute. The Van Hollen budget puts the nation on a more stable fiscal footing by reducing the deficit through a mixture of changes in the tax code and targeted spending cuts that would still allow for smart investments in areas such as education and infrastructure to create jobs. The emphasis on infrastructure investment would allow cities like El Paso to prioritize infrastructure modernization projects at our ports of entry, which serve as the economic engine of our region and the U.S. economy. This budget would also eliminate the across the board sequestration cuts, including for the Department of Defense and require DoD to replace them with sensible reductions by eliminating unneeded weapons systems, reforming how it buys equipment, and further identifying waste at our installations overseas. This is good for Fort Bliss and the 11,000 civilian employees who work there. The Van Hollen budget also recognizes the need for common sense immigration reform, which would reduce the federal deficit by $900 billion over the next 20 years. It also sets as a priority for our country to ensure that our veterans receive the world-class care they deserve, with a particular emphasis on increasing resources to address PTSD and other mental health illnesses.