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Ocean County American Legion
LEGISLATIVE DIVISION UPDATE
Week Ending June 25, 2021
The calendar and Congress are in a race. Lawmakers are up against the clock to pass spending bills and major pieces of legislation on divisive issues. Everyone seems resigned to the need for a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government open beyond the October 1 start of the next fiscal year. Appropriators have yet to achieve bipartisan, much less bicameral, agreements on topline spending levels, much less the details of the appropriations bills. Regardless, the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittees started marking up their bills this week. The process will continue into the following weeks, into mid-July. In the meantime, some subcommittee chairs are telling reporters that several spending bills face daunting odds for getting through the full Congress. Whether the use of community spending projects (aka, earmarks) helps sway any votes remains to be seen.
On Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee postponed a vote on repealing the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) until mid-July. GOP members of the committee want to hear directly from top Pentagon leaders on the wisdom of this move. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Milley told the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) on Wednesday that he has no problem with doing that. He noted that current military operations occur under the authorities contained in the 2001 AUMF.
Thursday afternoon, the House passed a bill to provide contraceptives to women veterans for free, with 26 Republicans joining all of the Democrats on the vote.
Proposed FY22 Defense Budget
GOP lawmakers continue to criticize the proposed DoD budget for not reaching the three to five percent annual increase previously identified as necessary to defend the country. Democrats and Pentagon leaders defend the proposal as being sufficient for national security, especially in light of additional funding for diplomacy and humanitarian programs. This was highlighted at Thursday’s House Budget Committee, where the same lines of discussion occurred several times.
The Budget Committee members also pressed DoD Comptroller General Mike McCord to put the Department in a position to accomplish a clean audit. Rep. Chu (D-CA) called upon the Pentagon to do more about hazing, which has been a key issue for her since her nephew died after extreme hazing incidents in the military. McCord agreed with her that this continues to be a serious issue that has been overshadowed by the emphasis upon eliminating sexual assault from within the ranks. GOP Senators on the SASC held a press conference Thursday afternoon asking all Americans to spend the weekend calling their members of Congress to ask for higher defense spending.
House Appropriations Committee Starts Markups
The first spending bill out of the House Appropriations Committee is the Legislative Branch, which was released Wednesday and forwarded to the full committee by voice vote on Thursday. It included $9.294 million for the Wounded Warrior and Gold Star Families, an increase of $5.3 million from the current fiscal year.
The bill contains a provision preventing the automatic cost of living increase for Members of Congress for FY21. Another provision directs the Architect of the Capitol to remove statues or busts within the Capitol of people who served in the Confederate Army or government, as well as those of white supremacists Charles Aycock, John C. Calhoun, James Paul Clarke and Roger B. Taney.
The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee released its bill Thursday morning, ahead of its Friday morning markup. The committee added significantly to the Administration’s milcon request, while following the VA budget request fairly closely. The bill sets an October 1 start date for site preparation for the long-awaited Bakersfield, CA, Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), now that a lease has been finalized. The full committee is set to markup the bill next Wednesday.
The Defense appropriations bill is scheduled for markup in subcommittee on Wednesday.
National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Predictions
The Senate Armed Services Committee has not yet set a schedule for marking up its NDAA, but chair Sen. Reed (D-RI) hopes to do it before the August recess. The House Armed Services Committee will be marking up subcommittee elements at the end of July, returning for the full committee markup on September 1. However, it is becoming clear some of the things likely to be included in both bills are likely.
With Defense Secretary Austin’s support for creating a special prosecutorial framework for sexual assault and related crimes, such as domestic violence, that is all but certain to not only be included (again) but actually stay in for the final version. Sen. Gillibrand (D-NY) wants all felonies to go to the special prosecutor, given the inequities found in the treatment of Black service members under the UCMJ, but that is unlikely to make it through the full Congress.
If not done through a stand-alone bill ahead of time, the 2002 AUMF could be repealed in the NDAA. General Milley’s assertion to the HASC that this will not affect ongoing military operations will provide support. This action has been included in appropriations bills and the NDAA for the last few years, only to fall out during the conference process.
Thursday afternoon, the House passed a bill to provide contraceptives to women veterans for free, with 26 Republicans joining all of the Democrats on the vote.
The active duty military has officially completed its vaccination efforts on June 22, when troops left a New Jersey FEMA site. Since the mission was announced on February 4, approximately 5,150 military medical and support personnel from all Services worked in 25 states and one territory to administer about five million vaccines.
Within the National Guard, 26,000 troops continue to support COVID-19 response operations. Since March 2020, the National Guard has provided 632 meals; made 36.9 million masks; tested or screened 16.1 million people for COVID-19; driven 11.5 million miles to deliver supplies; deep cleaned 71,259 facilities; and increased bed capacity by 19,211 at Alternate Care Facilities in areas hit hard by the pandemic. They have supported, and continue to support, 863 vaccination sites, 392 of which are mobile. National Guard troops have administered more than 12 million vaccinations, which comes to 109,650 vaccines per day.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on Wednesday determined that there is a slight risk of young males experiencing myocarditis following receipt of either the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC received reports of 1,226 cases, with 67.5% coming after the second dose. Of those patients, 484 are younger than 29, and about two-thirds are men. The committee decided to include a warning about the condition, which is readily treatable for most patients, with the vaccines. However, they concluded that the risks of long-term health conditions from getting COVID-19 continue to outweigh the risks associated with getting the vaccine. Thus, public health leaders continue to encourage everyone down to age 12 to get vaccinated.
The American Legion honors all who served in the Korean War, which started on June 25, 1950, when North Korea invaded South Korea in hopes of creating a single Communist country. This marks the first time the UN Security Council authorized the formation of a UN Command and the use of allied troops. Although the US provided about 90% of the troops, 21 other nations also participated in the conflict. Fighting ended on July 27, 1953; US forces remained stationed in South Korea to provide security and deter aggression.
• On Tuesday, June 29, at 10:00AM, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Full Committee Hearing: “The Conflict in Ethiopia.”
• On Tuesday, June 29, at 11:00AM, the House Armed Services Committee, Full Committee Hearing: “FY2022 NDAA Budget Request for the Army.”
• On Tuesday, June 29, at 4:00PM, the House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems Hearing: “DOD IT, Cyber, and Information Assurance for FY2022.”
• On Wednesday, June 20, at 3:00PM, the House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces Hearing: “FY2022 Rotary Wing Aviation Budget Request.”
• On Monday, June 21, NLD Staff attended a VSO meeting discussing VBA claims, appeals, and legislative concerns.
• On Monday, June 21, NLD Staff drafted testimony for upcoming SVAC hearing.
• On Tuesday, June 22, NLD Staff attended meeting with majority HVAC professional staff discussing the PACT Act.
• On Tuesday, June 22, NLD Staff attended Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on to consider repealing 2002 Iraq War authorization.
• On Wednesday, June 23, NLD Staff attended meeting on the Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation on the VA Schedule.
• On Wednesday, June 23, NLD Staff attended meeting of a review of the FY 2022 Budget and FY 2023 Advance Appropriations Requests for the Department of Veterans.
• On Wednesday, June 23, NLD Staff attended a hearing with National Parks Subcommittee Hearing to consider the location of the Global War on Terror Memorial.
• On Wednesday, June 23, NLD Staff attended a hearing with Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to discuss an examination of immigration and citizenship policies for U.S. military service members, veterans, and their families. TAL submitted a statement for the record.
• On Wednesday, June 23, NLD Staff submitted written & oral testimony before the SVAC on 21 pieces of pending legislation affecting veteran healthcare and homelessness. TAL testified at the hearing. The full hearing is available here. Included in this hearing were two pieces of legislation that TAL has led the effort on o S. 544 Buddy Check Week Act and o S. 1040 Expands eligibility for Department of Veterans Affairs hospital care, medical services, and nursing home care to include veterans of World War II who are not already covered.
• On Thursday, June 24, NLD Staff participated in a HVAC meeting with minority professional staff to discuss PACT Act.
• On Thursday, June 24, NLD Staff participated in a VSO meeting to discuss predatory disability claims consulting companies.
• On Thursday, June 24, NLD Staff attended HVAC PACT Act markup hearing.
• On Thursday, June 24, NLD Staff met with SVAC minority professional staff to discuss TAL supported legislation.
• On Friday, June 25, NLD Staff accompanied a member of the Legion’s National Legislative Council to a meeting with Rep. Obernolte (CA-08) to discuss the Legion’s legislative priorities for the 117th Congress.
• On Friday, June 25, NLD Staff met with the office of Congressman Moulton to discuss the introduction of an upcoming piece of mental health legislation.
Lawrence Montreuil, Legislative Director
The American Legion
6/18/21 NDL Update Information
Legion, lawmakers urge Biden to evacuate Afghan allies ‘immediately’
As the withdrawal date for U.S. troops from Afghanistan looms, 18,000 Afghan interpreters awaiting Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) face a grim future. They — along with their families — are being hunted by the Taliban as the militant group attacks regions that have been under the control of the Afghan government. There are less than 100 days until the Sept. 11 withdrawal deadline, however it’s likely the last American servicemember will leave Afghanistan earlier. U.S. Reps. Mike Waltz, R-Fla., and Jason Crow, D-Colo., joined The American Legion on Capitol Hill on June 16 to demand the U.S. government act immediately to evacuate the Afghans who assisted U.S. troops. These Afghan allies served alongside American forces at great risk to themselves and their families. In exchange for their service, they were promised a pathway to a future in the United States. By not honoring this promise, the U.S. government is signing their death warrants.
Nick Riffel, a policy adviser for The American Legion’s National Security Division, served two tours during the deadliest years of war in Afghanistan. From 2009 to 2011, he served with 1st Battalion, 6th Marines as a designated marksman and infantry team leader.
“During my time in country, I saw many interpreters come and go,” he said. “Some fled, others were abducted, and many were killed while serving with me and other American troops in combat. They left behind friends and family not knowing if they could ever return in search of a better life once they helped Americans and coalition forces.”
Riffel recalled how many Afghan allies would wear face masks to conceal their identity because they feared retaliation from the Taliban that could lead to the deaths of their loved ones.
“Many Afghan interpreters served honorably for more than 24 months with their lives in imminent danger alongside frontline combat troops,” he said. “One of which I served with from 2009 to 2010. He was killed in 2013, with pictures of his dead body posted to his Facebook.” He was waiting his visa at the time of his death.
“We cannot hesitate to pull out all of our interpreters that meet the requirements for the Special Immigrant Visas,” Riffel said. “We strongly encourage the U.S. government to fulfill their obligation to our heroic Afghan interpreters by keeping our Afghan allies safe.”
Crow served in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper and an Army Ranger, serving three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said he owes a debt of gratitude to the Afghan men and women who served alongside him.
“It’s not an exaggeration for me to say that I may not be here today, standing in front of you,” Crow said, “had it not been for brave Afghan and Iraqi interpreters who stood by me, fought with me shoulder to shoulder, warned me of risks, and helped us get our mission done.”
He called the urgent evacuation of Afghan interpreters a “moral imperative.”
“The American handshake has to mean something,” Crow said. “We are strong as a country, not just because of the number of tanks and planes we have, or our carrier battle groups. We are strongest when we have friends. We are strongest when we join arms with our allies and partners, and we address threats together.
“For that to happen, people need to know that the American handshake matters, that we will stand by them through thick and thin. We will have future conflicts and adversaries. And those future partners are watching now how we treat our current ones.” For Crow and others who have served alongside these men and women, it’s personal.
“The 18,000 Afghans that are waiting in line … for us, the numbers have names. They have faces. And they have families.”
Waltz served multiple combat tours in Afghanistan as a Green Beret. He called out the president and his administration for not acting immediately.
“Like my friend and colleague, Jason Crow, I would likely not be here if it had not been for the actions of a brave interpreter that stood with me in combat, shoulder to shoulder against the Taliban.”
They risked their lives and their families’ lives to stand against extremism and serve alongside American forces, he added.
“How many future Afghan families, how many great American contributions will we not have if President Biden doesn’t act, and doesn’t act now,” said Waltz. “If he does not act and does not get these people out, blood with be on his hands and his administration’s hands.”
“The time for talk and debate is over. The Defense Department is accelerating its withdrawal and plans to be out far sooner than September 11. We are closing our only air base in just a few weeks,” Waltz added. “We have a moral and national security obligation to get these people out. Evacuate them now. We’ve done it before, and we can do it again.”
House passes Legion-supported repeal of 2002 military authorization for Iraq war
In a strong bipartisan vote on Thursday, June 17, the House voted to repeal the military authorization for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 in what supporter’s hope will be the first of several legislative steps by this Congress to end America’s decades long wars in the Middle East.
Lawmakers are framing it as a first step in a broader effort to claw back presidential war powers.
The House voted 268-161 to scrap the 2002 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF), with supporters of the repeal arguing the nearly 20-year-old law is outdated and no longer necessary. Only one Democrat, Rep. Elaine Luria (Va.), voted against scrapping the authorization, while 49 GOP lawmakers did vote to repeal it.
The war authorization was initially passed by Congress to allow the U.S military to go after former President Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, though it has occasionally been used to bolster the legal rationale for other military engagements in recent years.
“Repeal can prevent our country from entering another protected protracted engagement under this outdated authority,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), the sponsor of the repeal bill, said Thursday. “We can't afford to leave this in place indefinitely. For two decades, it has been in place. This is our opportunity to restore our constitutional role.”
The House previously voted to repeal the 2002 AUMF last congressional session, but the effort went nowhere in the Senate, which at the time was controlled by Republicans. This time, though, momentum appears to be building toward getting the repeal to the president’s desk.
On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced his support for repealing the 2002 AUMF and vowed to hold a vote in his chamber this year. The Biden administration has also come out in support of repealing the 2002 AUMF, with the White House saying in a statement this week it backs Lee’s bill because “the United States has no ongoing military activities that rely solely on the 2002 AUMF as a domestic legal basis, and repeal of the 2002 AUMF would likely have minimal impact on current military operations.”
“It is a rare thing to see an administration explicitly endorse a narrowing of its own authority, especially when it comes to the powers of the commander-in-chief. This statement by the Biden administration clearly supporting the repeal of the 2002 Iraq AUMF is an acknowledgment that open-ended war authorizations carry a real potential for abuse,” Diana Ohlbaum, senior strategist for the Quaker lobby group, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, said in a statement. “This is an essential first step towards changing the environment of never-ending and ever-expanding wars.”
Efforts to repeal the 2002 AUMF were revived this year amid a push to rein in presidential war powers after President Biden ordered an airstrike on Iran-backed militias in Syria in February in retaliation for militia attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq.
Supporters of repealing the 2002 authorization see it as a first step as they work to replace the broader 2001 AUMF, which authorized military action against the perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks but has since been used to justify military action in more than a dozen countries against disparate terrorist groups.
“Our vote this morning to repeal the 2002 AUMF is not about relitigating our past. Rather, repealing this outdated authorization is about planning strategically for our future,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) said. “It is about Congress reclaiming its constitutional obligation to weigh in on matters of war and peace.”
Repealing the 2002 bill is expected to be the easy part of the effort, though, as agreement on what to replace the 2001 authorization with remains elusive. While there is bipartisan agreement the 2001 AUMF is outdated, past congressional efforts on a replacement have all stalled amid partisan fights over the details, including whether to impose limits on time, geography and types of force.
In a boost for those who want to curb presidential war powers, the Biden administration has said it is willing to work with Congress on a narrower war authorization, though there will still likely be wrangling over the details.
“In working with the Congress on repealing and replacing other existing authorizations of military force, the administration seeks to ensure that the Congress has a clear and thorough understanding of the effect of any such action and of the threats facing U.S. forces, personnel and interests around the world,” the White House said in its statement this week. “As the administration works with the Congress to reform AUMFs, it will be critical to maintain the clear authority to address threats to the United States’ national interests with appropriately decisive and effective military action.”
Momentum is building for full congressional repeal of the 2002 authorization. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a markup on June 22 of bipartisan legislation from Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Todd Young, R-Ind., that would repeal both the 2002 AUMF as well as the 1991 Gulf War military authorization.
“I am grateful to finally see action on repealing these outdated AUMFs — an issue that has long been important to me,” Kaine said in a Wednesday statement. “So much has changed since 1991 and 2002: Saddam Hussein’s regime is gone; the Gulf and Iraq Wars are over; and Iraq is now a close security partner who should not be labeled an enemy state.”
Ocean County American Legion Leaders:
Please consider voicing your support of The American Legion’s Legislative Agenda with your representatives in Washington, DC (Senators Booker & Menendez and your House Representative, either Rep. Kim or Rep. Smith) by using the link below to join Votervoice and send a email to those in Washington that support you and our Legion Comrades. We also request that you ask your membership to do the same.
As part of Washington Conference, NLD has launched a VoterVoice Campaign focused at The American Legion Family asking them to share with their Members of Congress The American Legion’s Legislative Agenda and the time and date of the Commander’s Testimony. Please share the following link with your entire network and encourage everyone to participate!
117th Congress (2021-2022)
Active Bills Since Last Report
H.R.711 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) West Los Angeles VA Campus Improvement Act of 2021 Sponsor: Rep. Lieu, Ted [D-CA-33] (Introduced 02/02/2021) Cosponsors: (0) Committees: House - Veterans' Affairs | Senate - Veterans' Affairs Latest Action: 06/23/2021 Became Public Law No: 117-18.
H.R.2441 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans Mental Health Act of 2021 Sponsor: Rep. Axne, Cynthia [D-IA-3] (Introduced 04/12/2021) Cosponsors: (37) Committees: House - Veterans' Affairs | Senate - Veterans' Affairs Latest Action: Senate - 06/24/2021 Passed Senate without amendment by Unanimous Consent.
H.R.2523 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) THRIVE Act Training in High-demand Roles to Improve Veteran Employment Act Sponsor: Rep. Levin, Mike [D-CA-49] (Introduced 04/14/2021) Cosponsors: (1) Committees: House - Veterans' Affairs; Budget | Senate - Veterans' Affairs Latest Action: 06/08/2021 Became Public Law No: 117-16. (TXT | PDF)
H.R.3642 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) Harlem Hellfighters Congressional Gold Medal Act Sponsor: Rep. Suozzi, Thomas R. [D-NY-3] (Introduced 05/28/2021) Cosponsors: (311) Committees: House - Financial Services; House Administration | Senate - Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Latest Action: Senate - 06/16/2021 Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.
S.1095 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act of 2021 Sponsor: Sen. Moran, Jerry [R-KS] (Introduced 4/13/2021) Cosponsors: (4) Committees: Senate - Veterans' Affairs Latest Action: Senate - 06/24/2021 Passed Senate without amendment by Voice Vote.
S.Res.143— 117th Congress (2021-2022) A resolution to honor and recognize the patriotism and service to the United States provided by Veterans Service Organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sponsor: Sen. Hassan, Margaret Wood [D-NH] (Introduced 03/25/2021) Cosponsors: (11) Committees: Senate - Veterans' Affairs Latest Action: Senate - 04/21/2021 Resolution agreed to in Senate without amendment and with a preamble by Unanimous Consent. (consideration: CR S2135; text: 03/25/2021 CR S1836)
For any Federal Bill Details go to:
Library of Congress - https://www.congress.gov/search?q=%7B%22congress%22%3A%22114%22%2C%22source%22%3A%22legislation%22%2C%22search%22%3A%22sjr21%22%7D
AL Legislative Center: http://capwiz.com/legion/issues/bills/?bill=66103631
2020-2021 Bills – 218th Legislative Session
Active Bills Since Last Report
A652 Exempts certain veterans from driver's license fee, motorcycle license fee, and digitized picture fee. Latest Action: 6/3/2021 Passed by the Assembly (71-0-0), 6/10/2021 Received in the Senate, Referred to Senate Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee
A2376/S929 Sca (1R) Requires municipality to provide free beach access to certain veterans.
Latest Action: 6/10/2021 Reported from Senate Committee with Amendments, 2nd Reading, 6/10/2021 Referred to Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
A3123/S2059 Allows veteran or personal representative to withdraw honorable discharge papers from county clerk. Latest Action: 6/3/2021 Substituted for S2059, 6/3/2021 Passed Senate (Passed Both Houses) (38-0)
A3805/S961 Sa (1R) Establishes annual grant program to recognize institutions of higher education that offer comprehensive array of veteran programs and services.* Latest Action: 5/20/2021 Substituted for A3805,5/20/2021 Passed Assembly (Passed Both Houses) (76-0-0)
A4870/S1454 Sca (1R) Allows shore municipalities to provide spouse and dependent children of veterans free or reduced cost access to beaches. Latest Action: 6/3/2021 Passed by the Senate (38-0). 6/9/2021 Received in the Assembly, Referred to Assembly Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee
A5076/S171 Sca (1R) Establishes grant program for homeless veterans shelters. Latest Action: Senate; 6/9/2021 Transferred to Assembly Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee
A5829 Prohibits public institution of higher education from charging tuition to student who is dependent child of veteran who died or is disabled as result of service-related injury. Latest Action: 6/2/2021 Introduced, Referred to Assembly Higher Education Committee
A5851 Aca (1R)/S2905 Allows veteran's guardian to remove veteran from DMVA veterans' memorial home under certain emergency circumstances. Latest Action: 6/3/2021 Introduced, Referred to Assembly Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee, 6/14/2021 Reported out of Assembly.Senate; 6/10/2021 Introduced in the Senate, Referred to Senate Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee, 6/15/2021 Reported from Senate Committee with Amendments, 2nd Reading
A5959/S3987 Prohibits four-year public institution of higher education from charging tuition and fees to student who is spouse or dependent child of disabled veteran. Latest Action: 6/24/2021 Introduced in the Senate, Referred to Senate Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee
S3894 Creates permanent commission to study various statutory definitions of veteran, disabled veteran, and service-disabled veteran. Latest Action: 6/10/2021 Introduced in the Senate, Referred to Senate Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee
For Details of NJ Legislative bills go to “NJ Legislature”