This week, the U.S. House of Representatives shut down an effort by Texas congressman Pete Gallego to expand VA facilities around the country. Gallego's motion narrowly failed, by a vote of 201-213. Thirteen Republicans supported the measure, while two Democrats voted against it.
Gallego had introduced a motion that supported Senate language from a bill known as the Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act, which previously passed the House and is now in negotiation between the two chambers. The motion would have directed the House to accept a Senate provision that would expand and create new VA facilities around the country.
Gallego's motion would have expanded or added 26 VA facilities nationwide, including 4 in Texas. The motion would have expanded VA facilities in San Antonio, and add new facilities in Lubbock, Tyler, and Houston.
Expanding VA facilities would have helped address one of the biggest problems facing the VA by reducing veterans' wait times to access medical care. As Gallego's office pointed out in a statement, “Currently, the system attempts to move large numbers of veterans through a very limited number of facilities and results in inadequate care, especially for rural veterans.” This is especially true in Gallego's 23rd District, which is geographically spread out, making it tougher for veterans to access care.
Watch Pete Gallego stand up for veterans on the House floor after the jump.Pete Gallego introduced the motion on Wednesday, with a speech on the House floor:
After the motion was defeated on Thursday, Gallego released the following statement expressing his disappointment with House Republicans for turning back the measure:
“Since last year when I introduced my first bill to improve veterans access to health care, I've been regularly disappointed at the willingness of so many in Congress to put partisan politics ahead of everything – including our national commitment to veterans,” U.S. Rep. Gallego said. “Since day one, I've voted to support every effort to fulfill one of the most sacred commitments our country has ever made – taking care of our veterans when they come home. …
We have a responsibility to those who have served our country in uniform: just as the military leaves no one behind on the battlefield, we must leave no veteran behind here at home,” he said. “This motion is straightforward – let's agree that we need more facilities to take better care of our veterans. Let's do something about the backlogs and the waiting times. Let's solve a problem for those who served under the American flag instead of attempting to serve partisan flags of our own.
I'm glad that my effort drew support from both sides of the aisle. Unfortunately, too many on Capitol Hill again chose politics as usual over keeping our promise to veterans,” U.S. Rep. Gallego said. “Some in the House must learn to see past the partisan politics and just look to the issue. Let's help take care of our veterans – who are crying out for help.”