U.S. Rep. Ron Barber today sharply criticized House leaders for failing to move forward with an appropriations bill for the departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.
Barber had proposed an amendment to the bill to set aside $1 million to help America’s 62,000 homeless veterans. It was the second consecutive year Barber has sought to amend legislation to provide shelter for veterans who are homeless.
“I am deeply disappointed that House leadership today abruptly pulled from consideration this critical funding legislation,” Barber said. “Although I did not agree with all the measures in the bill, it is our job as representatives to, at the very least, have a debate and an up-or-down vote. That’s what the people sent us here to do: to vote and to move forward through the process toward a responsible budget.”
Barber said he agreed with Rep. Hal Rogers, an Alabama Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, who said he was “extremely disappointed” with the decision to pull the appropriations bill from consideration.
Yesterday, Barber introduced an amendment to the legislation that would have provided $1 million for rental assistance housing vouchers given to homeless veterans. The additional spending would have been offset with $1.5 million in administrative cuts.
“At a time when our country needed them, they answered the call, personally sacrificing for the greater good – for our greater good,” Barber told members of the House when he introduced his funding amendment. “We owe these individuals more than just a debt of gratitude. We owe our veterans our unflagging support commensurate with their level of service – equal to their sacrifice for me and for you and for everyone else who enjoys the freedoms they ensured.”
The request was supported by numerous organizations including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Vets First, Military Officers Association of America, United Spinal Association, Military-Veterans Advocacy Inc., Disabled American Veterans, Service Women’s Action Network, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and the Association of the United States Navy.
Because the legislation was pulled from consideration, the amendment was not voted upon. Last year, Barber also sought to have funding to assist homeless veterans added to the annual appropriation for the departments, but was unsuccessful.
Barber is a member of the Veterans Jobs Caucus and has a local Veterans Advisory Council that advises him on legislation affecting veterans. His Southern Arizona district is home to about 85,000 veterans. Few of the nation’s congressional districts have a heavier concentration of veterans.
“In my home district in Tucson, the city is working diligently to ensure veteran homelessness is eradicated permanently,” Barber said yesterday. “I applaud and support their efforts – but more can be done. If my amendment is adopted, it would increase by $1 million the amount available to veterans for housing vouchers.”
Barber noted that nearly-one-third of chronically homeless people are veterans, according to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.
Barber has been a champion for veterans-related issues since he has been in Congress. Earlier this month, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs subcommittee on health heard testimony on Barber’s Veterans Transportation Service Act, which will help veterans access needed medical care.
Among the many other pieces of legislation Barber has introduced to benefit veterans is a bill that will provide employers with a tax credit for hiring recently discharged veterans. And he introduced the Veterans Health Access Act that will improve access to health care by making it easier for veterans to be treated by private doctors in their communities.
He also cosponsored the Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act to expand access to housing assistance to injured, low-income wartime veterans and the Protecting Veterans’ Pensions Act, which will target financial companies that take advantage of veterans by selling them estate planning services and other financial products that prevent veterans from accessing their assets.