|SITREP - May 18th 2012|
This was a consequential week for me and for a lot of military families. As you’ve probably heard, the House was considering the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) – the bill that authorizes spending each year for the military.
To make a long story short, contained in this roughly half a trillion dollar authorization for our Armed Forces was a provision increasing prescription co-pays for TRICARE beneficiaries (military families) – an increase of roughly thirty percent.
All this time, I had been led to believe that while Presidents and Secretaries of Defense have routinely called for such increases, the House (and Senate) would once again insist on finding savings elsewhere. That turned out not to be the case here. When I learned late last week that the House was planning to raise fees on our military, I set about drafting an amendment to block those increases.
My reasoning was and is pretty simple. As I see it, anything that affects the troops’ readiness and safety or that takes money out of the pockets of military families should be the absolute last thing that we consider going after. It’s that simple. The budget is huge and like any government budget, there are redundancies and things you can live without. $100 million, which is what the co-pay increase is expected to raise, is a huge amount of money to take from military families. But in the broader context of the entire defense budget, it’s a drop in the bucket.
There is no question in anybody’s mind that we need to find savings in the military’s budget. In fact, we’ve already cut it by over $400 billion. So, the question isn’t about the need for cutbacks, it’s just a question of where you cut back. In my book, it shouldn’t be in the pocketbooks of military families. I don’t know how else to put it.
In the end, I voted against the Defense Authorization. I wasn’t thrilled about it. Frankly, I think that on the whole, the House Armed Services Committee did a tremendous job of putting the pieces together. As you’ve probably heard me say, I have a lot of respect for the Chairman and for a lot of the members on that committee. I know they care a great deal about the troops. But I have to say, in this case, I think they made a huge mistake. So after my amendment blocking the co-pay increases was thrown out, I had to let the Chairman and others know that I would not be supporting the bill. I was expecting an earful, but I think a lot of people quietly understood where I was coming from.
Moving forward, I want you to know that when it comes down to questions of principle, I am and will always be willing to vote the way I need to – regardless of what the leadership in Congress or the party faithful expects. At the end of the day, that’s why I came here. Anybody can be a rubber stamp, but I don’t think that’s what the American people expect. I know it isn’t what military families expect.