Senate Approves $1.5B for Veterans Affairs Health Care Budget Deficit
The Senate on Wednesday voted 96-0 to provide $1.5 billion in emergency funds for Department of Veterans Affairs health care programs, the Washington Post reports (Edsall, Washington Post, 6/30). The Senate voted to add the funds -- which VA would use to address a budget deficit for fiscal year 2005 and help address an expected deficit in FY 2006 -- to the FY 2006 Interior appropriations bill (HR 2361) (CongressDaily, 6/30).
The Bush administration on Tuesday acknowledged that the budget deficit for VA health care programs could reach at least $2.6 billion in FY 2006. VA Secretary James Nicholson and other department officials on Tuesday testified before Congress to explain the budget deficit, which they said will reach at least $1 billion in FY 2005 (California Healthline, 6/29). Nicholson on Thursday plans to testify at a House Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing to provide legislators with a "more precise accounting of health care needs" at VA, the AP/Newark Star-Ledger reports.
House Republicans said that they plan to wait to hear testimony from Nicholson before they take action on the issue (Dalrymple, AP/Newark Star-Ledger, 6/30). House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chair Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) said, "Let's find the right numbers, let's get the budgeting process right" (Washington Post, 6/30). Two senior House Republicans on Wednesday said that a supplemental appropriations bill to address the budget deficit for VA health care programs could reach the floor as early as Thursday. The legislation "could come with some strings attached to appease fiscal conservatives," CQ Today reports (CQ Today, 6/29).