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Bost Delivers Opening Remarks at Committee Markup of Honoring Our PACT Act

Today, Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, delivered the following opening statement, as prepared, at the start of the Committee markup of H.R. 3967, the Honoring Our PACT Act:

Thank you.

Let me begin by noting that this is the first time this Congress that this Committee has met in person.

Other Committees have been meeting in person all Congress.

We are overdue in joining them.

It is fitting that this meeting is being held in-person because the topic we are here to discuss is one of the most important.

One of my proudest achievements is delivering benefits to Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans for Agent Orange exposure.

We did that in 2019 – 44 years after the Vietnam era ended.

I don’t want any other veterans to wait that long.

That is why supporting toxic-exposed veterans is one of my priorities.

I introduced the TEAM Act to provide care and benefits to toxic-exposed veterans and advance toxic exposure research and training.

The TEAM Act is bipartisan and supported by dozens of V.S.O.s.

Pieces of it were added to Chairman Takano’s Honoring Our PACT Act, which we will be considering shortly.

I wish I could support the Honoring Our PACT Act and encourage every Committee Member to do the same.

But the fact is that we simply do not have the information we need to report this bill out of Committee today.

I have urged Secretary McDonough to come to the table for months.

But we have no idea what V.A.’s views on this bill are.

We have no idea if the Biden Administration supports it.

We have no idea if it can be implemented without disrupting services to other veterans.

We have no idea how it will impact the operations of the V.A. healthcare system or the delivery of benefits to veterans and families.

We have no idea if it will cause longer wait times for medical appointments or benefits decisions.

We have no idea if it will strain V.A. staff or how many more people V.A. would need to hire to execute it.

We have next to no idea about what it could cost taxpayers – and remember that veterans are taxpayers too.

Preliminary cost estimates from C.B.O. indicate that this bill could cost over a trillion dollars in new mandatory spending.

We have no way to cover those costs, which we are required to do by PAYGO.

It would also potentially add several hundred billion dollars in new discretionary spending.

We have had no discussion about how we are going to pay for that.

I could go on but the conclusion is clear – we have a lot more work to do.

Knowing that, we cannot responsibly vote for this bill today.

I asked Chairman Takano this week to postpone this markup so that we could work together to get the information we need to proceed.

The Senate V.A. Committee is facing the same problems we are.

We need to work with them to find a realistic, scientifically-sound, and fiscally-responsible way forward.

We need the Biden Administration to meaningfully participate in this conversation.

The idea that we have to vote a bill out of Committee before that is hogwash.

I know what it’s like to serve.

I know what it’s like to have family who serve.

I know how high the stakes are.

I know what war costs.

Too many toxic-exposed veterans are sick and dying.

I want to help them get the care and benefits they earned.

There is bipartisan, bicameral will to get this done.

We need to stop wasting time marking up legislation that we know has no path to success and start working together to deliver results for veterans.

We were elected to do the hard work and make the tough calls.

I will do nothing less for my fellow veterans.

I yield back.
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