So, at first blush it’s perplexing that he voted against a Republican-backed Veterans Affairs funding bill that, among other things, increased funding for the department.
The National Republican Congressional Committee took note, sending an email to reporters in Minnesota saying that Walz voted against the VA funding bill that included a “more than $68 billion – a 6 percent increase from last year – in funding for VA Health Care Programs, VA medical centers…disability payments and other vital services.”
Walz did vote against the bill. But there’s a lot more to the story.
The NRCC’s claim gets some basic facts right.
Walz voted against the fiscal year 2016 VA appropriations bill, as did most other Democrats.
As for funding in the bill, the NRCC is talking about discretionary funding, meaning money that isn’t mandated by law for existing programs. The House bill allocates roughly $68 billion in additional money to the VA – a $4.1 billion or 5.6 percent increase.
But here’s where the NRCC claim veers off track. Most of the VA’s discretionary funding increase for fiscal year 2016 – roughly $58 billion – was approved previously in the fiscal year 2015 VA appropriations bill, which Walz supported. The money was allocated a year early to avoid a funding shortage in the event of a government shutdown.
So, to say that Walz voted against $68 billion in additional funding is false.
The NRCC defended its claim by pointing out that the VA funding bill Walz just voted again takes a similar approach by appropriating advance funding for the department in fiscal year 2017.
Walz said he was swayed to vote against the bill because a number of leading veterans groups opposed the House funding bill because it fell $1.4 billion short of the Obama Administration’s funding request.
For instance, the American Legion, which has 2.3 million members, wrote in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner that they wouldn’t support a bill that “falls short of fully funding the needs for America’s veterans and VA… America’s veterans deserve a VA that receives full funding.”
Other groups that opposed the bill include the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW).
It’s a matter of opinion whether the most recent funding bill passed by the U.S. House puts enough money into VA issues.
But where the NRCC is culpable of muddying the facts is by saying Walz voted against a $68 billion increase for the department. In fact, Walz voted in 2014 to set aside the vast majority of that money in advance.
The core of the NRCC claim is false.