June was a busy month in Washington, DC as House Republicans passed a number of bills important to Texas District 31 (TX-31). What is important to us in TX-31 was important to the country this month as we passed bills supporting our Military, our Veterans, protecting our Border, and expanding our children’s educational opportunities.
As the Representative of the largest heavy armored post in the free would, funding our military is of the utmost importance to me and our communities in Central Texas. Through Committee passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and Defense Appropriations bills I was able to secure increased funding to modernize our combat vehicles, provide new Apache helicopters, and new unmanned aerial vehicles. These types of investments at Ft. Hood will allow our men and women to continue to be the most dominant force on the battlefield. Overall, these bills allow us to increase defense funding by almost 12 percent ($68.1 billion) over FY17. Additionally, we were able to increase soldier pay by 2.4 percent, the largest pay increase for our troops since 2010!
Veterans will always be a top priority so I was thankful to be part of a Veterans FIRST bill. The legislation provides a 5 percent increase in funding (totaling a more than 300 percent increase in VA funding since 2004) to provide the VA the ability to provide better care and services for our Veterans. In addition, we provide a 25 percent increase in funding for military construction (Family Housing, Barracks, Hospitals, Training Facilities).
With my support, the House passed, and the President signed into law the Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protect Act. Creating an accountability system to encourage the VA to restructure their organization to develop a culture to help the Veteran first. This bill gives the Secretary of the VA more flexibility in removing and disciplining employees for poor performance and misconduct. When I called the FBI to investigate the Temple VA it was due to the lack of service our Veterans were receiving and overall employee failures. Following the investigation, reforms have been put into place, but this action by Congress and the President will allow for further reforms, and ultimately improved services and care our Veterans earned and so deserve.
This week I am also finalizing my Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill which provides $44.3 billion for homeland security programs. This is an increase of $1.9 billion (roughly a 5 percent increase) over FY17 levels. Through this bill, we are providing the resources to begin building a wall along our southern border, enhancing our existing border security infrastructure, hiring more border patrol agents, and funding detention operations to hold those awaiting deportation.
In a continued effort to further provide security for all Americans, I supported, and the House passed, two bills (HR. 3004, Kate’s Law and HR 3003, No Sanctuary for Criminals Act) that strengthen penalties against criminal illegal aliens and cut federal funding to those jurisdictions that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. These bills are another step in helping to keep all Americans safe.
Also, a bill I authored, the Protection of Children Act, passed out of the Judiciary Committee and should get a vote of the full House soon. This bill protects children from being trafficked across our borders by closing asylum loopholes in our immigration laws and strengthening placement standards when unaccompanied minors cross our border. For years the cartels and human traffickers have been exploiting our asylum laws, and my bill puts an end to that dangerous practice.
Last month we also stood up for greater educational opportunities for our students. Our region is one of the fastest growing in the nation, and one of the best places to find a job. However, as we continue to prosper, there are growing needs for qualified workers in trades and technical careers. I am a proud member of the CTE Caucus and a strong supporter of the House passed reauthorization of the Perkins act. This is legislation that encourages participation and broadens opportunities in the Career and Technical Education fields. There are many careers in the trades that pay very well, and are in need of qualified workers. I will continue to push for more outreach, and opportunities in CTE.
I look forward to continuing to fight for all Central Texans, including our military, their families, and our Veterans.