U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, the Jonesboro Republican, was one of only five House pump members who voted against legislation to pump $17 billion into improving the Veterans Affairs Department. Money will go to VA facilities and to provide private care for those either too distant from VA facilities or where a waiting time is too long.
Heritage Action, a conservative group, had urged a vote against the bill because not all of the bill’s cost was offset by other savings. But 420 House members supported the bill, in which $12 million was considered for emergency needs.
I’ve asked Crawford’s office for a comment. Jackie McPherson of Heber Springs, the Democratic candidate against Crawford, pounced, with this release.
Today, Congressman Rick Crawford showed just how out of touch he is with Arkansas’ values: voting against a landmark, bipartisan bill to reform the Veterans Affairs Administration and ensure veterans have access to medical care in the wake of the recent VA scandal.
“Arkansans believe that our veterans and service members have earned and deserve nothing but the highest level of care – but Congressman Rick Crawford has showed exactly how out of touch his Washington politics are with the values we believe in,” said Mayor Jackie McPherson. “Congressman Crawford has turned his back on Arkansas service members, veterans and their families, and frankly he should be ashamed of his vote.”
Joining Crawford in the five: Walter Jones (N.C.), Jack Kingston (Ga.), Mark Sanford (S.C.) and Steve Stockman (Texas).
UPDATE: The Crawford statement:
Following Wednesday’s House vote on H.R. 3230, the “Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014,” U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford (AR-1) issued the following statement regarding his “Nay” vote:
“As a veteran, the son of a veteran, and brother of veterans, I take a special interest in the defense of our nation and the sacred trust in which we hold those who have given their all in support of that mission. What we’ve learned about the VA in recent months is disturbing and heartbreaking. The agency has authority to address wait times and has even had adequate funding, yet those in leadership positions chose to ignore the veterans they are charged to serve. Instead, they lied, covered up, and punished those who attempted to call attention to problems. To my knowledge, no personnel have been fired or held to account as a result. This is unacceptable. Unfortunately, these shortcomings can’t be addressed with money alone. Sadly, Congress has a history of throwing money at problems and calling them ‘solved.’
“I can’t support today’s VA conference report because I don’t feel it is a responsible approach. Instead of adding over $11 billion in new deficit spending, we should first require the VA to reprioritize wasteful spending in other areas and use all of its unexpended funding to address wait times with the legal statutory authority it already has to utilize outside doctors. And if additional supplemental funds are needed, then Congress should appropriate those on an as-needed basis. In my view, this would be a more responsible approach in light of the debt crisis that is bearing down on our nation.
“Finally, this conference report restores hundreds of millions of dollars for bonuses to VA personnel, including many of the very people who have mistreated our veterans in recent years. The House voted unanimously last month to strip out funding for bonuses and now it’s inexplicably placed back in. Congress can, and should, do better.”