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Nolan’s ‘protest’ vote one of four against VA budget bill

WASHINGTON — Rep. Rick Nolan said he voted against the bill “in protest” because it doesn’t fully fund VA programs.

nolan photo
Rep. Rick Nolan

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House passed a military construction and Veterans Affairs budget bill on Tuesday night in rather overwhelming fashion — 421 to 4.

Minnesota Democrat Rick Nolan was one of the four.

The annual VA budget bill is traditionally one of the most broadly supported measures Congress considers. The House passed it 407-12 last year, and 411-5  in 2011.

This year’s version would provide $73.3 billion to veterans programs and military construction projects in 2014. That is, at once, $1.4 billion more than what Congress budgeted last year, and $1.4 billion less than what President Obama proposed for next year (the White House opposed the bill on procedural grounds).

In a statement, Nolan said he voted against the legislation “in protest,” saying it doesn’t spend enough money on VA programs (the bill spends $337.5 million less on the VA than Obama proposed, Nolan said, though about 10 percent more than current funding) while bolstering spending for military construction projects around the world.

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“I voted against the bill in protest, because it under-funds veterans health and benefit programs, while shoveling billions of new dollars into unnecessary new military construction in places all around the world where an American presence and American resources do not belong,” he said.

The National Republican Congressional Committee seized on Nolan’s vote, calling it  “inexplicable” and “cowardly.”

Nolan has long been opposed to American military involvement overseas, calling for an end to “wars of choice” and making his first legislative priority this session ending the war in Afghanistan. He said he would consider voting for the VA bill depending on what comes from House and Senate budget negotiations.

More info on the bill is here.

Devin Henry can be reached at dhenry@minnpost.com.