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Saturday, September 29, 2012

PolitiFact: Claims by Shea-Porter against Guinta off base

Veterans funding was back in the news recently as the U.S. Senate failed to take up a new veterans jobs bill.

But even before the vote, one New Hampshire congressional candidate was already taking aim over the issue. ...

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Veterans funding was back in the news recently as the U.S. Senate failed to take up a new veterans jobs bill.

But even before the vote, one New Hampshire congressional candidate was already taking aim over the issue.

In a television ad released Sept. 18 in and around New Hampshire, former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, who is once again challenging U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta, charged her opponent with failing to support the country’s veterans.

“Tea party Congressman Frank Guinta voted for billions in cuts to veterans programs,” a narrator declares in the ad, “Debt,” aired on WMUR-TV.

“I’m Carol Shea-Porter, and I approve this message because our veterans deserve better,” she said to conclude the ad.

Guinta, a freshman Republican congressman, immediately disputed the ad and organized a rally in Manchester to call attention to his “strong record of supporting our veterans.”

So, who’s right? We decided to check the records.

In the ad, the Shea-Porter campaign points to a number of bills, including H.R. 2055, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, as well as H. Con. Res. 112, the House Republicans’ budget resolution, to support their claim that Guinta voted to cut veterans funding.

We’ll look at each one individually.

The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill was introduced May 31, 2011. In its original form, the bill proposed about $129.7 billion in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs – an increase of about $7.85 billion over the 2011 funding level.

The bill passed the House with near unanimous support. Guinta joined 410 other House lawmakers from both sides of the aisle passing the bill June 14, 2011, by a 411-5 count, according to Roll Call 418.

But as it moved to the Senate, the legislation was expanded to include funding for a host of other federal programs and departments, including energy and water, financial services, interior and environment, labor and education, among others.

When it returned to the House for a vote on Dec. 15, the final version of the bill, now known as the Consolidated Appropriations Act,
proposed about $124.2 billion in funding for the Veterans Affairs department.

This figure fell about $5.5 billion below the initial proposal and $6 billion less than President Barack Obama’s $130.2 billion funding request. But it still exceeded the 2011 veterans figure, $123.16 billion, by nearly $1 billion – $991 million, to be exact.

This time, however, Guinta voted against the bill, saying it failed to go far enough to reduce government spending. According to Roll Call 941, he was one of 86 Republicans to vote against the bill, which passed 296-121.

Obama signed the bill into law on Dec. 23.

“Americans simply can’t afford the high price tag that accompanies this bill,” Guinta said at the time in a written statement. “While there are several provisions in it that I strongly support –
and have voted for in the past – the overall spending level was just too high.”

So in this case, Guinta initially voted to increase veterans funding, but then, when the legislation was expanded to include other spending, he voted against the bill.

But voting against an increase isn’t the same as a vote to cut veterans funding.

Now, let’s move on to the House Republicans’ budget resolution. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee and the Republican vice presidential nominee, introduced the spending bill in March to set the budget for fiscal 2013 and the budget projections for the nine years to follow.

On March 29, Guinta joined 227 of his fellow congressmen and women in supporting the budget, which passed the House 228-191 along party lines. But the bill stalled as it moved on to the Democrat-controlled Senate, failing to reach the floor for a vote.

The bill Guinta supported set V.A. funding at $134.6 billion for fiscal 2013. That total didn’t meet the president’s $139.7 billion request, but it exceeded 2012 spending by about $6.5 billion, or 4.9 percent.

But White House officials and political analysts alike note the House Republicans’ budget also includes $798 billion in undefined cuts to discretionary spending. Neither Ryan nor other House Republicans have specified where these cuts would come from, leaving analysts to speculate about their impact.

Obama campaign officials note that, if applied evenly across the board, the budget could cost the V.A. $11 billion by 2014. And according to Richard Kogan, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank, the department could lose $2 billion in 2013 and $117 billion over the next 10 years if the cuts were applied proportionally by department.

“How much discretionary funding does Ryan propose for fiscal year 2013 or subsequent years for V.A. medical care?” Kogan wrote in an email. “The answer is that we cannot tell, but it is at risk of cuts, perhaps deep cuts.

“Importantly, there are no cuts to veterans (specifically outlined) under this view of the budget. But the fact begs the question of where the remaining $897 billion in cuts will come from.”

Our ruling

With $798 billion in unspecified cuts, the Ryan budget leaves many questions, including what effects those cuts will have on veterans spending.

But amid all the questions and uncertainties, what we do know is the budget plan, supported by Guinta, proposed to increase V.A. spending in 2013.

We also know that, contrary to Shea-Porter’s claim,
Guinta voted to increase the V.A. budget by $6 billion when he voted in favor of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs act last year. However, he ultimately voted against the measure when it returned to Congress in the form of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which added close to $1 billion in new funding to veterans programs.

All things considered, we find it a distortion to say Guinta has voted to cut money for veterans programs. We rate the claim Mostly False.