White House says Biden would veto military construction-VA bill

The White House signaled Monday that it is opposed to a bill passed by the House Appropriations Committee that funds military construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), raising concerns about “partisan” amendments that target LGBTQ Americans and abortion access.

The White House Office of Management and Budget said in a statement that the bill has “numerous, partisan policy provisions with devastating consequences” for reproductive rights, the LGBTQ community, marriage equality and climate change.

“House Republicans are again wasting time with partisan bills that would result in deep cuts to law enforcement, education, housing, health care, consumer safety, energy programs that lower utility bills and combat climate change, and essential nutrition services,” White House officials said.

The GOP-led House Appropriations Committee passed the more than $147 billion legislation May 23 to fund the VA and military construction along party lines in a 34-25 vote.

Appropriations Committee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.) praised the bill’s passage as “a testament to our dedication to caring for those who selflessly served our nation, supporting our military families, and strengthening America’s defense.”

The legislation creates yet another clash over culture wars in Defense and government funding bills between Democrats and Republicans, which became a major point of tension last year before many of the partisan amendments were stripped after conference.

Some committees appear to be trying to avoid the same battles as last year. The House Armed Services Committee cleared the annual Defense bill in May without the provision of any serious partisan culture war amendments.

The VA and military construction legislation includes a prohibition on the closure or realignment of Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. naval base in Cuba, which still holds 30 prisoners. President Biden has moved toward closing the facility and has returned home some detainees. The White House said the bill would affect Biden’s plans to continue weighing how to free those prisoners.

The White House is also opposed to another provision that would restrict the VA from carrying out a Biden administration rule that allows veterans to have greater access to abortion counseling and abortions in certain circumstances.

Under the rule, the VA is allowed to provide access to abortions for veterans if their life or health is endangered, or if they became pregnant because of rape or incest. But the House bill would make that more restrictive, requiring the danger of death to be present for an abortion, along with allowing an abortion for rape or incest.

“This change would prevent VA from providing needed care when the health of the woman is endangered,” the White House said.

Other provisions the administration is opposed to include a prohibition of funding from the bill for surgical procedures or hormone therapies for gender affirming care and a ban on flying any other flag at a VA facility except for a government-related flag, and an amendment that would prevent a directive for most VA health care personnel to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

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