Veterans cemeteries becomes part of shutdown fight
A Republican-backed bill that passed the House last week to continue funding for veterans programs during the government shutdown would also eliminate funding for new state veterans cemetery projects.
First District DFL Rep. Tim Walz said during a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing that he could not vote for that bill because it would have eliminated funding for new state veterans cemeteries. He said three weeks ago Minnesota was notified that a planned state veterans cemetery in Fillmore County had been awarded funding. The $10 million project would serve an estimated 51,000 veterans from southeast Minnesota, northern Iowa and western Wisconsin.
"Last week's bill zeroed that (cemetery funding) out. Now I know you didn't do that on purpose to stick it in the eye of my veterans. But I can't support that. But within 180 seconds of my vote, the campaign committee on the Republican side sent out an attack that I don't support veterans by not doing that," Walz said. "There's lots of reasons to tell people not to vote for me. Not supporting veterans isn't one of them."
During the hearing, the Mankato Democrat also chastised Kansas Republican Tim Huelskamp for asking U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, "Do you think Sen. Reid doesn't like our veterans or the VA in particular?" Huelskamp said he was asking the question because a veterans funding bill has been sitting on the Senate floor for 105 days.
Walz said, "I'd like to give the gentleman 30 seconds to apologize to Sen. Reid if he'd like to do that. That's beneath this congress and certainly beneath this committee."
Huelskamp began explaining why he asked the question. Walz quickly reclaimed his time and said, "I am disappointed to say the least. I hope that goes on the record."
Note:This post corrects a previous blog post that stated the bill to fund veterans programs would have eliminated funding for Southeastern Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery. A Walz spokesman said the congressman did not mean that funding for that cemetery was eliminated. Rather, the bill would have eliminated funding to build similar state cemeteries. The local cemetery in Preston received a grant funded in Fiscal Year 2013.