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Capitol Hill Update -- July 1, 2005

Speaker Hastert visits Trappe (June 27)

Congressman Gerlach and Speaker Hastert presenting funding to Trappe (June 27)


Washington, Jul 1, 2005 -

Congressman Gerlach welcomes Speaker Hastert to Trappe

Congressman Jim Gerlach welcomed U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert to the 6th District today to present a local organization with $300,000 that will be used toward purchasing and restoring the home of Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg, the first Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

"This is a great occasion for Trappe, and for the members of Save the Speakers House Inc. who have all worked so hard to make this moment possible," Rep. Gerlach said. "It's been my great pleasure working with this group, and I thank Speaker Hastert for taking the time out of his busy schedule to celebrate this moment with us."

Speaker Hastert addressed the crowd of more than 30 people at the event for about 10 minutes. During his brief speech, the Speaker talked about how the efforts of Save the Speakers House Inc. will ensure that future generations learn about a person who was a Lutheran minister, a soldier in the Revolutionary War and the first Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The local organization purchased the property and after an extensive renovation process that could take upward of a decade to complete, hope to turn the house into a free museum celebrating the life and achievements of the first Speaker of the House.

Congressman Gerlach Votes to Save Amtrak

Despite Administration efforts to cut Amtrak’s FY ‘06 funding entirely, Congressman Jim Gerlach cast key votes on Wednesday that will ensure the nation’s largest passenger rail service has the funding necessary to continue transporting thousands of people everyday.

“Thousands of people throughout the country rely on Amtrak every day as a means of getting to and from work,” Rep. Gerlach said. “Certainly there are areas where Amtrak can improve its operating procedures to ensure a better use of its funding, but that doesn’t mean we don’t fund Amtrak. It was reassuring to see that so many of my colleagues in the House also realize the benefits of Amtrak, and voted to keep funding the nation’s largest passenger rail line.”

The first amendment vote, which passed the House by a voice vote Wednesday, provides Amtrak with an additional $626 million in the $135 billion FY ’06 Transportation-Housing appropriations bill. All told, Amtrak’s funding for next year will be nearly $1.2 billion. Congressman Gerlach also voted for an amendment stripping language from the appropriations bill that would have restricted federal funding to only Amtrak’s most popular and profitable lines.

House Protects Veterans Health Care Programs

Responding to an accounting error at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that would have shortchanged America’s veterans by nearly $1 billion, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a supplemental appropriations bill Thursday that makes up the shortfall.

“Faced with the possibility of our veterans not having access to the medical care that they so desperately need, the House took action and corrected the situation,” Rep. Gerlach said.

Last week, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee held an oversight hearing to examine health care cost forecasting and uncovered key weaknesses in the processes used by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to forecast health care demand. During this process, the Committee uncovered a critical shortfall in veterans’ health care funding for fiscal years 2005 and 2006. Administration officials testified before Congress this week that the funding shortfall is due in part to updated actuarial information and an increase in the number of veterans returning from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The $975 million supplemental includes:

• $273 million to fund health care for returning Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans, including members of the Guard and Reserve;
• $226 million to continue funding the shared federal and state VA long-term care nursing home program;
• $200 million to fund unanticipated increases in the health care for priority-group 1-6 veterans;
• $95 million to fund unanticipated energy, fuel, and utility costs;
• $84 million to buy emergency medical equipment; and
• $39 million to pay for the increase in health care benefits for dependants of 100-percent service-connected veterans as the need has increased at a rate greater than expected.

Congressman Gerlach to Moderate Town Hall Meetings on July 6 and July 7

Congressman Gerlach's Biography

Click here for more information about the town hall meetings, including directions to each event…

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