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GOP, Dems trade barbs over credit for benefits for military families

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GOP, Dems trade barbs over credit for benefits for military families

  • Barber helped escort Honor Flight veterans at the World War II Memorial on Monday.
    Brandon Brown/Cronkite News ServiceBarber helped escort Honor Flight veterans at the World War II Memorial on Monday.

Republicans are accusing U.S. Rep. Ron Barber of "fudging the facts" about a bill to fund death benefits for armed forces members despite the federal shutdown, while Democrats say the complaints are "pathetic ... what's wrong with politics."

Barber's congressional office issued a news release Wednesday, describing a measure that passed the House unanimously as "Barber's legislation."

A Republican spokesman cried foul Thursday.

"They're intentionally getting their facts wrong," said Daniel Scarpinato of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Barber's bill "never got a hearing," he said. "Why are you trying to take credit for something?" he said, calling the Democratic congressman "completely dishonest."

Barber campaign spokesman Rodd McLeod said Scarpinato has a "desire to play political games," calling the former Arizona Daily Star reporter a "soulless political hack."

"Everybody worked together to do a good thing" on the bill, McLeod said. Scarpinato's complaints are unfounded, "ugly, mean-spirited and petty," he said.

"You have to have a screw loose to question those who voted to pass a bipartisan bill that helps out the families of dead veterans."

The basis of Scarpinato's charge? Barber introduced a bill on Tuesday, House Resolution 3274, that would fund benefits for the families of dead servicemembers despite the government shutdown.

Barber's measure attracted bipartisan support, with 18 co-sponsors.

Later that day, a New Jersey Republican introduced a separate measure, House Joint Resolution 91, that did the essentially same thing. Barber signed onto that bill as a co-sponsor along with 19 others; GOP Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen introduced it.

Barber's camp pointed out that the language in the bills is nearly identical, and that Barber had sent his bill to the Republicans before the second bill was filed.

Frelinghuysen, the vice-chair of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, had not signed onto Barber's legislation.

With the GOP firmly in control of the House, "any bill that gets a vote is introduced by a Republican," McLeod said.

"It's wrong to take credit for a bill passing that you had nothing to do with," Scarpinato said.

The bill passed the House unanimously on Tueday, 425-0.

McLeod tied Scarpinato to Republican congressional candidate Martha McSally, who lost a 2012 race against Barber.

"Daniel's at the point where he'll do or say anything to elect a Republican," McLeod said.

"He works for the NRCC, and in a very real sense so does (McSally)," he said. "The NRCC recruited her" to run against Barber again.

"Martha McSally won't answer questions about what she believes," he said.

"Is Daniel saying that Martha McSally wouldn't have voted for the bill? It's 95 percent the same language."

"Bottom line, Ron's name is on the bill that passed," McLeod said, pointing out again that the Democrat introduced his bill before the GOP brought their measure to the floor.

McLeod said Scarpinato likes to "constantly throw rocks at people, even if those people are doing good things."

The Republican said the two measures "take a completely separate approach" and that it's "never been the standard" for co-sponsors to take credit for bills.

A press release put out by the GOP's Frelinghuysen took sole credit for the legislation, mentioning it was a bipartisan bill but not naming any of the co-sponsors.

The outcome? The measure, with both Barber's and Frelinghuysen's names attached, was approved unanimously by the Senate and signed by President Barack Obama on Thursday.

Barber's release


Bill to pay for funerals of soldiers killed in action passes House only one day after Barber introduces it

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Ron Barber's bipartisan legislation to ensure that the families of American troops killed in action and all service members receive death benefits despite the government shutdown was unanimously passed today by the House – one day after Barber introduced the bill.

"I am gratified that despite our deep divisions on some matters, all members of the House today recognized that this is an issue that defines all of us as Americans," Barber said today after passage of his legislation. "It is unconscionable that this reckless government shutdown would delay benefits to the families of men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation. This legislation will ensure we honor our commitments to these fallen heroes and their families."

Barber yesterday introduced legislation along with a bipartisan group of representatives. The legislation requires that the military pay death benefits, reimbursement for funeral expenses and travel, survivors' basic housing allowance and other expenses incurred because of the death of a service member.

Taken up by the House Appropriations Committee, today's bill, H.J. Res 91, was passed unanimously, 425-0. It now heads to the Senate.

Barber also committed to finding a permanent fix to the problem, so that families never have to go without survivor benefits should the government be shut down in the future.

Barber's legislation is supported by the American Legion, Military Officers Association of America, Servicewomen's Action Network, AMVETS, Association of the United States Army, Reserve Officers Association, National Military Family Association, Fleet Reserve Association, the Retired Enlisted Association, Military Chaplains of the U.S.A. and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Frelinghausen's release

House Approves Frelinghuysen Measure to Protect "Families of the Fallen"

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives has unanimously passed legislation, introduced by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11), designed to ensure that the families of military servicemembers who have died for the country receive government benefits they deserve.

"Our government has no greater responsibility than to take care of the families of our brave men and women who have fought and died for our country," said Frelinghuysen, the Vice-Chair of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. "This bipartisan legislation provides continuing appropriations to ensure that if troops are killed serving our country, our government will honor its obligations to them and their families without delay."

The bipartisan bill was quickly developed after the Pentagon said it could no longer make "death gratuity" payments to families after the beginning of the new fiscal year on October 1 because of the government shutdown.

The legislation approved by the House today:

Provides for payment of death gratuities and other benefits, such as military housing allowance, to the families of fallen soldiers; Provides for authorized funeral and burial services for servicemembers and their families;

Would also pay for families to travel to meet the remains of their loved ones returning home from the battlefield;

During debate on House Joint Resolution 91, Frelinghuysen declared, "Our men and women serving in uniform serving in dangerous places all over the globe deserve the peace of mind of knowing that, during the worst of times, their families will receive the benefits they deserve immediately. This bill removes any ambiguity on this point."

This is the second time the House has voted to protect these benefits. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (CA) stated yesterday that Congress passed the "Pay Our Military Act" with the express intent that all military pay and allowances would be dispersed during a government shutdown." Frelinghuysen's bill, passed by the House unanimously today, makes that authority explicit.

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