As Congress races to finalize a $1.3 trillion spending bill before a midnight Friday deadline to avoid a government shutdown, U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, said the funding of national security, border security, mental health and a few more issues specific to Texas’ 17th Congressional District are on his wish list.
During an interview Tuesday, the four-term congressman who represents Waco, punted on the more divisive issues holding up the bill, saying he did not have all the details, as party leadership was finalizing the proposal. Those issues, including an effort to stabilize the Affordable Care Act, a $900 million rail project in the northeast and even a campaign finance reform proposal, make up the last, small but meaningful portion of the plan to keep the federal government open through the end of the fiscal year in September.
Lawmakers reached a deal Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.
“Our leadership is keeping all of this pretty close to the vest at this point, so it’s pretty hard to know what’s going to be in the final and what’s not,” Flores said Tuesday before the bill was revealed.
Flores has also proposed an amendment to prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs from moving its Post-Traumatic Stress Residential Rehabilitation Program from the Doris Miller VA Medical Center in Waco to Temple’s Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Medical Center. Temple is not in Flores’ district.
McLennan County Veterans Service Officer Steve Hernandez said Flores was instrumental in stopping the PTSD center from a possible move to Temple in 2016.
A March 2016 letter from then-Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Health David Shulkin assured Flores the PTSD rehab program would remain in Waco. Shulkin is now Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
With talks about a move coming up again, Hernandez said the “trust factor” is no longer at play with the Temple location.
“I’ve lost faith and trust in the local leadership because we were promised two years ago it was not going to take place, nothing was going to happen, everything was going to remain the same,” he said.
Hernandez said he thinks Flores supports the effort to keep the center in Waco. He also said veterans can sign a petition at the Waco Veterans One Stop, 2010 La Salle Ave., urging officials to keep the center in Waco.
Flores said he also hopes to see money for research on the country’s opioid-abuse crisis and for additional research efforts at the three major universities in or near his district — Baylor University, Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin.
He expects spending for the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation to increase by about $3 billion for each agency.
“Both of those are great for the research and education institutions we have in the district,” Flores said.
Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said research is central to the university’s academic strategic plan President Linda Livingstone has outlined.
“We appreciate the opportunity to work with Rep. Flores, and we will be very interested in cooperating on future research opportunities which the federal government is interested in funding,” Fogleman said.