WASHINGTON (AP) The House approved a homeless veterans housing bill overwhelmingly Wednesday, even though White House advisers warned they would urge President Bush to veto it.
The bill sponsored by Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, authorizes spending $200 million on housing and services for veterans, requires 20,000 rental vouchers a year for low-income housing for veterans and authorizes $1 million for grants to nonprofit groups to provide housing and services for veterans.
The bill, which passed 412-9, also creates a job in the Department of Housing and Urban Development for someone to coordinate with Veterans Affairs on homelessness and make regular reports to Congress on the issue.
The Senate version of the bill is sponsored by Democrat Barack Obama, the Illinois lawmaker who is the party's presumptive presidential nominee.
Bush's advisers said in a statement they oppose a wage provision in the bill that requires builders of veterans housing to pay employees prevailing wage. The advisers said that provision is the bill's major problem. Bush has long opposed any changes to the law that would either increase or decrease the number of employers subject to the prevailing wage requirements in the Davis-Bacon Act, the advisers said.
"For this reason, if the bill were presented to the president in its current form, his senior advisers would recommend he veto the bill," the White House said, adding that the bill also duplicates existing programs. But Green said several bills have been passed by Congress with similar wage provisions. Among them is the farm bill which was vetoed by Bush, but Congress overrode the veto. Green asked whether Bush wants to "draw the line in the dirt when it comes to veterans."
Veterans Affairs this year reported the number of homeless veterans has dropped to about 154,000. But Green said more are living in poverty than should. About 57 percent of homeless veterans are African-American or Latino, he said.
The bill, he said, is "our opportunity to do something for those who have made it possible for us to live in the richest country in the world."
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the legislation would cost about $1.8 billion in the period from 2009-2013. To look up legislation: thomas.loc.gov