House votes to keep Walter Reed open
The House on Friday voted to keep Walter Reed Army Medical Center open despite military plans to close the facility by 2011, the Washington Times reported Saturday.
The Times wrote that the decision marks the first time Congress has tried to reverse a decision made by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. Congress and President Bush in 2005 approved the commission’s recommendations.
In the BRAC plan, Walter Reed’s functions would be taken over by the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, which is scheduled to build a $2 billion expansion, and a new DeWitt Hospital at Fort Belvoir in Virginia.
But the future of the amendment is uncertain, the Times reported. The Senate version of the funding bill, which passed the Appropriations Committee on Thursday, does not include a measure to keep Walter Reed open.
The president said Friday that he will veto the bill if it reaches his desk because of its limits on the war in Iraq.
The paper quotes D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the District’s nonvoting representative, as saying that the burden would be on the Senate to include a similar amendment: “Having gotten it in over here, the Senate would be under huge pressure to explain why they’ve taken it out.”
Norton contends that putting Walter Reed on the list of installations to be closed in 2011 contributed to the deterioration of care for wounded soldiers there. It is understaffed, she is reported as saying, because it is doomed to close.