Trump’s objection to cleanup at bases baffles lawmakers

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall isn’t the only member of the New Mexico delegation baffled by the Trump administration’s objection to a measure in the defense spending bill that authorizes toxic waste cleanup at military bases.

Other members of the Democratic delegation have weighed in as well on provisions in the National Defense Appropriation Act of 2020 that would provide help to farmers and others whose livelihoods have been affected by the perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination of the groundwater from fire suppression foam used at military bases such as Cannon Air Force Base near Clovis and Holloman Air Force base near Alamogordo.

“It is truly baffling that President (Donald) Trump would threaten to hold up the entire defense bill because he is opposed to protecting New Mexico’s dairy farmers, our service members and military communities from PFAS contamination,” U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich said. He said the nation couldn’t “wait any longer to protect the health and safety of the communities impacted by PFAS contamination from Air Force Bases.”

Trump has threatened to veto the defense spending bill over the provision and other issues addressed by the legislation.

“We can protect both the nation’s security and the economic well-being of dairy farmers in New Mexico,” U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján said. “That is exactly what the House bill does. The Department of Defense contaminated the groundwater around Cannon Air Force Base with PFAS chemicals. They need to clean it up. It is as simple as that. The president’s veto threat is incomprehensible and a slap in the face of our nation’s farming community,”

U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small said the administration was “setting up a false choice.”

“We can ensure that the Department of Defense compensates farmers for contaminating their water supply while providing for the needs of the military without delay,” she said. “Our national defense is too important to turn into a partisan issue.”

U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland said the veto threat “shows that President Trump refuses to support service members and their families while also turning a deaf ear to millions of Americans across the country suffering from harmful contaminants on their land and in their water.

“The NDAA includes pay raises for our service members, improved housing for military families, increases to our military readiness, and provides a remedy for our local dairy farmers impacted by PFAS chemicals in their water and cattle.”

Udall expressed optimism during a press call last week that Congress could override the president’s veto should he make good on his threat.

He pointed to the 86-8 vote on the Senate version of bill, which would be enough to override the veto. The House passed its version Friday.

The final version of the bill that reaches the president’s desk would be a combination of the House and Senate bills determined in committee.

OTERO COUNTY GETS HEALTH CARE GRANT: The Department of Health and Human Services announced that the Otero County Hospital Association will receive a $749,933 grant as part of the Rural Residency Planning and Development Program. The money will help develop new rural residency programs in family medicine, internal medicine and psychiatry to support expansion of the physician workforce in rural areas.

“One of my top priorities in Congress is ensuring New Mexicans have access to quality, affordable health care in their own communities, and the expansion of rural residency programs helps meet that mission,” Torres Small said. “These programs have a proven track record of success and (have been) shown to significantly increase health care access for rural communities. This grant will enable the Otero County Hospital Association to train the next generation of rural physicians and I look forward to working with them to expand access to quality health care in Otero County.”

Scott Turner: