U.S. Congressman Charlie Dent and U.S. Congressman Ryan Costello spoke to local service organizations at the Lebanon Country Club Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 23. The representatives took questions on a variety of topics. (Photo: Michael K. Dakota, Lebanon Daily News)
(Undated) -- Republican Congressman Charlie Dent will remain in a position of influence in the U.S House of Representatives as he begins his seventh term in Congress.
Dent was appointed on Tuesday by Republican New Jersey Congressman Rodney Frelinghuyse, the new chairman of the U.S. House of Appropriations Committee, to serve a second term as chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Military, Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies.
As its name implies, the subcommittee has jurisdiction over all military construction, including the National Guard, and policies relating to the Department Veterans Affairs, which oversees benefits to military veterans and the healthcare they receive at VA medical centers.
The position is a good fit for the Allentown Republican because the 15th Congressional District represents portions of Lebanon County that include Fort Indiantown Gap in East Hanover Township.
In his role as the subcommittee's chairman last year, Dent was instrumental in including $20 million in a national defense spending bill for construction of a security parameter around the Fort Indiantown Gap that is already underway. That bill also included funding crafted by the subcommittee providing more than $82 billion for military construction, military-family housing and health programs benefiting veterans.
In accepting Frelinghuyse's reappointment, Dent said he was looking forward to continuing his work in support of military veterans.
"It is a tremendous privilege and honor to be appointed for a second term as the Chairman of the Subcommittee responsible for meeting the needs of our veterans, our service members, and our military families," he said in a news release. "I look forward to continuing my work to support our troops and improve the quality and timeliness of the care received by our nation's veterans throughout this 115th Congress."
Dent, who was not a supporter of Donald Trump during the election, said he would work with the President-elect and his appointment to head the Veterans Administration, Dr. David Shulkin, who Trump announced on Wednesday. Shulkin, who his ties to the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Temple University Hospital, is the current undersecretary for health at the VA.
"I applaud the selection of Dr. Shulkin to serve as our next Secretary of Veterans Affairs and welcome the opportunity to work together to improve the quality and timeliness of care administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs," he said in a news release. "As chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, I have worked closely with Dr. Shulkin and have been impressed by his willingness to embrace innovative ideas and approaches to the healthcare challenges faced by our veterans. As Under Secretary of Health, Dr. Shulkin has overseen the largest integrated health system in the country, and he understands the roadblocks that continue to prohibit our veterans from accessing the quality care they deserve in an expeditious manner."
Dent, considered a moderate Republican, also reached across the aisle as chairman of the subcommittee, stating that he hopes to build on the relationship established with Democratic members of the subcommittee in the last session.
"I am encouraged by the bipartisan progress that has been made in these areas throughout my past two years as Chairman, but there is certainly more that must be done," he said. "I appreciate the responsibility to advocate for our troops and veterans by improving the services and management of the Department of Veterans Affairs, providing the resources that sustain our military's readiness, and preserving the memories and resting places of our fallen heroes."
Dent's moderate leanings were also reflected in his reappointment, fittingly made on Tuesday, as co-chair of the Tuesday Group -- a coalition of about 50 center-right conservative House Republicans -- along with colleagues Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York and Rep. Tom MacArthur of New Jersey.
"I am honored by the continued trust in my leadership that the members of the Tuesday Group have shown by naming me as a Co-Chair," said Dent. "We face numerous challenges moving forward on issues ranging from health care to reforming the tax code and growing the economy to benefit workers and families. I look forward to working with my Tuesday Group colleagues to advocate for responsible, commonsense solutions to address these issues and to move America forward," Dent noted.
Last year, Dent was chairman of the House Ethics Committee. This year, he will not serve on the House Ethics Committee, which was at the center of a firestorm last week when Republicans voted to weaken the authority of the Independent Office of Congressional Ethics. That amendment, included in a rules package, was quickly removed the next day in response to blowback from Democrats, watchdog groups, the public and Trump.
Dent stated he did not vote for the measure, which was voted on in a closed-door meeting, because it would have given the Ethics Committee authority over the Independent Office of Congressional Ethics.
This story is part of a partnership between WITF and the Lebanon Daily News.
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