In a recent debate against Republican Charles Djou, Democrat Colleen Hanabusa attacked him for his voting record in Congress.

“During the closing months of the 2010 session, you voted ‘No’ on the Veteran Affairs and Military Construction Appropriations Measure,” Hanabusa said. “Can you tell me why?”

Djou skirted the question.

“I’ve served our country, I’ve seen the very best and worst of humanity serving as an American soldier in combat in Afghanistan,” said Djou, referring to his six-month tour that ended in March. “I have seen the selfless sacrifice made by so many of our veterans.”

It took a couple of attempts for Hanabusa to get an answer out of him.

“You didn’t answer my question,” Hanabusa said. “All I want to know is why you didn’t vote for this bill … Was there something in the bill you did not like?”

Finally, Djou responded:

“Just because I believe we need to reduce funding doesn’t mean I believe that we need to completely eliminate all funding for all projects,” he said. “I go back again here, you know it’s very easy in politics to get caught up in inside baseball of what’s going on in Congress.”

Because he never directly acknowledged the bill, Civil Beat decided to check — did Djou actually vote against military funding?

The issue of which candidate would better support the armed forces is significant because the military plays such a huge role in Hawaii’s economy.

The Rand Corporation, an independent think tank, did an analysis last year showing that up to 18 percent of Hawaii’s economy can be linked to Department of Defense spending. Military spending is also tied to more than 100,000 jobs in the state.

Congressional voting records show that on December 21, 2010, Djou voted against H.R. 3082 — the bill Hanabusa referenced — which set aside billions of dollars in funding for military construction and benefits for veterans.

The bill was introduced on June 26, 2009 by Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards from Texas, and passed the House in July 2009. Former Hawaii congressman and current Gov. Neil Abercrombie voted in favor of it.

After passing the Senate, the House voted twice in 2010 to accept Senate amendments to the bill.

Djou voted “No” both times, along with most Republicans.

The bill became law anyway on Dec. 22, 2010, setting aside billions of dollars for veterans’ health services and pensions, as well as money for public transportation programs.

In the final vote on Dec. 21, some 192 Democrats voted in favor of the bill, including Rep. Mazie Hirono, along with only one Republican. The majority of Republicans — 146 — voted against the bill, in addition to 19 Democrats. Seventy-five representatives abstained.

Opponents criticized the bill as “fiscally-disastrous”, particularly one provision that expanded the authority of the Food and Drug Administration.

Djou previously voted in favor of military funding through H.R. 5822, also sponsored by Edwards, on July 28, 2010. The bill would have funded military construction and veterans’ benefits, but it never passed the Senate, which chose to push forward H.R. 3082 instead.

BOTTOM LINE: Hanabusa said that Djou voted against funding for military construction and veterans’ benefits after losing the election in November 2010. Although Djou did vote in favor of another bill that included military spending, that bill did not survive. Civil Beat finds Hanabusa’s statement to be TRUE.

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