House votes to kick deceased criminals out of military cemeteries

The House approved legislation on Wednesday that would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to dig up and remove deceased veterans from military cemeteries if they are found to have committed a capital crime.

Members passed the Alicia Dawn Koehl Respect for National Cemeteries Act, S. 1471, in a 398-1 vote.

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The bill is named after an Indiana woman who was killed by Michael Anderson, an Army veteran who later killed himself. He is now buried at the Fort Custer National Cemetery in Michigan.

Current law already prohibits people who commit capital crimes from being buried in national cemeteries. However, the law does not allow the VA to disinter deceased veterans once they are buried.

"This is unacceptable," said Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.), who sponsored the House version of the bill. "I'm outraged not only that the Koehl family has had to  endure yet another injustice after Alicia's life was needlessly cut short, but also that our brave servicemen and women, who … have given the ultimate sacrifice to their nation, are buried next to a murderous criminal."

The bill passed by the House today authorizes the VA to reconsider these burial decisions and disinter people if it is discovered later that they are are guilty of these crimes. The Senate passed the bill in November, and House passage sends it to the White House for President Obama's signature into law.

The bill was one of four suspension bills passed today:

— H.R. 2319, the Native American Veterans' Memorial Amendments Act, which authorizes the construction of a Native American veterans memorial on the grounds of the National Museum of the American Indian. Passed 398-0.

— H.R. 3212, the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act. This bill encourages the State Department to pressure countries to comply with an international treaty on the return of abducted children, and lets the President impose sanctions against countries that fail to live up to that treaty. Passed 398-0.

— H.R. 1992, the Israel QME Enhancement Act, which requires the government to report every two years on the status of ensuring that Israel has access to the latest defense technologies. Passed 399-0.