McNerney said in a conference call that a trip to Afghanistan last month inspired him to bring back the legislation, which he first proposed to the House of Representatives in the 2007-2008 session.
The Combat Operations and Medical Benefit Authorization for Our Troops Act last session attracted five cosigners and never left committee.
He said that this year, he hopes to get support for the bill from the seven other congressmen who joined him on the two-day trip.
“I know there’s concern about the budget, but we have to take care of our men and women over there,” he said.
There is no cost estimate for any bill that fails to win enough votes to get out of a committee. When asked how many votes McNerney expects his bill to receive this year, his spokeswoman Sarah Hersch said he is “committed to fighting for this bill and he’s going to continue to work to get support for it.”
The COMBAT Act would increase monthly pay for soldiers in combat or danger, and those working with explosives, chemicals and aircraft.
The bill would also double the amount of psychologist and non-physician health care pay for returning soldiers.
McNerney toured the country for two days in December with three other Democrats and four Republicans, meeting American and Afghan officials and California soldiers.
While riding in armored vehicle with paratroopers from Texas on Dec. 29, one mentioned he hadn’t had a raise in 10 years, McNerney said.
McNerney told reporters that soldiers shouldn’t have to worry about their families’ finances at home.
“They’re serving in a very tough environment, and it’s the least we can do,” he said.
McNerney, a member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, said the bill was “bogged down” after he introduced it late last session.
It was the congressman’s first trip to Afghanistan. He visited Iraq in 2007.
President Obama recently ordered 30,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan.
McNerney said he was glad to evaluate for himself President Obama’s decision to send 30,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan , and was reassured by the military’s “strategy and confidence.”
He said his first impressions of Kabul, the country’s capital, were its poor air quality and roads, but said the “bustling” local markets seemed vital to the people.
“I didn’t see any fear in the streets, which was very encouraging,” he said.
He called Afghan President Hamid Karzai “a very warm and gracious person with an understanding of American culture.”
But McNerney said his biggest concern about Afghanistan is the political corruption Karzai fosters and refuses to acknowledge.
McNerney said he was impressed by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. forces Afghanistan.
“I’m convinced the military’s biggest mission is to protect citizens from the Taliban,” he said.
He said he met three California soldiers — from Orange County, Fremont and San Jose.
One had just been promoted, and the group celebrated with cake.
Contact Tracy Press reporter Cassie Tomlin at 830-4225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.