February 27th, 2014
03:09 PM ET
5 months ago

Vets bill fails in Senate, victim of election-year gridlock

Washington (CNN) - A Democratic bill designed to make numerous improvements to services for veterans failed in the Senate Thursday, a victim of the partisan gridlock and election-year acrimony that dominates the chamber.

On a largely party-line vote, 56 to 41, the measure didn’t get the 60 votes it needed to clear a procedural hurdle.

Republicans cited numerous policy reasons for opposing the bill and were further miffed when Democrats blocked them from offering amendments to try to change it.

“Unfortunately, it’s become standard practice around here for the majority to pursue partisan legislation in a take-it-or-leave-it manner, so it’s unsurprising that nobody other than the Majority Leader and Committee Chairman has been allowed the opportunity to amend this bill,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Democrats accused Republicans of trying to spike the bill by insisting one of their amendments deal with imposing new sanctions on Iran, something the White House has urged lawmakers not to do while sensitive diplomatic talks are underway with Iran over its nuclear program.

“It was disappointing – if not surprising – when Republicans almost immediately injected partisan politics into a debate over a bill that should be bipartisan, insisting on an unrelated amendment on Iran that they knew could derail the veteran’s bill,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Democrats pointed to statements from several major veterans groups and AIPAC, the influential pro-Israel lobbying group, urging Republicans not to push for a vote on Iran on this bill.

The $21 billion bill, which was written primarily by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, who chairs the veterans committee, would improve veterans’ access to health care services, and expand educational and job training programs for vets. It also aims to reduce the giant claims backlog the Department of Veterans Affairs currently faces.

Sanders argued that “we still have a very long way to go” to meet the needs of older veterans as well as the thousands of service members recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. “

“Please do not inject extraneous issues in here for totally political reasons. I think that’s unfair to American’s veterans,” Sanders said during a floor speech this week. “Let’s not kill this bill because of the same ol’, same ol’ partisan issues that we face.”

Republicans cited several concerns with the bill, including its funding - money originally intended for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also complained the bill would open the VA’s health services to any veteran regardless of whether their disability was service related or if they had private insurance to cover it.

“I do have serious, serious concerns about this expansion,” said Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the top Republican on the veterans committee. “Expanding eligibility could stress an already overburdened system.”

Burr said Republicans have an alternative bill that would address many of the issues in the Democrats’ bill, minus the expansion for non-service related problems. Burr agued it’s fair for his party to push for amendments, including a vote on Iran sanctions because Reid had vowed to hold such a vote months ago.

He said the veterans’ bill was doomed from the start because Democrats tried to pass it without GOP involvement.

“I’ve got to think that Leader Reid saw this as another opportunity to have a political discussion, thinking the veterans population was the right to place to have it,” Burr said.

Republican Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, argued Reid was using the bill to attract veterans to vote Democratic this year and purposely loaded it up with items Republicans oppose so they would vote against it.

“The way they’re running the place right now is it has become purely an institution where they put bills on the floor they think basically achieve some political objective and they have no interest in having a candid, honest debate with amendments that might fix a problem so that’s kind of the state of play right now. Hopefully it will change,” he said.


Filed under: Senate • Veterans
soundoff (155 Responses)
  1. sonny chapman

    If hypocrisy were a fatal disease, McConnell would be a goner.

    February 27, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  2. The Real Tom Paine

    Of course it did not clear, thanks to our wonderful GOPer Senate members who swear they always have the best interests of everyone at hear by telling them to F off. Burr has a hell of a lot of nerve, especially since he represents another taker state that is incapable of paying for the services they take from DC by the billions.

    February 27, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  3. Harold Read

    The Obama Admin cares nothing for veterans.
    While veterans were turned away from war memorials in DC, illegal criminals were allowed to protest US Law in the "closed" National Mall during the Obama 2013 Government shutdown.

    February 27, 2014 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  4. jinx9to88

    “Unfortunately, it’s become standard practice around here for the majority to pursue partisan legislation in a take-it-or-leave-it manner" – nothing should be attached to the Vets bill. These GOP sent these people to war on lies and now doesn't want to take care of them when the come home. What a disgrace!! How can people vote for these people?

    February 27, 2014 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  5. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    GOP Patriots... Send the kids out as cannon fodder and forget about them when they get home, if they get home.

    February 27, 2014 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  6. Cordite Four

    Of course it failed, it was a bill meant to help people........

    February 27, 2014 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  7. timtimcharoo

    Republicans only care about Veterans when they can find a way you use them for their own ends. What a disgusting party.

    February 27, 2014 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  8. Drew

    Is this a surprise at this point?

    February 27, 2014 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  9. John Smith

    because including sanctions on iran is soooo related to helping veterans. What a joke!

    February 27, 2014 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  10. 2_indy1600

    Of all groups, the vets need and deserve our support, and the democrats' refusal to accept amendments to the bill shows exactly who is abandoning the men and women that served. Embrace the suck.

    February 27, 2014 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  11. pkMyt1

    So the GOP filibustered a bill that they wanted because the Dems supported it?????

    February 27, 2014 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  12. Alex

    Vote for a clean bill these admenments can be addressed in other legleslation don't let veterans suffer or be a political ping pong game.

    February 27, 2014 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  13. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    Guns Over People tea potty wingnuts knife vets in the back again. HILARIOUS watching them walk the plank toward another November.

    February 27, 2014 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  14. mstipton

    As a Veteran, thanks for nothing GOP.

    February 27, 2014 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  15. Wake up People!

    Go on GOP with your bad self. Show our veterans how much you care about them!! You're loving them to death!

    February 27, 2014 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  16. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Interesting how the Republicans are complaining about being locked out of writing legislation, when that is exactly what they did between 1994 and 2006.
    However, this just goes to show that Republicans are all talk and no action when it comes to supporting veterans.

    February 27, 2014 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  17. Marie MD

    The only time teaklans care about a human being is BEFORE you are conceived, born or when they send you to fight daddy's war or lie about WMDs.
    After you return from numerous deployments they could care less about veterans!

    February 27, 2014 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  18. tony

    It's O.K. Ted Nugent isn't a veteran.

    February 27, 2014 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  19. jinx9to88

    @ Harold Read
    The Obama Admin cares nothing for veterans.
    While veterans were turned away from war memorials in DC, illegal criminals were allowed to protest US Law in the "closed" National Mall during the Obama 2013 Government shutdown.

    ---–

    I knew it wouldn't be long before a uninformed GOPer try to blame Obama for a bill not passing in the SENATE. Wow!!

    February 27, 2014 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  20. josh

    So saying you have to give us everything we want isn't partisan? How can you say the other side isn't willing to compromise when you wont even listen to their ideas? Sounds like the Dems are the ones plauing partisan politics.

    February 27, 2014 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  21. smith

    It would be nice to see the dems and repubs come together on this issue. Much hatered on both sides.

    February 27, 2014 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  22. jiver

    "several concerns with the bill, including its funding – money originally intended for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."

    Hmmm, I wonder where all that money went. Probably to all the government officials who got a raise. Maybe some people should take some pay cuts.

    February 27, 2014 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  23. JR

    Maybe we should send the Senate and Congress to fight the next crisis and see how they like it.

    February 27, 2014 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  24. Jon

    Anybody who votes Republican must be as looney as they are.

    February 27, 2014 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  25. salty dog

    Indy explain the need for Iran to be in this bill,..... clueless.....

    February 27, 2014 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
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