February 27th, 2014
03:09 PM ET
7 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. belseth

    "“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."

    You mean like you do in the House?

    February 27, 2014 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  2. Nam Vet

    Why any vet would support the GOP in November is beyond me.

    February 27, 2014 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  3. Locomotion

    Politicians bust their asses to get gay legislation through so boys can marry boys and girls can marry girls because they're afraid to lose a vote, but to help out vets, sorry! Too much political bantering! The Vets comeback, VOTE THE BUMS OUT, VOTE THE BUMS OUT, VOTE THE BUMS OUT, VOTE THE BUMS OUT! Vote them all out and lets start over with no more retirement pay after one term, enrollment in the Obama Care plan and not a private plan only for them, no voting your own pay raises, and when government employees go out on a furlough, politicians get no wages until the furlough ends. Common Sense Politics, For A Common Sense America!

    February 27, 2014 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  4. OldSchool

    Aaaaand cue the people who are still incapable of seeing this as the fault of the Republicans and their obstructionism...

    February 27, 2014 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  5. NewIdeas

    "...the bill would open the VA’s health services to any veteran regardless of whether their disability was service related ..."

    So, the Democrats were trying to use this to take pressure off of the Obamacare rate hikes by using taxpayer money.

    February 27, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  6. salty dog

    Um, uh, Harold, you do realize that the gop has admitted they used the memorials for political purposes, and the gop loudmouth who criticized the worker apologized? Try to keep up

    February 27, 2014 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  7. James

    Why should the Vets win where Corporate Master have priority?

    February 27, 2014 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  8. Rudy NYC

    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.
    ---------------------------------------
    That is a very dishonest statment by McConnell. He's actually projecting onto Democrats, exactly what the Republicans had tried to pull on the Democrats. The vote that was taken was for the purpose of bringing the bill to the floor for a debaet, and a later vote. Democrats had wanted to DISCUSS changes. Republicans simply put forth their list of changes, and voted against discussing the changes on the open floor. Are you following me?

    February 27, 2014 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  9. LTC

    Why can't everybody get the health care they need? I'm disabled and
    Can't get the Med's I need , every month we don't have any try again.
    WHY? Is it like this. I don't have a long time to live, but I sure wish it was
    Better. I was an Iron Worker had a load fall on me. Messed me up pretty good. I need the med's , but all I get is We No have!

    February 27, 2014 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  10. Kiefer'sNewAssistant

    And again, the GOP reminds us all that they see our soldiers as fodder instead as those who have helped them KEEP their jobs. Shame on all the politicians, regardless of party that dance on our fallen's graves.

    February 27, 2014 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  11. Fish

    I would take Bernie Sander's word about anything, as an independent, independent the man possesses integrity if nothing else and if he was for it everyone else should have followed suit!!!

    February 27, 2014 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  12. Garry Owen

    Thune...another Yellow Stain Conservative.

    February 27, 2014 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  13. Tony

    As a Navy veteran, I am absolutely disgusted by this. I'm one of the lucky ones because I don't have to rely on the V.A. for much, but there are some vets who really need all the help they can get. If there is any group of people that congress should fight to support it's the ones who risked their lives to defend this country. Shame on all of them for letting this happen!

    February 27, 2014 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  14. salty dog

    Yet again, the gop proves they have no intention on helping anyone but the rich. When a bill is introduced that makes sense, they have to make it seem as though there is a reason to not vote for it, even if they have to make up that reason themselves.

    February 27, 2014 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  15. Terry

    But bo will do anything to single out minorities and illegal alien criminals for whatever they need

    February 27, 2014 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  16. Bill from GA

    Maybe there is blame on both sides.

    Wanting to insert language about Iran Sanctions is guaranteed to fail. But, if " 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. " sounds like an expansion of services that should be addressed by itself, also. If our military personnel were not originally guaranteed health care for all medical needs, for life, that should not be tied to issues necessary to provide services already promised.

    Granted, if the Dems provided a clean bill to address today's problem issues regarding Vets, the repubs would probably find some 'fault' with it anyway, as they want our President to accomplish NOTHING. But the dems should not make it so easy the repubs to do so.

    February 27, 2014 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  17. Sniffit

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

    In other words, IT WAS FILIBUSTERED. Stop whitewashing it, CNN.

    February 27, 2014 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  18. kim

    once again, reTHUGlicans obstructing....exactly where are they expecting the votees to come from in the next election? Not women, not latinos, not blacks, not gay/lesbian, not our military vets, haven't they run out of old white rich men smoking cigars in the parlor?

    February 27, 2014 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  19. alf564

    Everyone of them should be sent home with no retirement and no medical...they all STINK and are not worthy of representing any American

    February 27, 2014 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  20. The Real Tom Paine

    -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
    *******************
    And what the hell does that have to do with the GOP Senate members trying to kill a bill for vets, first with poinson pills and then with a procedural vote? You put out a contrived argument as an attempt to justify hurting every veteran? Typical blinkered thinking from an ideological jackwagon.

    February 27, 2014 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  21. bibi

    one of those few times I take sides with the GOP. This was just a bait by the Dems to paint the GOP bad in the eyes of the voters. They don't really care about the Veterans. It was all politics.
    You want to cut down military spending but expand military benefits. They know people will blame the GOP for 'refusing to help the Vets'.

    February 27, 2014 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  22. Tracy

    I am 100% with you Locomotion.... Since when do all these rich politicians know anything about what it is like to be a "normal" person??? Vote all of them out and give this country back to the people!!!

    Politicians bust their asses to get gay legislation through so boys can marry boys and girls can marry girls because they're afraid to lose a vote, but to help out vets, sorry! Too much political bantering! The Vets comeback, VOTE THE BUMS OUT, VOTE THE BUMS OUT, VOTE THE BUMS OUT, VOTE THE BUMS OUT! Vote them all out and lets start over with no more retirement pay after one term, enrollment in the Obama Care plan and not a private plan only for them, no voting your own pay raises, and when government employees go out on a furlough, politicians get no wages until the furlough ends. Common Sense Politics, For A Common Sense America!

    February 27, 2014 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  23. OldSchool

    The people here criticizing Obama and the Democrats over this must have some sort of mental disorder, I cannot fathom any other explanation. Stockholm Syndrome maybe?

    February 27, 2014 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  24. gary

    I'm an vietnam era vet that enlisted partly because of the PROMISED free life health care. That promise was broken years ago. Guess which party broke it. Now, if we are not indigent we pay for docs, meds etc .Bad Manners America!

    February 27, 2014 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  25. king

    aahhh the talk talk talk wont walk walk walk, teaanglicans are at it again, scrubbing another bill to help folks because they think obama would get credit for it. its amazing to watch them in action, they're going start barking about another bill they wont past tomorrow but as soon as Obama climb aboard they will be jumping off in the blue water without a paddle, watching this over and over and over again is like ground hog day. when will the american people learn that this party is not willing to do a dam thing to help the american people. if you dont see this from the last six years. you will never see it again. yet these same people who knows that the repubs sole reason for being in office is see this president fails, will vote them into office in droves this November. am i sorry for those folks, even though i am one of them, a little.

    February 27, 2014 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
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