February 27th, 2014
03:09 PM ET
2 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. Kata Strophic

    Well, the GOP didn't support the other Veterans Jobs Bill either, so this is just more GOP obstructionism intended to keep the veterans–largely in the shape they are in BECAUSE OF BUSH–in ruins. When in the hell are people going to start voting for OTHER PEOPLE AND THEIR OWN DIRECT INTERESTS? This is beyond nauseating. Veterans are NOT some tangential issue used as collateral damage by the GOP to make a political point that has nothing to do with them. For shame.

    February 27, 2014 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  2. sly

    President Obama tries to help the military veterans, and the Nazi TeaBillies try to shut down government again.

    The TeaKKKlan are just traitors – plain and simple. Please, go back to Germany.

    February 27, 2014 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  3. salty dog

    Thanks for the info Rudy, shameless, I think honesty would kill them the way they act.

    February 27, 2014 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  4. srcactus

    Can we have a discussion? Can we write bills in congress, the Senate this time, and not behind closed doors and then insist that the author is all knowing? Have an open debate so that we can see for ourselves which of these birds is the problem. If not may I suggest that we fire them all, now and for ever? Harry Reid has proven to be as big a liar as Obama and yet we still need an operational government body. Transparency would help to understand the motives of these people.

    February 27, 2014 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  5. mark

    All congress and senate sholud kill them selves

    February 27, 2014 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  6. Bob

    Time to make it illegal to add anything to a bill. NO more pork and the bills would be based on the merit of the bill alone. P.S. Both parties do this but the GOP is ahead in doing it.

    February 27, 2014 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  7. john west

    this isn't about dem and reps, its about us veterans who need help. I sick of political infighting, fire them all! election time is coming.

    February 27, 2014 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  8. brian

    Reminds me of a comment one of my drill sergeants made in basic training. He said "Now remember, an infantryman is an expendable item." He meant we should learn to defend ourselves because the government couldn't care less.

    February 27, 2014 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    Teatroll Rosetta Stone says: "Give the Dems a 'win' on legislation that would help people during a mid-term election year? Are you daft? [Insert fake "concerns" and ridiculous arguments here]."

    February 27, 2014 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  10. 2_indy1600

    "All government,-indeed, every human benefit and enjoyment, every vitue and every prudent act,-is founded on compromise and barter."
    +++++++++
    Edmund Burke 1775

    In an ideal world, bills should be clean. In congress, you have to get dirty and do the work.

    February 27, 2014 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  11. jinx9to88

    "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." Good theory there Thune. If you and the rest of your disgraced GOP friends didn't gerrymander districts you guys would be in the unemployment line next election.

    February 27, 2014 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  12. Dave - Phx

    Republicans are treasonous.

    February 27, 2014 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  13. budwhite451

    Anyone who voted against this bill are a disgrace. These veterans sacrifice their lives, their health so you could live in a democratic society. SHAME ON YOU......

    February 27, 2014 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  14. Sniffit

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

    In other words: "HEY!!! THAT MONEY WAS SUPPOSED TO GO TO DEFENSE CONTRACTORS IN MY RED STATE!!! YOU CAN'T JUST TAKE IT AWAY AND USE IT FOR SOMETHING ELSE JUST BECAUSE THERE'S NO LONGER A WAR!!!!"

    February 27, 2014 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  15. shayne

    No surprise here, our system was built to be broken and consume money. I'm a disabled vet that believes both party's should be ashamed of themselves. No one gives a crap about us unless it serves their interest. Good buy America welcome to what used to be America! I feel bad for our future service men and woman.

    February 27, 2014 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  16. hitman

    However, there will be money to build roads and bridges! Thanks for nothing Obama!

    February 27, 2014 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  17. Richard Miller

    Nice to see that the folks that are so keen on sending our troops into harm's way are also the same folks that don't want to provide for them after they serve. Just how many of these fine folks that voted against its passage ever served?

    February 27, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  18. VJ

    Insane people = Tea party = Ted Nugent and his buddies... period.

    February 27, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  19. Sniffit

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

    CNN, afraid of losing conservative advertising dollars or instigating a Rinsed Pubis tantrum boycott, has decided never to call a GOP/Teatroll filibuster a filibuster again.

    February 27, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  20. jinx9to88

    GOP have no problem passing a farm bill to help already rich fat farmers. Farmers should give money back if their crop exceeds expectations cause everyone knows the get money when they have a bad year. My wifes uncle is a farmer and he laughs all the way to the bank.

    February 27, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  21. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the majority repub/tea bag members

    No wonder we lag so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to math: 56 out of 100 isn't a majority ...

    February 27, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  22. CryBabies

    Any quote Harry Reid has in this article can be discounted 100%. He lies and lies are not 20%, 30%, 60% lies they are 100%! Retire old man.

    February 27, 2014 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  23. KellyF

    Another nail in the GOP coffin. America is done with you.

    February 27, 2014 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  24. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the majority repub/tea bag members

    Democrats wrote the bill, which would "improve veterans’ access to health care services, and expand educational and job training programs for vets." It was supported by 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.

    Where's Donna complaining about how repubs hate vets and Israel?

    *crickets*

    February 27, 2014 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  25. Debbie

    If a vet has no health insurance, the GOP thinks they should just wait and wait until they die.
    I'm so never going to vote for anyone in the GOP ever again.

    February 27, 2014 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
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