February 27th, 2014
03:09 PM ET
10 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. Skeptimist

    On the 4th of July I try to figure out what we have left to celebrate. For many years now, that has led me to just stay home and draw the blinds.

    February 27, 2014 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    Hector Slagg

    Sure,
    Not sure I would mention Bernie when talking about Fiscal Responsibility. If it was left to Bernie The National Debt would be more like 50 Trillion. If this bill amounts to anything It will be re-introduced later.
    --------------------–
    Wrong. There is no "later", dude. The Republicans successfully filibustered the bill, which killed it.. If I'm not mistaken, that means that the bill cannot be re-introduced during this session. In other words, that bill is dead and gone for the rest of the year.

    February 27, 2014 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  3. smith

    Funny to see people fighting over what party cares about veterans because both parties don't give a crap.

    February 27, 2014 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    Let's translate what Thune said more simply: "Unless we win the election and are in control, such that we can take credit for everything so it gets us votes, then we will not allow anything good to be enacted or any help o be offered because it might result in votes for the other guys."

    That's the last 6 f'ing years of GOP/Teatroll behavior in a nutshell. A giant, hissy fit tantrum over losing the 2008 and 2012 elections and failing to take the Senate in 2010. Thune, in essence, expressed fear that if the GOP/Teatrolls allow Dems to do what they're supposed to do, people would thank the Dems for doing what they're supposed to do.

    February 27, 2014 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  5. OnTheWhip

    This doesn't add up. Democrats control the Senate. The story states that it was defeated on a "party-line" vote. For it to be defeated a bunch of democrats must have voted against it. What am I missing?

    February 27, 2014 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  6. ozzy3_97

    Does anyone actually believe either party didn't know how this would turn out before the vote....:(

    February 27, 2014 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  7. Bill from GA

    gary – I'm an vietnam era vet that enlisted partly because of the PROMISED free life health care. That promise was broken years ago "

    I thought that was the case; not sure when it changed. Sounds like a Breach of Contract issue. I know a guy that sued the Army, and Won. And I would certainly support a bill returning the benefit. The Veterans Administration needs a makeover, for sure. The Dems need to find solutions, not political games. I hold them to a higher standard, since I usually support Dems.

    In Georgia, it seems that most Vietnam vets are now conservatives. Maybe they're supporting the wrong party.

    February 27, 2014 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  8. DaveinIL

    Refusing to allow and debate an amendment on any subject is just the usual my way or the highway Harry Reid dictatorship. If no one wants Iram sanctions, why not allow the amendment to be proposed and then vote it down. Why, because some Democrats might vote for it and destroy the illusion of a united Democrat party.

    February 27, 2014 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  9. Nick

    Don't worry about Republicans the democrats and the executive orders will run the country, you know the "King and his court."

    February 27, 2014 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  10. Kelly

    Democrats= the party of no idea on how to secure this nation.

    February 27, 2014 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  11. flyboy

    You retards are way too ignorant. Military DOES NOT support the Democratic party. You dingalings are free loader plain and simple!

    February 27, 2014 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  12. rs

    So much for GOP patriotism and care for veterans. Actions have consequences gentlemen, and filibustering everything and creating blatant obstruction over perfectly sound bills is a prime example.

    The GOP is the worst enemy America has ever faced.

    February 27, 2014 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  13. Ex Navy Radioman 3rd class

    What if our Vets did not have to use the bureacratic laden Veterans Hospitals, instead, let them signup for ObamaCare where they can choose their own hospitals, doctors, psychiatric and physical rehabilitaion specialists, etc.? Thus avoiding being lost in misplaced and backlogged filework, long timelines for treatment, and relieving some of those billion dollars by paying the yearly Obamacare payments, and recieving care through civilian hospital business economies. Then you can shut down the Veterans Hopsitals and turn them into local County supported emergency, homeless, and battered people shelters...Good idea, bad idea? (Note: The Veterans Hopsitals have fantastic and very caring Staff but they too can be over-burdoned by the politics and budgetary boondogles...)

    February 27, 2014 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  14. FrmrMrine

    Why do the Reoublicans hate veterans so much? Under Bush II they cut VA funding by 20%. What is the matter with these people?

    February 27, 2014 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  15. Maryellen

    I will never vote for another republican as long as I live, shame, shame!

    February 27, 2014 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  16. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    This is classic projection. He harbors internal feelings of FEAR that allowing this bill to pass and help veterans would cause veterans to vote Dem, so he PROJECTS some crazy conspiracy theory onto the Dems, claiming it's all some nefarious scheme to get veterans to vote for them.
    -------------------------------------------------
    And then he ACTs on that fear and votes against it.
    Yes smith.
    That one was for you.

    February 27, 2014 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  17. The Real Tom Paine

    -Hector Slagg

    Sure,
    Not sure I would mention Bernie when talking about Fiscal Responsibility. If it was left to Bernie The National Debt would be more like 50 Trillion. If this bill amounts to anything It will be re-introduced later.
    *****************************************
    That statement is a stretch even for the representative of alternate reality. Since when is a bill designed to help veterans have to pass a smell test from the people who put helping billionaires as the only worthy goal of government? You've got to love it when the author of that worthless comment can't even pass a basic history test, and usually communcates in an affected foreign babble-speak. Why stop with 100 years when you could go back to Washington, eh Ray?

    February 27, 2014 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  18. rs

    OnTheWhip
    This doesn't add up. Democrats control the Senate. The story states that it was defeated on a "party-line" vote. For it to be defeated a bunch of democrats must have voted against it. What am I missing?
    _____________________
    You missed GOP filibuster number 475 (or so). That mandates a "super majority" of 60 to pass- beyond the number of Democrats when the GOP votes in goose-step.

    February 27, 2014 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  19. The Real Tom Paine

    -DaveinIL

    Refusing to allow and debate an amendment on any subject is just the usual my way or the highway Harry Reid dictatorship. If no one wants Iram sanctions, why not allow the amendment to be proposed and then vote it down. Why, because some Democrats might vote for it and destroy the illusion of a united Democrat party.
    ******************
    Watch the House GOP some time if you want to see my way or the highway.

    February 27, 2014 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  20. rs

    Kelly
    Democrats= the party of no idea on how to secure this nation.
    ___________
    Actually we do. It is to keep Republicans out of the White House!

    February 27, 2014 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  21. Joe Hates Government

    Democrats will always block anything that is good for Veterans, just like they did here. Rid ourselves of the self serving Democrats and this country will turn around in a month.

    February 27, 2014 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  22. Quinn Hale

    I am a 70% service connected disabled veteran. The fat that the bill was squashed partly because of concerns over veterans with health coverage going to a VA hospital instead. That is laughable. I have health coverage and there is no chance (0%) that I will use my benefit at a VA hospital. I am sure most vets agree. Secondly, the backlog at the VA claim center is horrible. I have a claim almost 2 years old (to add a dependent).

    You will never get a vote again from me republican party.

    February 27, 2014 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  23. rs

    DaveinIL
    Refusing to allow and debate an amendment on any subject is just the usual my way or the highway Harry Reid dictatorship. If no one wants Iram sanctions, why not allow the amendment to be proposed and then vote it down. Why, because some Democrats might vote for it and destroy the illusion of a united Democrat party.
    ______________
    Republican amendments that have no relevancy to Veteran's health care have no business being debate. The point you miss is the GOP filibustered the bill (which would have passed without their obstruction), then voted en masse against it. Thus, the GOP killed the bill. GOP=Taliban.

    February 27, 2014 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  24. spudnik56

    Republicans...what a sad, pitiful lot...

    February 27, 2014 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  25. Natalie

    Why can't bills just be clean? Thanks, GOP, for yet again showing what you stand for and what you don't. You clearly are not about the veterans yet you claim to be the party of the "patriotic". Why do so many people vote against their own best interest by keeping the GOP do-nothings in office? What a bunch of crap!

    February 27, 2014 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7