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. cebundy

    Par for the course with the GOP. They love wars, but hate spending money on the consequences of them. And they have no respect for the young men and women that they duped into fighting their wars.

    February 27, 2014 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  2. herchato

    And the republicans continue their Taliban tactics.

    February 27, 2014 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  3. Richard

    Democrats run the Senate. If they couldn't shove this through then there was something amiss.
    Maybe it has some backdoor taxes in it that could be used against Democrats in the upcoming election.

    February 27, 2014 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  4. MICK

    Why do Liberals want to destroy healthcare for Americans, including Vets??????

    February 27, 2014 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  5. t2vodka

    Both parties are worthless piles of dung. I would say bury them all in a field but that would just pollute the environment.

    February 27, 2014 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  6. MontanaTrace

    If there weren't attempts, rather demands, to add pork, a lot of good bills would pass. Both parties screw with the bill and it dies. This is party first, America last. We need term limits. Career politicians have deeply damaged out country.

    February 27, 2014 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  7. Slabb84

    True veterans should have any form of coverage they need. They sacrificed blood, sweat, and tears for this country.

    February 27, 2014 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  8. Sab

    Surprise, surprise, the government failed again.

    February 27, 2014 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  9. moemontye

    Veterans should receive the same compensation as any other government employee. Otherwise it's discrimination.

    February 27, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  10. oh

    Seriously, the GOP could care less what is good for America. What they care about is what is good for the GOP, and Americans come second.

    And don't start with "both parties do the same thing" malarkey, because they don't.

    February 27, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  11. Jonathan

    This proves there are elements of the government who consider our vets Enemy #1, and are doing everything in their power to depress their rights, and the governments obligation to help those who fought for our freedoms! These people who stalled the process are becoming increasingly terroristic, and we should take any and all steps necessary to protect this country and it's way of life. The American people need to send a message this Election and take out any who opposed this bill, and say to all who run.....we are not going to let you destroy this country, or the vets that helped keep it safe from Tyranny. Past and Present!

    February 27, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  12. Noneya

    “Unfortunately, it’s become standard practice around here for the majority to pursue partisan legislation in a take-it-or-leave-it manner'
    -Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

    That is friggin hilarious coming from the people that brought partisan politics to a new level. How do you know a Republican is full of it? Comments like these...

    February 27, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  13. Lynda/Minnesota

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

    I can make no sense of this comment from the GOP.

    "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."

    So it should be opened up to any veteran. In my humble opinion anyway. Most who already have insurance most likely wouldn't be going to the VA to begin with.

    February 27, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  14. Adventure49

    Once again, the GOP has shown a willingness to sacrifice American values for politics. This time on the back of veterans. Way to go you chicken-hawks.

    February 27, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  15. Joe

    The fact that our government and our nation can't take care of the people sworn to protect it is disgusting and repulsive.

    February 27, 2014 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  16. Kevin

    Honestly, I don't really approve of either side of this. I think both parties can justifiably claim that the other party is making this into a political issue when it shouldn't be.

    February 27, 2014 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  17. Mike

    Please this year Don't vote Democrats Don't vote Republican Don't vote Tea party just Vote some people into office with Good Sense and can do Their Job... And Vote Out These Always Every Year Fighting Idiots who we are Paying our Tax Dollars to do NOTHING and this is on both sides Heck Even after a Good Boxing Match the Fighter shake Hands and speak well of each other

    February 27, 2014 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  18. jason

    GOP hares the vets

    February 27, 2014 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  19. Jason Glugla

    Now, all of you good Tea Party folks, some of whom I am sure are veterans, go out and yell a big cheer.

    February 27, 2014 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  20. Noneya

    Apparently McConnell forgot about the Republican 6 year plan of take-it-or-leave-it partisan politics. CONservatives whine when they get a taste of their own medicine.

    February 27, 2014 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  21. Alina1

    How ridicules , the bill filed because Republicans glued Iran to it... This is ridicules.

    February 27, 2014 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    Congress, you egregiously failed military veterans. Because of this, thousands of veterans will continue to wait and suffer in a system that needs drastic overhauls because it is outdated, inefficient, and underfunded. Every single member of Congress is responsible for this.

    February 27, 2014 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  23. TeddyG

    This was full of pork. Veterans were never promised free dental care for the rest of their lives.

    February 27, 2014 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  24. Bill inVA

    I can see it both ways. Yes we should take care of our vets. But when the party in control won't even allow amendments on which people can vote yes or no, hard to blame just one side….and I don't. They are both at fault….for nearly everything

    February 27, 2014 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  25. Mike

    Looks like Republicans didn't expect anyone to come back from the wars they started...

    February 27, 2014 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
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