February 27th, 2014
03:09 PM ET
8 years 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.

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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. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the majority repub/tea bag members

    Trying to inject sanctions against Iran is dumb and counterproductive.

    So of course the repubs tried to do it.

    See why we need to vote these people out on November 4, 2014? They are all dumber than rocks ...

    February 27, 2014 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  2. just me

    Well, if there was any doubt, this should end it. Congressional republicans are simply disgusting. And indy1600, you are flat wrong. Their rejected amendment had absolutely nuthin to do with this bill

    February 27, 2014 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  3. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    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.
    The bill got shot down by the very Party that just 2 days ago through the mouth of Nikki Haley was bemoaning the cutbacks to the military and the impact that it would have on our veterans and men in uniform.
    Yet here's a chance for them to do something FOR those very people and they shoot it down.
    What a load of crap that Republicans are.
    Nothing but lip service to the very people they don't think twice about putting in harm's way.
    This is why only the lonely and the dummies buy whatever the Republicans are selling.

    February 27, 2014 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  4. salty dog

    Terry, prove it, no, didn't think so. Your hatred and prejudice can't be blamed on him, own it!

    February 27, 2014 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  5. PoppaMT

    Did any of you notice the Main part the GOP objected to was using money left over from Iraq and Afghan wars being used to fund the bill. I think they feel it is needed to fund those poor contractors that will be losing their golden egg!

    February 27, 2014 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  6. bill

    get obamaites out of office before we get to the point we can't turn this nation around.

    February 27, 2014 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  7. Simeon Walton

    The truth is DEMO reach out to the entirity of the Republic and casted a bill which should have made the 60 votes. They are crying and complaining that the bill was not drafted by the REDS!!! This is getting ridiculous I am never voting RED again. They mentioned Iran I am a veteran that bill had nothing to do with even mentioning Iran have more respect for American war veterans.

    February 27, 2014 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  8. gee

    Guess all is not lost for this do-nothing bunch of bums.

    February 27, 2014 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  9. Will S

    No veteran with health insurance is going to got to a VA hospital, given a choice. That's a "last-resort" destination.

    February 27, 2014 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  10. snowdogg

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is the PROBLEM.

    February 27, 2014 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  11. Jimmy

    Geez, this bozo guy "Terry" blames the POTUS for the GOP obstructing help for vets. What else are you going to blaming the POTUS for next, the fat on your belly?

    February 27, 2014 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  12. Hector Slagg

    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.

    February 27, 2014 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  13. Tina Griffith

    "Bottom line make it happen", take care of our own citizens, "the very troops that fight for our country". Quit worrying about protecting other countries first! Seems a lot easier when they spend billions toward other countries that are killing theirselves...

    February 27, 2014 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  14. DustyOnes

    Interesting that the bill contents were not mentioned. Bet there was a bunch of boondoggle money in it. The Democrats certainly didn't want a debate.

    February 27, 2014 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  15. Eardley Ham Woodbury, MN

    Offer our young men and women up for the greatest sacrifice one can make and then poop on their heads when they need us the most. Republicans are shameful mucks (spelt with an f).

    February 27, 2014 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  16. Jeff

    It is time to eliminate the two parties, that tend to control everything that happens in politics today. With the constant gridlock and finger pointing that happens on a 24/7 basis. Absolutely nothing gets accomplished in this great country of ours. I say, eliminate the Democrat and Republican parties and keep everyone independent.

    February 27, 2014 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  17. Al

    Next time we need to deploy somewhere in the world for any crisis, DEPLOY CONGRESS!! let them filibuster the problem to death. I'm all for sending Congress to Syria immediately to resovle that mess!

    February 27, 2014 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  18. Joe

    "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! '
    First, thanks for your service LTC. I have "an" answer to your question: People are low on the priority list of what's important in America anymore. Here's America's current priority list:

    1. Money
    2. Power
    3. Religion
    4. Stupidity/Hypocrisy/Reality TV Shows (It's a three-way tie!)
    5. Animals (a.k.a. "Pets")
    6. People
    7. Rational thinking

    Unfortunately, you fall into category number six.

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

    Why would anyone support the GOP -or- Democrats is beyond me.

    You'll note this bill was originally written by an Independent.

    February 27, 2014 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  20. Sniffit

    "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."

    He then fails to cite a single item that was actually objectionable. 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.

    Yes, morons, when politicians do their jobs and help people, those people tend to think about voting for them.

    What Thune is implicitly admitting is that he and the rest of the GOP/Teatrolls have indeed been doing everything they can the past 6 years to prevent the Dems from doing anything to help people and make things better...that they have deliberately obstructed as much of what the Dems tried to do as possible FOR FEAR THAT IT WOULD WORK. Because if it works, it helps people, and if it helps people it might turn into votes. No no...the GOP/Teatrolls decided on November 5, 2008 that they would be doing everything they could to make you suffer so long as they are not in power, because to allow anything good to get done might lost them votes.

    February 27, 2014 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  21. underwaterops

    There they go again. Apparently Republicans came to their senses about as long as an alcoholic sobers up.
    And then they got drunk again and beat up on the vets.

    February 27, 2014 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  22. S. Jones

    Republicans care so much for veterans. LOL

    February 27, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  23. Paul P. Valtos

    I would bet that no one who voted against this bill ever wore a uniform.

    February 27, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  24. Brian

    Typical Republicans: "Support our troops! (until they come home)"

    February 27, 2014 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  25. yeahright

    Harold Read. Thanks to the ACA your cranial-rectal inversion is no longer considered a pre-existing condition. Seek help.

    February 27, 2014 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
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