Senate blocks Dems' bill boosting vets' benefits

The legislation would provide $21 billion for medical, education and job-training benefits for the nation's veterans
Associated Press
Feb 28, 2014

 

A divided Senate on Thursday derailed Democratic legislation that would have provided $21 billion for medical, education and job-training benefits for the nation's veterans. The bill fell victim to election-year disputes over spending and fresh penalties against Iran.

Each party covets the allegiance of the country's 22 million veterans and their families, and each party blamed the other for turning the effort into a chess match aimed at forcing politically embarrassing votes.

Republicans used a procedural move to block the bill after Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chided GOP lawmakers about their priorities.

"I personally, I have to say this honestly, have a hard time understanding how anyone could vote for tax breaks for billionaires, for millionaires, for large corporations and then say we don't have the resources to protect our veterans," said Sanders, the measure's chief author.

Democrats noted that more than two dozen veterans groups supported the legislation. But Republicans said they still favor helping veterans while also wanting to be prudent about federal spending.

"We're not going to be intimidated on this," said Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee. "We're going to do the right things for the veterans of America."

The fight over priorities demonstrated again the bitter divisions that have restrained the legislative process in recent years. Efforts to address immigration, a tax overhaul and job creation all seem likely to go nowhere this year.

Republicans criticized how most of Sanders' bill was paid for — with unspent money from the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and the winding down of American military involvement in Afghanistan. The GOP says those are not real savings because no one expected those dollars to be spent as those wars ended.

Republicans also objected to provisions making more veterans without service-connected injuries eligible for treatment at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities. They said that would swamp an already overburdened system.

The vote sidetracking the bill was 56-41, with supporters falling four votes short of the 60 they needed to prevail. Sens. Jerry Moran of Kansas and Dean Heller of Nevada were the only Republicans voting to keep the legislation alive and the only lawmakers crossing party lines on the vote.

Veterans groups complained about being caught in partisan crossfire.

"Veterans don't have time for this nonsense and veterans are tired of being used as political chew toys," said Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, which supported the legislation.

Democrats wasted little time trying to cash in on the vote.

Within moments, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee unleashed an email headlined, "Mitch McConnell Votes Against Kentucky Veterans." McConnell is up for re-election this year.

Republicans said there would be no retribution from voters because the Democratic bill would have harmed veterans' services by flooding them with too many people. They also said this year's election campaigns will focus on other issues, such as President Barack Obama's health law.

"We're sort of fooling ourselves to believe that this drives the election issue list," said Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, top Republican on the Veterans' Affairs Committee.

Thursday's showdown came after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., refused to allow votes on a GOP amendment slicing the bill's size and adding the penalties against Iran for its nuclear program.

Obama opposes new penalties while international negotiations with Iran proceed.

Fifty-nine senators of both parties have sponsored a separate bill imposing the punishment if the talks fail, though Obama's effort has weakened Democratic calls for a quick Senate vote. A vote could put the administration and some Democrats who favor the proposal in an awkward spot.

The White House did not issue a public statement on whether it supported the veterans' bill.

Sanders' legislation addressed everything from making more veterans eligible for in-state college tuition to providing fertility or adoption services for some wounded troops left unable to conceive.

The VA would have been given more tools to eat into its backlog of 390,000 benefit claims awaiting action for more than 125 days. The bill also would have bolstered programs for veterans who suffered sexual abuse, and would have increased dental care and provided more alternative medicine, such as yoga for stress.

In a two-year test program, some overweight veterans living more than 15 minutes from a VA gym would have been given memberships at private health clubs.

Benefits for some spouses of deceased veterans would have improved, and aid to relatives caring for a wounded veteran would have been expanded to include those who served before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Comments

Contango

The Dems will do ANYTHING in order to distract from the Obam☭are fiasco and the potential disastrous results of Nov. mid-term elections.

Dial up Fed Chair Yellen and have her 'print' a few billion dollars more - problem solved.

$20T in Fed debt by 2016 - here we come!

Peninsula Pundit

The republicans blocked the bill.
It's there in black & white, read it and weep, fella.
These veterans, which by and large republicans made many more of these past 10 years, need help.
Not only should they have passed this bill, but they should've spent even more for staffing the poorly understaffed VA hospitals!
Bring the real 'tango back, you impostor.
What're you guys gonna do when Hillary is elected president?

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Only addressing your last line: I will weep because apparently we have moved into dynastic rulership in the U.S. where of the hundreds of millions of citizens capable of running you must be from one family or another in order to command us little folk.

I wish we would pull out of this system. If I wrote a book about it I'd give it the clever title "America, B.C." to address the primitive (BC) notion that certain families ([B]ush/[C]linton) are ruler material that none dare oppose.

Gardenman

How could the Democrats distract the voters thinking about Obamacare when the Republicans voted to stop an increase in veterans benefits? Time after time in history the Republicans have opposed programs to help the common man. Republicans opposed Social Security, they opposed Medicare, they opposed Medicaid, they recently denied unemployment benefits to millions, they oppossed Education program assistance to schools under the Johnson administration.

BUT the Republicans were right on giving the banking industry fewer regulations in mid 2000 that lead to 2008 economic disaster, they were glad to give Wall Street investors fewer regulations, they oppose raising the minimum wage for millions living in poverty BUT they favor giving tax breaks to the 1% richest Americans.

Geesh 2014 maybe a disaster in the elections but it will be Republicans losing office. When you have a party more focused on shutting down government than serving the people who elected them to office its time to get a new legislator.

Fromthe419

Correct on most of what you said, except it was Clinton that repealed Glass-Stegall in 1999, that is what allowed the financial meltdown in 2008 to happen.

Gardenman

Yes that is correct but it was too the GWB administration and Republican Congress that took away many checks, etc and let Wall Street pretty much run free of past regulations.

By the time 2008 came along Bush and many in his administration were dumbfounded on what had happen.

Contango

Re: "2008"

Major fallacy: The Dems controlled Congress.

Barney Frank and others publicly stated that there were no problems with the housing mkt.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J...

Ben Crazy

deny their bennefits

Donegan

On the first they will print 75 billion more for wall street. This bill is only 21 billion, I wonder when people will realize who the gov thinks is more important.

jacksonbrowne

I am not opposed to increasing benefits for our Veteran's. However, I would like to know how the gov't proposes to pay for those increase's. So, Senator Sanders, what is your game plan on raising funds to finance this?

Contango

@ jb:

Familiar with von Mises?

"Thus, credit expansion unavoidably results in the economic crisis. In either of the two alternatives, the artificial boom is doomed.

In the long run, it must collapse. The short-run effect, the period of prosperity, may last sometimes several years.

While it lasts, the authorities, the expanding banks and their public relations agencies arrogantly defy the warnings of the economists and pride themselves on the manifest success of their policies. But when the bitter end comes, they wash their hands of it."

It WILL end - the question is WHEN.

2007-08 was just a foretaste. We merely 'papered it over.'

http://mises.org/daily/6081/The-...

jacksonbrowne

Our gov't is on a path that is not sustainable. I believe about 65% of gov't spending alone is paid to support the military, medicare & ss. This leaves very few dollars, obviously, for anything else.

As the baby boomers start to retire companies are slow to fill those jobs. This in turn decrease's the work force which in turn decrease's the amount of tax dollars coming in which creates a whole new set of problems with less revenue.

The bottom line is that our gov't needs to start looking at ways to decrease spending rather than increasing it's spending.

JMOP

"The bottom line is that our gov't needs to start looking at ways to decrease spending rather than increasing it's spending."

I agree!

It's no wonder we fell into more debt when Obama thinks the government needs to spend more of our tax money, in order to stimulate our economy. We all see how that's panning out.

Pterocarya frax...

So clearly you support the Obama administration's announcement about military cuts?

jacksonbrowne

I would much rather spend money on the military before spending it on entitlements to healthy non deserving people.

Contango

Re: "decrease spending rather than increasing it's spending."

But inertia is with the latter.

IMO, fiscal collapse is inevitable.

THAT'S the ONLY way austerity will occur; by it being thrust upon us and at a time not of our choosing.

H*ll, the Fed Resv was still clueless to the extent of the damage at the end of '08.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/bu...

bayshore

Had Congress not robbed the social security money that would be one less expense to deal with.

Peninsula Pundit

See how quickly these posters turn the topic from 'Helping Veterans' to poor mouth or 'illegal immigrants.'
There didn't seem to be any lack of funds when the wars, that made these veterans, were being waged, was there?
Never heard a republican suggest stopping funding because they couldn't figure out how to pay for it then, huh?
I'm on record as not supporting illegal immigration.
But you don't let that stop you from doing the right thing for the vets.

SamAdams

The problem isn't whether or not veterans are valuable for their past service, or their future contributions. I think most would agree that they are both. The issue is how to PAY for all of these benefits! Personally, I'd rather see more money spent on past and present military personnel than on food stamps or other handouts. But regardless of how you choose to divvy up the pie, the fact remains that the pie is only so big.

Dems are happy to keep borrowing and adding to an already unsustainable debt. So are Republicans, albeit at a slightly slower pace. BOTH need to stop spending until they can figure out where cuts can be made without projecting "maybe we'll be out of Afghanistan" or other wishful thinking into the picture. The biggest problem of all? Neither seem inclined to do THAT!

Bluto

The way I see it Sam , is that without that money going to help Vets retrain for life after the military , it will go to Vets who will need food stamps and those other so called hand outs you speak of . As far as where the money will come from ? Simple , how about closing those giant tax loop holes those rich fat cats feel entitled to , for a start .

Contango

Re: "rich fat cats feel entitled to,"

Seven of the ten richest members of Congress are Democrats - let's start with them.

Bluto

O.K. , start with them . Agreed . When a war is over our financial responsibility doesn't stop just because the campaign does . We as a country are obligated to those who have put their very lives on the line for us . Punishing veterans because the system designed to care for them maybe overloaded is NOT an excuse to deny them what they have earned and what we as a country owe them .

Contango

Re: "financial responsibility,"

As long as the Political Ruling Class and their pals in the Military Industrial Complex have us engaged in the Endless War, there will always be wounded vets.

As I wrote - just dial up the Fed. Resv.

This is a politcal ploy by the Dems.

Everyone can find 100 other worthy causes that need funding.

Not to lessen it, but this is just one.

Bluto

Life is a constant struggle , and there has always been war and probably always will be . We owe those a who fight for us a debt . It has come time to pay that debt . Yes , this country is facing hard times , but what do we do in hard times ? We prioritize . Some debts have more weight then others , and in my opinion this is one we must pay . These men and women have given life and limb . If they were lucky enough to come home without physical wounds the horrors of war will be with a lot of them forever . Yes , there are many other worthy causes , but this one is being stomped on by GOP members more concerned about keeping the rich happy . It's plain to see where their priorities lie .

Contango

Re: "GOP members more concerned about keeping the rich happy ."

And the Dems don't care about the rich? Lip service, lip service.

3 of the top 5 wealthiest neighborhoods surround DC.

Only Repubs live there right?

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101448625

"Priorities"? What programs should be cut to help fund this?

Peninsula Pundit

Lobbyists live in those rich neighborhoods.
If we got rid of them and did not allow former congressmen to take work with the companies they had oversight of, that would help a lot.
Corporations feed both sides of the trough.
Even when you get people to agree with you, you just keep throwing up roadblocks to common ground.
That's fairly trollish, you realize.
Priorities? Easy. We spend 10 times more in defense spending than the next 4 countries combined.
Take a clue.

Contango

Re: "Lobbyists live in those rich neighborhoods."

So no politicians or bureaucrats are among the 1% huh?

Kinda like former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) shilling for Hollywood - poor guy!

http://www.politico.com/news/sto...

Contango

Re: "We spend 10 times more in defense spending,"

There ya go!

Take some of that Pentagon money that Pres. Obama wants to spend on manufacturing hubs and use it to pay vet bennies.

The Big Dog's back

pooh, you're just plain miserable.

Contango

Do you need to be let outside to piddle, derpy?

JMOP

Why the boost in medical? We got obamacare right?

Anyways we got Biden encouraging mothers, including single mothers, to quit their jobs for a few years and stay home to collect our money. Way to be proactive there Biden boy!

rbenn

Lets not forget 4.6 billion in child tax credits for illegals theres a good start

Bluto

If these "illegals" are filing taxes in order to receive these tax credits , how are they illegal ? That would mean that they had paid taxes somewhere down the line and received a W2 . HOW DARE THEY COME TO THIS COUNTRY AND PAY TAXES !!! Funny I always thought illegals were under the government radar .

JMOP

@ Bluto
Illegals collect government assistance. That's why they come here. They come to find a job, but they also qualify for benefits, especially the anchor baby parents.

JMOP

I'm all for tax credits, but only if they paid into the pot, if equal or more than the credit.

Peninsula Pundit

Canada actually pays mothers if they stay home and raise their children for the 1st year of life.
Oh, what a terrible idea, right?
Let those kids fend for themselves!
Pay a minimum wage stranger to watch over your bundle of joy as the mother is forced to go back to work to keep the lights on.
That's the republican way, for sure!

JMOP

We are not Canada! We are America! Mothers are forced to what, pay taxes, or collect taxes?
There's nothing wrong with staying home and raising your kids, I actually support that, what I don't support is the VIP of The United States of America telling women who actually want better than to collect all the handouts that are available to them, to quit their job, and let others pick up the tab, and the responsibility. That's what I find wrong!

Peninsula Pundit

I'll meet you halfway.
The idea of being able to stay home for the first year of a baby's life is a good thing.
Right now,many women are forced to 'pay taxes' because they cannot afford to go without a paycheck. This is not news.
You say that you support staying home with the kids, but then you use the phrase,'...telling women who actually want better.'
My friend, ask most any mother. There is nothing 'better' than having the opportunity to stay home with your newborn and not have to worry how the bills are going to be paid.
This is what Canada does and is something we should do in this country.
Just because we're the 'all-powerful,all-knowing USA' doesn't necessarily make us right all the time, y'know.
BTW, the mother had to have been employed before maternity leave to collect this 1st year money, but she only gets what she was being paid beforehand and no more than 1 year.

JMOP

My quote about women wanting better than handouts is correct. Why does Biden want to lead single women into poverty? They say the GOP has a war against women?

ladydye_5

You can stay home with your babies. Many choose to have fancy SUV's, fancy clothes, smartphones, get their hair done every 6 weeks, new nails every month, the list goes on and on. It is called sacrifice. How bad do you WANT to stay home with your baby. I have also seen mothers that cannot HANDLE staying home with their children 24/7.

bayshore

Hello, Marcy, are you listening to your constiuents???? Time to kick her out.

Peninsula Pundit

Hopefully Dennis will run.
He was the better choice, anyway.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Can we get someone who hasn't made a career out of a position that was meant to be temporary? There are many of other people who would enjoy the opportunity. Seeing the same names brought up over and over is kind of disappointing and I suspect many who may otherwise run are intimidated by the bank accounts, browbeating, and apathy that each long-term incumbent brings with them.

I say this while on the topic of a Democrat running, but the sentiment runs just as strongly for entrenched Republicans.

grumpy

Re: "I say this while on the topic of a Democrat running, but the sentiment runs just as strongly for entrenched Republicans."

Tis why i want more parties. More parties, more choices. Get some new blood, new ideas, more competition, More interest. The two party system has brought us to where we are now. Is anybody happy with what we now have?

Stop It

+1

KURTje

Bluto Contango isn't a veteran. He does not know.

Contango

Re: "Bluto,"

Like I wrote before kookie:

Take some of that Pentagon money that Pres. Obama wants to use for mfg. hubs and increase vet bennies.

Keep blo'n kk.

Pterocarya frax...

Where is KnuckleDragger to tell us how awful it is to dump on veterans now? When Republicans do it, all we get are crickets.