Last April, members of Congress in both parties were “outraged” at disclosures that veterans waited for months to get an appointment at VA medical facilities. Republicans were particularly “outraged” saying veterans were dying waiting for care. They saw an opportunity for political gain by exploiting the tragedy.
It is now the end of July. Congress has not done anything but blow hot political air. Both Houses passed a bill at the peak of news coverage about the VA crisis, but the two houses have not reconciled those bills and sent legislation to the president to sign. Congress goes on another undeserved extended vacation August first. In other words, the do-nothing Congress is still doing nothing for America’s veterans but exploiting them for ugly partisan gain. All the concern about veterans dying was nothing but an opportunity to get their mugs on TV.
What is the problem? Republicans do not want to spend the money required to solve the problem. They do not want to pay for more doctors, nurses and facilities required to treat veterans on a timely basis. Republicans love to start wars, send other people’s sons and daughters to fight them, then not pay for them. When it comes to taking care of the women and men they sent into those wars, tough luck. The priority for Republicans in Congress is to do nothing but give tax breaks to the Koch Brothers, Exxon, and billionaires, and blame everything on Obama.
In the spring, it looked like Congress might actually do something. The Senate passed a bi-partisan bill sponsored by Senators Bernie Saunders and John McCain. The House passed a similar bill along strong bi-partisan lines. Everyone thought a conference committee would quickly resolve the differences and send the bill to the president. Not in this Congress, not in an election year. Republicans are more afraid of the Tea Party than they are American’s veterans. They do not want to spend a dime on anything lest it offend the Tea Party. The defeat of Eric Cantor pretty much put an end to the House doing anything but blowing hot air.
“We must make sure that the VA has the doctors, the nurses, the medical personnel, the IT and the space they need in order to deal with this crisis, so that two years from now we’re not back in the same position that we are,” Bernie Sanders, the prime Senate sponsor of the VA legislation, said Wednesday.
Senator Sanders quoted a statement issued earlier this week by Veterans of Foreign Wars National Commander William A. Thien:
“Pass a bill or don’t come back from recess … America’s veterans are tired of waiting — on secret waiting lists at the VA and on their elected officials to do their jobs. If Congress goes on recess without passing this legislation, the VFW will work hard with all veterans and the American public to hold every member of Congress fully accountable for failing America’s veterans.”
Sanders also highlighted a letter from 16 veterans’ service organizations to the leaders of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committees. That letter backs Gibson’s call for supplemental funding.
Under the constitution, only Congress can appropriate money. Republicans control the House, and they can, and do, stop everything in the Senate by filibuster. This is a problem Republicans have created on only they can solve. They control the purse strings.
The question is, will Veterans remember in November?