Last Thursday, Senate Republicans criticized Democrats for blocking an effort by Republicans to expand veteran’s benefits with a $21 billion bill. They accused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) of “playing politics.”
Reid’s counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) lambasted Reid saying the legislation "was not considered in committee, greatly expands spending without any realistic offset, and would vastly overwhelm the Veterans Administration healthcare system. It’s shameful that Senate Democrats would seek to score political points by rushing to the floor a bill the committee did not consider, and could have otherwise been handled in a bipartisan manner through regular order."
McConnell continued, "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 the committee chairman has been allowed the opportunity to amend this bill."
The Republicans did succeed with a 56-41 vote. Reid and his Democratic colleagues could not find 60 votes to waive the procedural vote necessary to move the legislation to the full Senate for a vote.
A defiant Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said, "We're not going to be intimidated on this. We're going to do the right things for the veterans of America."
The bill would provide more veterans eligible for in-state college tuition, better dental care and selected wounded troops left sterile the option to obtain fertility or adoption services.
Still bitter after the vote, McConnell accused Reid of playing election-year politics with the bill refusing to allow votes on a GOP amendment cutting the bill's size.
It could have carried additional penalties against Iran for its nuclear program. Reid would not allow the upper chamber to hold a separate vote, according to The Hill.
McConnell’s “playing politics” comment alluded to President Barack Obama’s opposition to any new penalties while international negotiations with Tehran proceed.
Democrats had falsely given the bill hope by saying the $21 billion cost would come from unspent money from the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and winding down of American military involvement in Afghanistan.
The Republicans cried foul since no one expected those dollars to be spent as those wars ended.
Sen. Sessions, the ranking member on the Veterans Committee, said “I challenge any of our colleagues, Senate Democrats to come to the floor and name one program they’re willing to terminate in order to help fund our veterans adequately. Come down and let’s hear it. There’s a circling of the wagon in this administration."
Gridlock continues in Washington.
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