As a rule, legislation related to veterans’ benefits tends to garner bipartisan support, but as we were reminded this afternoon, there are exceptions.
Senate Republicans stopped Democrats from advancing a bill that would have expanded healthcare and education programs for veterans.In a 56-41 vote Thursday, the motion to waive a budget point of order against the bill failed. Democrats didn’t have the 60 votes needed to overcome the Republican roadblock.
Only two of the Senate’s 45 Republicans – Sens. Dean Heller (Nev.) and Jerry Moran (Kan.) – voted with the Democratic majority. That was obviously not enough to end the GOP’s obstruction.
The bill, the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Pay Restoration Act, was quite expansive. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a co-sponsor, posted an overview of the legislation, highlighting its expanded VA health care access, tuition assistance, and job training. These certainly sound like the sort of things GOP lawmakers could go for.
So why did Senate Republicans block it?
Some GOP senators said there were unsure of the pay-for provisions – helping veterans matters, but making sure the deficit isn’t slightly larger really matters – but perhaps the biggest complaint had to do with Iran.
Senate Republicans demanded a vote on their own alternative legislation, which included a provision to impose new sanctions on Iran, and which would imperil the delicate international nuclear talks that are still ongoing.
GOP senators want a vote on the sanctions, regardless of the consequences; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) won’t go along; so the Republican minority blocked the bill on veterans’ benefits.
“I hope all the veterans groups have witnessed all the contortions the Republicans have done to defeat this bill,” Reid said this afternoon. “Shame on Republicans for bringing base politics into a bill to help veterans.”