As Congress begins to move forward on legislation to address the problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) is laying much of the blame for Congress' not doing more sooner at the feet of Senate Democrats. "It's been more than 177 days since the House passed bipartisan legislation that would authorize these VA clinics," said Cassidy in a statement. "Only after news broke that our veterans are dying because of inadequate healthcare did [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid and Senate Democrats take action."
It's understandable that assorted partisans will try to argue that their side is more supportive of veterans than the other side, but this is just bizarre.
Actually, no. Cassidy, his party's top choice in Louisiana's U.S. Senate race, has this backwards.
In reality, Harry Reid and Senate Democrats took action several months ago, when Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) helped put together a package of expanded VA health care access, tuition assistance, and job training, all of which enjoyed the support of the major veterans' groups.
As we talked about last week, Senate Republicans, citing the deficit and extraneous concerns, not only opposed the bill, they wouldn't even allow the Senate to vote on it.
What did Senate Republicans offer as an alternative to help veterans? Nothing. There was no GOP alternative to the Democratic proposal.
Fortunately, following recent VA revelations, Congress has expressed renewed interest in veterans' issues, and last week, Sanders struck a deal with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on a bipartisan compromise.
But Cassidy's complaints are based on fiction and there's no reason he couldn't have brushed up on the basics before launching this ridiculous criticism. Whether the confused congressman is prepared to admit it or not, it was "only after news broke" than senators from Cassidy's own party were willing to take action -- and whether the bipartisan plan can overcome a GOP filibuster is not yet clear.
Besides, I'm not sure why the congressman would want to start this fight in the first place. The party that's spent a week complaining about the release of an American POW is now worried about being perceived as the pro-veterans party? Aren't these the same folks who smeared Max Cleland in the most tasteless way possible? Who thought it was funny to mock Purple Heart recipients at the 2004 National Republican Convention?
Who, in 2003, shortly after the invasion of Iraq, approved a budget that cut $14 billion out of veterans health care?