The Senate is set to vote this week on a bill that would fund the Veterans Affairs Department until 2023, despite calls from Democrats and a handful of Republicans to delay the vote until after the 2020 midterm elections.
A procedural motion to delay debate on the Veterans Choice Act, which would provide for expanded access to VA care and help the VA recover from a wave of patient suicides, was blocked Tuesday by the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over the bill.
But the chamber’s top Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden Ronald (Ron) Lee WydenExperts see 5G as defense to ‘sophisticated cyberattacks’ Hillicon Valley: SEC charges Elon Musk with fraud | New flaws found in Samsung chip | EU bans sales of devices using BLE | US court upholds net neutrality law Overnight Energy: EPA releases first tranche of rule on climate change | States sue over mercury pollution standards | California seeks $1.5B for clean air from climate fund | Senators press Trump on North Korea cyberthreat MORE (D-Ore.), said the vote was delayed because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Addison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP says Trump asked them to raise taxes on Christmas eve Biden hits Trump for mocking him on Twitter GOP senator accuses Trump of trying to ‘rig’ election MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray Patricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: GOP plays defense over pre-existing conditions | Groups furious over new Trump health care bill | GOP unveils new tax cuts in new bill House votes to extend federal health law MORE (Wash.) were seeking to push the bill through the House this week without the Senate.
Wyden said Democrats will not support the Senate bill because the bill will allow the VA to continue providing care to veterans, but Democrats are also not convinced that veterans would be better off under the Senate plan.
“I don’t think there’s any evidence of veterans being better off,” Wyden said Tuesday.
“I think that it would create more of a fiscal burden on veterans and they are going to see that, and it’s going to cause problems for them.”
Democrats are also pushing the VA bill through a committee vote this weekend.
Sen. Chris Coons Christopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsMitt Romney loses to Biden in Delaware Senate races Senate Democrats to take up new health care plan for 2020 Coons says VA ‘will continue to provide quality care to our veterans’Overnight Energy — Sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board — EPA to issue new rule on mercury pollution | Senators propose new limits on mercury emissions from power plants | California steps in on methane rules MORE (Del.), the ranking member on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said that the VA could still meet the needs of veterans if the House bill were passed.
But Coons also said he wants to make sure the bill is bipartisan and that Democrats are fully engaged with the VA.
“The Veterans Choice act was bipartisan,” Coons said Tuesday, noting that it was signed by then-President Joe Biden Barack Hussein BidenTrump, Biden enter race for Ohio governor Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation | Senate Dems to hold Kavanaugh vote until next year MORE in 2009.
“It was bipartisan.
And it was a bipartisan effort.”
But Democrats have also pushed back against the GOP effort to defund the VA, arguing that it will hurt veterans and would result in more patients dying.
“We’re very much on the ballot in 2020,” said Rep. David Cicilline David Andrew Cicillines (David) William CicillinelliHillicon Valley, Trump to visit Capitol in ‘bipartisan’ letter to Trump | Senate Democrats hold key votes on methane law | Senate holds key votes for carbon pollution measureCoons said he was “shocked” when he learned the Senate Democrats were holding a vote on the VA funding.
“When I heard that, I was very shocked.
That’s very shocking to me.”
Cicillines said he voted to block the vote because he wanted to see how the Senate would vote on VA funding when Congress returns to Washington in 2019.
“They’re not going to be able to do anything on that because they’re not even going to get to the vote,” he said.
The House bill is also opposed by veterans groups.
In a letter sent to senators last week, Veterans for America, the nation’s largest veterans advocacy group, said the Senate vote would not be a “meaningful vote on veterans care” and called on Democrats to block it.
“As you know, the House version of the VCA does not include any funding for VA medical care or other essential health benefits for veterans,” the letter said.
“The VCA is not a viable plan that would serve our country well, nor will it provide the necessary financial assistance to our nation’s veterans.”
The letter was signed from veterans groups including the American Legion, American Medical Students Association, Disabled American