Sanders Suggests Using War Funding for Veterans Bill

None

Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-VT), listens to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar testify during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on May 18, 2010 in Washington, DC. The committee is hearing testimony about the accident involving the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded and is now leaking oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
National Journal
Jordain Carney
Jan. 22, 2014, 3:30 p.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders sug­ges­ted Wed­nes­day that war funds could be used to pay for some or all of his om­ni­bus vet­er­ans bill, but he could face an up­hill battle in the House.

The bill, which Sanders in­tro­duced last week, tackles a swath of vet­er­ans is­sues, in­clud­ing health care, edu­ca­tion, em­ploy­ment, and — an is­sue on the minds of many mem­bers of Con­gress — restor­ing the roughly $6 bil­lion in pen­sions cut dur­ing the budget agree­ment to work­ing-age mil­it­ary re­tir­ees.

Sanders pro­posed off­set­ting the cost of the le­gis­la­tion by us­ing the Over­seas Con­tin­gency Op­er­a­tions funds, which have been used to pay for the wars in Ir­aq and Afgh­anistan.

“I be­lieve, hav­ing looked at this, that there is more than enough money in that fund to fund this le­gis­la­tion,” Sanders said. But he noted that the fi­nal de­cision will have to be made in con­junc­tion with Sen­ate Demo­crat­ic lead­er­ship.

Sanders told re­port­ers Wed­nes­day that he ex­pects the le­gis­la­tion to cost $30 bil­lion over 10 years.

The Ver­mont in­de­pend­ent said Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id wants to bring the bill be­fore the Sen­ate “as quickly as he pos­sibly can,” but sidestepped ques­tions on a spe­cif­ic timeline.

Re­id has filed the bill un­der Rule 14 — which al­lows le­gis­la­tion to skip the com­mit­tee pro­cess — mean­ing the pro­pos­al could be taken up as soon as the Sen­ate re­con­venes next week.

“This is one of the most com­pre­hens­ive pieces of vet­er­ans le­gis­la­tion that has been in­tro­duced in dec­ades,” Sanders said, adding that the bill tackles many con­cerns raised in re­cent years.

Ap­prox­im­ately 18 mil­it­ary and vet­er­ans or­gan­iz­a­tions have backed the pro­pos­al, and the sen­at­or said he be­lieves it will soon have the sup­port of every ma­jor vet­er­ans or­gan­iz­a­tion in the coun­try.

The bill in­cludes sev­er­al pieces of le­gis­la­tion pre­vi­ously passed out of the Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, and Sanders noted that many of those bills re­ceived bi­par­tis­an sup­port. He said he has yet to reach out to Re­pub­lic­an col­leagues, but plans to do so soon.

Al­though Sanders said he is “op­tim­ist­ic that we can work with our friends in the House,” a Re­pub­lic­an aide with the House Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs Com­mit­tee quickly pushed back against the pro­pos­al.

“That money is not a reg­u­lar budget item and by design will run out once Over­seas Con­tin­gency Op­er­a­tions have ended, and there­fore is prob­ably not the best vehicle to use as an off­set,” the aide said, re­fer­ring to us­ing the OCO funds to pay for the vet­er­ans bill.

A 2012 Con­gres­sion­al Budget Of­fice re­port notes that “there is no ‘OCO fund’ set aside in the Treas­ury from which re­sources can be drawn in fu­ture years.”

The Re­pub­lic­an aide ad­ded that al­though mem­bers “sup­port the ul­ti­mate goals of a num­ber of ini­ti­at­ives” in Sanders’s bill, “we feel vet­er­ans would be bet­ter served if the Sen­ate took a more meas­ured, piece­meal ap­proach to passing some of the ini­ti­at­ives.”

What We're Following See More »
TAKING A LONG VIEW TO SOUTHERN STATES
In Dropout Speech, Santorum Endorses Rubio
3 days ago
THE DETAILS

As expected after earlier reports on Wednesday, Rick Santorum ended his presidential bid. But less expected: he threw his support to Marco Rubio. After noting he spoke with Rubio the day before for an hour, he said, “Someone who has a real understanding of the threat of ISIS, real understanding of the threat of fundamentalist Islam, and has experience, one of the things I wanted was someone who has experience in this area, and that’s why we decided to support Marco Rubio.” It doesn’t figure to help Rubio much in New Hampshire, but the Santorum nod could pay dividends down the road in southern states.

Source:
‘PITTING PEOPLE AGAINST EACH OTHER’
Rubio, Trump Question Obama’s Mosque Visit
3 days ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama’s decision to visit a mosque in Baltimore today was never going to be completely uncontroversial. And Donald Trump and Marco Rubio proved it. “Maybe he feels comfortable there,” Trump told interviewer Greta van Susteren on Fox News. “There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.” And in New Hampshire, Rubio said of Obama, “Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.”

Source:
THE TIME IS NOW, TED
Cruz Must Max Out on Evangelical Support through Early March
3 days ago
WHY WE CARE

For Ted Cruz, a strong showing in New Hampshire would be nice, but not necessary. That’s because evangelical voters only make up 21% of the Granite State’s population. “But from the February 20 South Carolina primary through March 15, there are nine states (South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina) with an estimated white-Evangelical percentage of the GOP electorate over 60 percent, and another four (Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri) that come in over 50 percent.” But after that, he better be in the catbird’s seat, because only four smaller states remain with evangelical voter majorities.

Source:
CHRISTIE, BUSH TRYING TO TAKE HIM DOWN
Rubio Now Winning the ‘Endorsement Primary’
3 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Since his strong third-place finish in Iowa, Marco Rubio has won endorsement by two sitting senators and two congressmen, putting him in the lead for the first time of FiveThirtyEight‘s Endorsement Tracker. “Some politicians had put early support behind Jeb Bush — he had led [their] list since August — but since January the only new endorsement he has received was from former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that fueled by resentment, “members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt … Rubio’s rise in the polls.”

Source:
7 REPUBLICANS ON STAGE
Carly Fiorina Will Not Be Allowed to Debate on Saturday
2 days ago
THE LATEST

ABC News has announced the criteria for Saturday’s Republican debate, and that means Carly Fiorina won’t be a part of it. The network is demanding candidates have “a top-three finish in Iowa, a top-six standing in an average of recent New Hampshire polls or a top-six placement in national polls in order for candidates to qualify.” And there will be no “happy hour” undercard debate this time. “So that means no Fiorina vs. Jim Gilmore showdown earlier in the evening for the most ardent of campaign 2016 junkies.

Source:
×