The House voted 326-90 Tuesday to reverse a controversial $6 billion cut in veterans benefits included in last year’s budget deal.
The House bill would offset the cost of the repealed cuts by extending the budget sequester for mandatory spending cuts by an additional year.
The chamber is almost unanimous in its desire to reverse the cuts, but some Democrats voted against the bill because it would fund the veterans benefits, in part, through further cuts to mandatory domestic spending for social programs they favor.
Democrats on Monday had indicated to Republican leadership that they would not be able to deliver sufficient votes to pass the benefits bill if it was tied to the debt ceiling. The objections to the debt-ceiling plan stemmed not from objections to restoring the benefits, but rather from Democrats’ concern that they would set a precedent whereby Republicans could tie provisions — even legislation with broad bipartisan support — to a future debt-ceiling increase.
In the end, 120 Democrats suppored the veterans measure Tuesday, while 71 voted against it.
The bill now heads to the Senate where it faces an uncertain future. Senate Democrats are arguing that veterans already paid their debt to society and that the legislation to reverse the cost-of-living adjustment cuts should pass without offsetting the legislation. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters Tuesday that he would not support the House’s sequester extension.
But Senate Republicans are still insisting that any legislation to reverse the cuts must contain provisions to prevent it from increasing the deficit.
A bill to reverse the vets COLA cuts from Arkansas Democrat Mark Pryor is pending in the Senate. Democrats say they hope to complete that bill this week, but the chamber might adjourn for its Presidents Day recess as soon as Wednesday because of an expected snowstorm.
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House Speaker Paul Ryan today is trying to convince his large but divided conference that they need to pass a budget under regular order. “Conservatives are revolting against higher top-line spending levels negotiated last fall by President Obama and Ryan’s predecessor, then-Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). GOP centrists are digging in on the other side, pledging to kill any budget that deviates from the two-year, bipartisan budget deal.” Ryan’s three options are to lower the budget numbers to appease the Freedom Caucus, “deem” a budget and move on to the appropriations process, or “preserve Obama-Boehner levels, but seek savings elsewhere.”
“A bill headed for President Barack Obama this week includes a provision that would ban U.S. imports of fish caught by slaves in Southeast Asia, gold mined by children in Africa and garments sewn by abused women in Bangladesh, closing a loophole in an 85-year-old tariff law.” The Senate approved the bill, which would also ban Internet taxes and overhaul trade laws, by a vote of 75-20. It now goes to President Obama.
Bernie Sanders has closed to within seven points of Hillary Clinton in a new Morning Consult survey. Clinton leads 46%-39%. Consistent with the New Hampshire voting results, Clinton does best with retirees, while Sanders leads by 20 percentage points among those under 30. On the Republican side, Donald Trump is far ahead with 44% support. Trailing by a huge margin are Ted Cruz (17%), Ben Carson (10%) and Marco Rubio (10%).
President Obama became a surprise topic of contention toward the end of the Democratic debate, as Hillary Clinton reminded viewers that Sanders had challenged the progressive bona fides of President Obama in 2011 and suggested that someone might challenge him from the left. “The kind of criticism that we’ve heard from Senator Sanders about our president I expect from Republicans, I do not expect from someone running for the Democratic nomination to succeed President Obama,” she said. “Madame Secretary, that is a low blow,” replied Sanders, before getting in another dig during his closing statement: “One of us ran against Barack Obama. I was not that candidate.”
It’s all about the 1% and Wall Street versus everyone else for Bernie Sanders—even when he’s talking about race relations. Like Hillary Clinton, he needs to appeal to African-American and Hispanic voters in coming states, but he insists on doing so through his lens of class warfare. When he got a question from the moderators about the plight of black America, he noted that during the great recession, African Americans “lost half their wealth,” and “instead of tax breaks for billionaires,” a Sanders presidency would deliver jobs for kids. On the very next question, he downplayed the role of race in inequality, saying, “It’s a racial issue, but it’s also a general economic issue.”