House Votes to Repeal Cuts to Vets Benefits, Extend Sequester

But the $6 billion battle will be largely fought in the Senate.

US Representative John Boehner, Republican of Ohio, holds up his gavel after being re-elected as Speaker of the House alongside US Representative Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California and returning Minority Leader, during the opening session of the 113th US House of Representatives at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 3, 2013.  
National Journal
Stacy Kaper
Feb. 11, 2014, 10:19 a.m.

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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