Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will try to push forward on a wide-ranging veterans’ bill once Congress returns later this month.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, a liberal independent from Vermont, previously said his legislation could be taken up on Feb. 6, but it got waylaid by a pair of proposals that sought to reverse the roughly $6 billion in cuts to veteran pensions included in the December budget agreement.
After a nearly two-month squabble over how to pay for the pension funding, the Senate passed a bill Wednesday that reverses the 1 percent cut to working-age retirees’ cost-of-living adjustment by extending the sequester on Medicare spending by a year.
Sanders’s legislation also reverses the COLA cuts and tackles a swath of veterans issues, including health care, education, and employment. Whether the legislation will move forward with the pension provision intact is unclear. A staffer suggested that if the Senate passed other COLA legislation, the Sanders proposal could be amended and the provision removed, or the Senate could pass it as is.
Either way, Sanders is expected to receive pushback on his legislation from Senate Republicans, and the measure would face an uphill — if not virtually impossible — battle in the House. Republicans in both chambers are objecting to Sanders’s use of Overseas Contingency Operations funds to pay for a large chunk of the bill — which is expected to cost $24 billion.
OCO funds have been used to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and Republicans argue that with most, if not all, U.S. troops expected out of Afghanistan by the end of this year, the OCO funds — which aren’t subject to congressional budget caps — aren’t a reliable source of funding for veterans.
The Senate is expected to reconvene on Feb. 24, but it’s likely the vote to end debate on Sanders’s legislation won’t be taken up until later in the week. Senators first have to deal with a handful of nominations, a process that could be drawn out if the full debate time is used.
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Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”
"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identified on Friday the makes and models of 12 million cars and motorcycles that have been recalled because of defective air bag inflators made by Japanese supplier Takata. The action includes 4.3 million Chryslers; 4.5 million Hondas; 1.6 million Toyotas; 731,000 Mazdas; 402,000 Nissans; 383,000 Subarus; 38,000 Mitsubishis; and 2,800 Ferraris. ... Analysts have said it could take years for all of the air bags to be replaced. Some have questioned whether Takata can survive the latest blow."
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says 41 Secret Service agents have been disciplined in the fallout of an investigation over the agency's leak of personnel files. The leaker, who has resigned, released records showing that Oversight and Government Reform Chair Jason Chaffetz—who was leading an investigation of Secret Service security lapses—had applied for a job at the agency years before. The punishments include reprimands and suspension without pay. "Like many others I was appalled by the episode reflected in the Inspector General’s report, which brought real discredit to the Secret Service," said Johnson.
Mitt Romney spoke in an interview with the Wall Street Journal about his decision to challenge Donald Trump. “Friends warned me, ‘Don’t speak out, stay out of the fray,’ because criticizing Mr. Trump will only help him by giving him someone else to attack. They were right. I became his next target, and the incoming attacks have been constant and brutal.” Still, "I wanted my grandkids to see that I simply couldn’t ignore what Mr. Trump was saying and doing, which revealed a character and temperament unfit for the leader of the free world.”
"A bill to help Puerto Rico handle its $70 billion debt crisis is facing an uncertain future in the Senate. No Senate Democrats have endorsed a bill backed by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, while some are actively fighting it. ... On the Republican side, senators say they’re hopeful to pass a bill but don’t know if they can support the current legislation — which is expected to win House approval given its backing from leaders in that chamber."