Reid Wants to Move Forward on Veterans’ Bill Post-Recess

But the legislation faces some pushback from Senate Republicans.

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
Feb. 13, 2014, 6:11 a.m.

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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LEGACY PLAY
Sanders and Clinton Spar Over … President Obama
1 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

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.”

THE 1%
Sanders’s Appeals to Minorities Still Filtered Through Wall Street Talk
2 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

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.”

DIRECT APPEAL TO MINORITIES, WOMEN
Clinton Already Pivoting Her Messaging
3 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

It’s been said in just about every news story since New Hampshire: the primaries are headed to states where Hillary Clinton will do well among minority voters. Leaving nothing to chance, she underscored that point in her opening statement in the Milwaukee debate tonight, saying more needs to be done to help “African Americans who face discrimination in the job market” and immigrant families. She also made an explicit reference to “equal pay for women’s work.” Those boxes she’s checking are no coincidence: if she wins women, blacks and Hispanics, she wins the nomination.

THE QUESTION
How Many Jobs Would Be Lost Under Bernie Sanders’s Single-Payer System?
11 hours ago
THE ANSWER

More than 11 million, according to Manhattan Institute fellow Yevgeniy Feyman, writing in RealClearPolicy.

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WEEKEND DATA DUMP
State to Release 550 More Clinton Emails on Saturday
11 hours ago
THE LATEST

Under pressure from a judge, the State Department will release about 550 of Hillary Clinton’s emails—“roughly 14 percent of the 3,700 remaining Clinton emails—on Saturday, in the middle of the Presidents Day holiday weekend.” All of the emails were supposed to have been released last month. Related: State subpoenaed the Clinton Foundation last year, which brings the total number of current Clinton investigations to four, says the Daily Caller.

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