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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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.”
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.
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.