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.
What We're Following See More »
"Trump is ready to oust Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster and find a new national security adviser before the North Korea meetings in May, multiple sources told CNN Thursday. The move may be delayed because there's no final decision on a replacement, sources say. The timing of an announcement is unclear -- one source said it could come as soon as Friday, though others say that is unlikely."
"Robert S. Mueller III has subpoenaed the Trump Organization to turn over documents, including some related to Russia, according to two people briefed on the matter. The order is the first known time that the special counsel demanded documents directly related to President Trump’s businesses." The subpoena is proof that the investigation will likely drag on "for at least several more months," and also indicates Mueller may be "broadening his investigation to examine the role foreign money may have played in funding Mr. Trump’s political activities."
"Documents marked 'HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL PROCEEDING' for the first time tie President Donald Trump’s flagship holding company to the continuing effort to silence a former adult-film actress who says she had an affair with Mr. Trump. A Trump Organization lawyer, Jill A. Martin, is listed as counsel in an arbitration demand for Essential Consultants LLC, a Delaware company formed by Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer and used to pay $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford in exchange for her silence, according to Feb. 22 arbitration documents filed in Orange County, Calif."