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The House bill would offset the cost of the repealed cuts by extending the budget sequester for mandatory spending cuts by an additional year.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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"House GOP leaders on Tuesday night pitched a new strategy to avert a looming government shutdown that includes children's health funding and the delay of ObamaCare taxes. Lawmakers need to pass a short-term stopgap bill by midnight Friday, when money for the federal government runs out. The latest GOP plan would keep the government’s lights on through Feb. 16, and be coupled with a six-year extension of funding for the popular Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The continuing resolution or CR would also delay ObamaCare's medical device and Cadillac taxes for two years, and the health insurance tax for one year starting in 2019."
"A key Senate negotiator and White House official on Tuesday expressed little hope for an immigration deal this week but nonetheless predicted that Congress can avoid a government shutdown." Marc Short, the White House Capitol Hill liaison, said he's optimistic about a deal on DACA overall, but not this week. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn also said he doubts an agreement can be made before week's end.
"Homeland Security Kristjen Nielsen confirmed that President Trump used 'tough language' in an Oval Office meeting last week over immigration policy, but she said she did not hear him describe some African countries and Haiti as 'shithole countries,' as has been reported." When pressed she, also said she "didn't know" whether Norway was a predominately white country.
"Chances of a government shutdown grew Monday as Republicans concluded that they would be unable to reach a long-term spending accord by the Friday deadline. GOP leaders are now turning to a short-term funding measure in hopes of keeping agencies open while talks continue, but Democratic leaders say they are unlikely to support any deal that does not protect young illegal immigrants. Aides to key negotiators from both parties planned to meet Tuesday in an effort to rekindle budget talks, setting up a Wednesday meeting of the leaders themselves. If they cannot agree, the government would shut down at midnight Friday for the first time since 2013."
“'As a junior foreign service officer, I signed an oath to serve faithfully the president and his administration in an apolitical fashion, even when I might not agree with certain policies. My instructors made clear that if I believed I could not do that, I would be honor bound to resign. That time has come,' Feeley said, according to an excerpt of his resignation letter read to Reuters."