Last-Minute Flip Opens Window for Veterans’ Benefits Bill

Major hurdles to passage remain.

 Corporal Arnold Franco, who served in the United States Army from 1943 to 1945 rides in a vehicle during the Veteran's Day Parade on November 11, 2013 in New York City.
National Journal
Stacy Kaper
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Stacy Kaper
Feb. 10, 2014, 11:01 a.m.

Just hours be­fore a sure-to-fail vote to re­store more than $6 bil­lion in fund­ing for mil­it­ary be­ne­fits, Sen­ate Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans now ap­pear ready to move the meas­ure for­ward.

Last week, Demo­crats had planned a Monday night vote to re­store the fund­ing, which was cut as part of Decem­ber’s budget deal. They as­sumed Re­pub­lic­ans would block the bill be­cause it lacked a spend­ing off­set and would in­crease the na­tion­al de­fi­cit.

But by Monday, just hours ahead of the vote, seni­or Re­pub­lic­an and Demo­crat­ic Sen­ate aides said that they ex­pec­ted the cham­ber to eas­ily find the re­quired 60 votes to pro­ceed to a de­bate on re­vers­ing the cuts. The en­su­ing de­bate on how to un­wind the cuts is likely take up most of the week.

The meas­ure, however, still has to clear sev­er­al hurdles. Re­pub­lic­ans are still balk­ing at the lack of a budget off­set, and they plan to push for changes to it as it moves for­ward.

A seni­or Re­pub­lic­an aide said Re­pub­lic­ans felt the vet­er­ans is­sue was too im­port­ant to let pass an op­por­tun­ity to move the meas­ure for­ward. So in­stead of block­ing the bill, the aide said, they’re try­ing to force Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id to al­low de­bate on Re­pub­lic­an amend­ments that would pay for the cost of re­vers­ing the pen­sion pro­vi­sion.

Sev­er­al Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans have ral­lied around an idea from New Hamp­shire Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Kelly Ayotte that aims to close loop­holes to pre­vent un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants from en­joy­ing the child tax cred­it.

Some seni­or Demo­crats like Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man Carl Lev­in, of Michigan have pre­ferred a pay­for from New Hamp­shire Demo­crat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen that would close off­shore tax loop­holes.

Either pay­for is con­sidered a non­starter to the op­pos­ite polit­ic­al party.

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