Sanders Suggests Using War Funding for Veterans Bill

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
Jan. 22, 2014, 3:30 p.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders sug­ges­ted Wed­nes­day that war funds could be used to pay for some or all of his om­ni­bus vet­er­ans bill, but he could face an up­hill battle in the House.

The bill, which Sanders in­tro­duced last week, tackles a swath of vet­er­ans is­sues, in­clud­ing health care, edu­ca­tion, em­ploy­ment, and — an is­sue on the minds of many mem­bers of Con­gress — restor­ing the roughly $6 bil­lion in pen­sions cut dur­ing the budget agree­ment to work­ing-age mil­it­ary re­tir­ees.

Sanders pro­posed off­set­ting the cost of the le­gis­la­tion by us­ing the Over­seas Con­tin­gency Op­er­a­tions funds, which have been used to pay for the wars in Ir­aq and Afgh­anistan.

“I be­lieve, hav­ing looked at this, that there is more than enough money in that fund to fund this le­gis­la­tion,” Sanders said. But he noted that the fi­nal de­cision will have to be made in con­junc­tion with Sen­ate Demo­crat­ic lead­er­ship.

Sanders told re­port­ers Wed­nes­day that he ex­pects the le­gis­la­tion to cost $30 bil­lion over 10 years.

The Ver­mont in­de­pend­ent said Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id wants to bring the bill be­fore the Sen­ate “as quickly as he pos­sibly can,” but sidestepped ques­tions on a spe­cif­ic timeline.

Re­id has filed the bill un­der Rule 14 — which al­lows le­gis­la­tion to skip the com­mit­tee pro­cess — mean­ing the pro­pos­al could be taken up as soon as the Sen­ate re­con­venes next week.

“This is one of the most com­pre­hens­ive pieces of vet­er­ans le­gis­la­tion that has been in­tro­duced in dec­ades,” Sanders said, adding that the bill tackles many con­cerns raised in re­cent years.

Ap­prox­im­ately 18 mil­it­ary and vet­er­ans or­gan­iz­a­tions have backed the pro­pos­al, and the sen­at­or said he be­lieves it will soon have the sup­port of every ma­jor vet­er­ans or­gan­iz­a­tion in the coun­try.

The bill in­cludes sev­er­al pieces of le­gis­la­tion pre­vi­ously passed out of the Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, and Sanders noted that many of those bills re­ceived bi­par­tis­an sup­port. He said he has yet to reach out to Re­pub­lic­an col­leagues, but plans to do so soon.

Al­though Sanders said he is “op­tim­ist­ic that we can work with our friends in the House,” a Re­pub­lic­an aide with the House Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs Com­mit­tee quickly pushed back against the pro­pos­al.

“That money is not a reg­u­lar budget item and by design will run out once Over­seas Con­tin­gency Op­er­a­tions have ended, and there­fore is prob­ably not the best vehicle to use as an off­set,” the aide said, re­fer­ring to us­ing the OCO funds to pay for the vet­er­ans bill.

A 2012 Con­gres­sion­al Budget Of­fice re­port notes that “there is no ‘OCO fund’ set aside in the Treas­ury from which re­sources can be drawn in fu­ture years.”

The Re­pub­lic­an aide ad­ded that al­though mem­bers “sup­port the ul­ti­mate goals of a num­ber of ini­ti­at­ives” in Sanders’s bill, “we feel vet­er­ans would be bet­ter served if the Sen­ate took a more meas­ured, piece­meal ap­proach to passing some of the ini­ti­at­ives.”

What We're Following See More »
PROCEDURES NOT FOLLOWED
Trump Not on Ballot in Minnesota
2 days ago
THE LATEST
MOB RULE?
Trump on Immigration: ‘I Don’t Know, You Tell Me’
3 days ago
THE LATEST

Perhaps Donald Trump can take a plebiscite to solve this whole messy immigration thing. At a Fox News town hall with Sean Hannity last night, Trump essentially admitted he's "stumped," turning to the audience and asking: “Can we go through a process or do you think they have to get out? Tell me, I mean, I don’t know, you tell me.”

Source:
BIG CHANGE FROM WHEN HE SELF-FINANCED
Trump Enriching His Businesses with Donor Money
4 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.

Source:
QUESTIONS OVER IMMIGRATION POLICY
Trump Cancels Rallies
5 days ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump probably isn't taking seriously John Oliver's suggestion that he quit the race. But he has canceled or rescheduled rallies amid questions over his stance on immigration. Trump rescheduled a speech on the topic that he was set to give later this week. Plus, he's also nixed planned rallies in Oregon and Las Vegas this month.

Source:
‘STRATEGY AND MESSAGING’
Sean Hannity Is Also Advising Trump
5 days ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump's Fox News brain trust keeps growing. After it was revealed that former Fox chief Roger Ailes is informally advising Trump on debate preparation, host Sean Hannity admitted over the weekend that he's also advising Trump on "strategy and messaging." He told the New York Times: “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. I never claimed to be a journalist.”

Source:
×