Sunday, July 27, 2014

Boehner Still Afraid To Whip His Obstructionist Caucus Into Line On Fixing The V.A.


Almost every Senate Republican-- even extremist obstructionists like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee and Richard Burr-- followed Bernie Sanders' lead last month to pass a bill to address the sordid situation at the V.A. It passed 93-3 with the only dissections from mentally unstable right-wingers Ron Johnson (R-WI), Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (R-KKK) and Bob Corker (R-TN).

The House Republicans can't quite get their shit together on the whole V.A. mess they've been desperately trying to turn into a talking point. Talking points are a lot easier for them than actually doing anything. So, Thursday evening they failed to pass a motion to instruct their conferees to agree to the original, bipartisan Senate-passed V.A. overhaul. It failed by 2 votes, 207-205, only 13 Republicans with the guts to stand up to the Tea party sociopaths and obstructionists. Every Democrat voted "yes" and the 13 Republicans were a gaggle of relatively mainstream conservatives (or Members in fear of losing in November): Jeff Denham (CA), Charlie Dent (PA), Mike Fitzpatrick (PA), Chris Gibson (NY), Gregg Harper (MS), Joe Heck (NV), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Candice Miller (MI), Steve Pearce (NM), Ed Royce (CA), Lee Terry (NE), Fred Upton (MI), and Frank Wolf (VA).

Boehner didn't vote but he knew he'd have to get the bill-- unpopular with the crackpot base only because it signals cooperation instead of anarchy-- passed. So, the following day he allowed it to be voted on again. Less than 24 hours after it failed, a dozen more Republicans crossed the aisle and voted with the Democrats for veterans. These were the 12 who voted "no" on Thursday and "yes" on Friday:
Andy Barr (KY)
Michael Burgess (TX)
Steve Daines (MT)
Renee Ellmers (NC)
Cory Gardner (CO)
Sam Johnson (TX)
Walter Jones (NC)
Leonard Lance (NJ)
Tom Petri (WI)
Bill Posey (FL)
Tom Rooney (FL)
Chris Smith (NJ)
Denham, Harper, Pearce and Wolf had voted for the veterans on Thursday but changed their minds and voted against veterans on Friday, nearly upending the whole opportunity to address the V.A. emergency.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders, the point person for the compromise in the Senate wants to allow vets to go to private doctors if they face long waits for appointments at a V.A. hospital or if they live more than 40 miles from one. His proposal would shave around $10 billion from the original Senate bill that's already passed and which House Republicans say is too expensive. You ever notice that conservatives are never concerned about the cost of sending men and women to fight in wars but then want to nickel and dime the wounded to death when they come back broken and shattered? That's part of the inherent nature of conservatism. It's what the essence of conservatism is all about. From Sanders' official website:
Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders on Thursday detailed compromise legislation that he offered to House negotiators one week ago that would reform the VA and give it the tools to provide quality, timely health care to veterans. The proposal (click here for details) would address the need for short-term, emergency access to care while strengthening VA’s capacity to address veterans’ needs in the long term.

The Senate voted 93-3 on June 11 for a bill that the Congressional Budget Office estimated would cost $35 billion. The House separately passed veterans legislation that CBO estimated would cost $44 billion. Sanders’ latest proposal-- given last Friday to House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.)-- would cost less than $25 billion.

Instead of working constructively toward a compromise, Miller unilaterally called a “conference committee meeting” to unveil his take-it-or-leave-it gambit. “This is a sad indication that the House leadership is not serious about negotiations. We don’t need more speeches and posturing. We need serious negotiations-- 24/7 if necessary-- to resolve our differences in order to pass critical legislation,” Sanders said.

“The major veterans’ organizations have been clear about the needs of the VA. It is time for the House to pay attention,” Sanders added. He was referring to a letter on Wednesday from the nation’s major veterans groups on Wednesday backing increased funding for more doctors, nurses and space at VA facilities. (Read the letter.)

Sanders said the proposal that he detailed for Miller on Monday concedes that some of the costs of this bill should be offset and would provide more than $2.5 billion in savings from within the Veterans’ Affairs Committees’ jurisdiction. “What it does not concede,” Sanders said, “is that the cost of war is expensive and that the cost of war does not end when the last shots are fired and the last missiles are launched.  The cost of war continues until the last veteran receives the care and benefits that he or she has earned on the battlefield.”
Meanwhile, 116 Democrats signed this letter to Reid and Boehner demanding that there be no congressional vacation until an agreement is readhed on the V.A. problem:

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