The House of Representatives has moved to fund the Veterans Administration through the shutdown and into fiscal year 2014. The House passed the bill, H.J. Res. 72., on Thursday, October 3rd, with overwhelming Republican support. Democrat opposition was strong, but they still got 35 Democrats to sign on as well. The final vote was 259 in favor, 157 opposed.
The bill, dubbed the Honoring Our Promise to America’s Veterans Act, restores funding for disability compensation, monthly stipends under the GI Bill and survivors benefits.
The bill required a two-thirds majority for passage. It failed to pass on a first attempt on Tuesday, when just 33 House Democrats voted in favor.
The House of Representatives, controlled by Republicans, has passed a series of bills providing partial funding for various popular segments of government. This tactic puts Democrats in an uncomfortable position, as it forces Democrats to either go on record voting against funding popular government programs or provide their leadership, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and President Obama, progressively less leverage with which to negotiate with Republicans to keep the Affordable Care Act intact.
Today, more than 160 House Democrats chose to put politics before the needs of America’s veterans and their loved ones, said Rep. Jeff Miller (R FL) in a statement. November payments to veterans and their survivors for a variety of earned benefits are now in jeopardy in the event of a prolonged government shutdown. Our veterans have already gone above and beyond for our nation. The last thing they deserve is for the country they courageously defended to abandon them. It’s unfortunate that some in Congress seem to be fighting to ensure that happens.
The bill is not a complete restoration. The House did not authorize funding for IT, nor the VA Inspector Generals office, the National Cemetery Administration and for state veterans homes.
The total funding package for benefits also results in a $6 billion reduction compared to its own 2014 funding appropriation back in June, according to reporting from Rick Maze at the Military Times.
The Democratic-controlled Senate does not, however, plan to take up the bill, so its own Senators will not be forced into the vote. The White House staff has also indicated the President will veto the bill if it reaches his desk.
Curiously, as our colleagues at Military.com have noted, the Department of Veterans Affairs itself is not arguing to make the case for its own funding.
The House Committee on Veterans Affairs has scheduled a hearing on October 9th, at 10:30 AM, to gather information and testimony regarding the impact of the shutdown on veterans and their families.