Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 2, 2015

Sanders Negotiating for Bipartisan VA Bill

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., said he hopes to craft a bipartisan compromise to address to the lengthy wait times at VA hospitals.

“We are working on an agreement,” Sanders said.

He added that a committee hearing on the issue scheduled for Thursday was postponed, in part, to give more time for negotiations. Senate Republicans, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, unveiled their own VA plan Tuesday.

“I think what the hearing was about was to hear my proposal, to hear McCain’s proposal, if we could work out an agreement I think that we could expedite a situation that needs an expeditious resolution,” Sanders said.

Sen. Richard M. Burr, R-N.C., the ranking member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, was hopeful a deal could be reached as soon as Wednesday.

“I think the longer [the negotiations go] the less likely it is” a deal will be struck, Burr said.

A senior Senate Republican aide said these talks are the more likely course for a solution, rather than a deal proposed Tuesday by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for a vote on a House-passed veterans bill in exchange for allowing a vote on Sanders’ bill.

Reid said Tuesday he doesn’t object too strenuously to the House-passed bill, despite concerns over the lack of due process safeguards. That proposal would give the VA secretary authority to immediately fire VA senior executives based on performance.

But in order to speed the process, Reid’s deal precluded the offering of any amendments, something Republicans were unlikely to agree to.

The Vermont independent’s package would authorize 27 new VA medical facilities and the hiring of doctors and nurses to reduce wait times, among numerous other steps.

McCain’s proposal would allow veterans to seek medical care outside of VA centers and also implement systemic changes to the VA. It also includes the House-passed measure. The proposal requires to the VA secretary to establish penalties and procedures for employees who falsify data, modify performance plans and consider outside reviews.

“The issue is waiting times, the issue is how do we make sure that every veteran in this country can get into a VA facility in a reasonable period of time,” Sanders said. “And if they can’t what do they do, do they go to private doctors, can they go to other medical providers; we’ve go to work out the details. There are other issues as well.”

If an agreement is reached soon action this week will be difficult, as about a dozen senators are headed to Normandy Thursday for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

  • ShadrachSmith

    The unsolvable problem with government health care is that every entrenched government bureaucracy’s primary mission is treating its bureaucrats well. The theoretical mission – health care or whatever – falls from the daily concerns of those in charge. Remember Jeff Neely’s famous bathtub picture? That is a good visual metaphor for the biggest problem with all bureaucracies.

  • Angel Perea

    KEEPING IT THOUGHTFULLY HONEST: There they go again with continuing cold war of politics! The President and his Military leaders said freeing U.S. soldiers from enemy captivity is our priority or any captured American soldier. We don’t leave our own behind! But why we expect these chicken hawk cowards that never served to understand this concept? The record shows that Republicans are only interested being obstructive and or politically disagreeable regardless of any decision this President makes. If Putin or Assad wanted to trade for one of their war prisoner for one of our captured American soldiers, these hypocrites would find or create an argument to support Putin or Assad against our President regardless of cost or consequences. Amnesty4Snowden on a veteran’s plea that served and came back home, In response to these political cowards,: “On one hand you say both sides are equally corrupt – then in the next breath you decry the way congress treated veterans. If you look at the vote it is clear which side of the isle supports vets and which side does not!” So we must ask about the 1.7 million Americans including over 20,000 veterans lost their nemployment benefits when the republicans in Congress failed to act last December. Sadly over 3,000 more veterans will lose their benefit every month that politicians in Washington deny them a vote. So let’s give credit where it is due: The 41 flag waving senate republicans with their tea party clowns in Congress and chicken hawks that have never served are now voicing to obstruct the return of a captured American soldier just like they had NO problem voting to obstruct Senator Bernie Sanders Vets legislation that was supported numerous Vets organizations! Now I find it remarkable that anyone thinks that Americans will re-elect these same hypocrites for not taking care of our War veterans or now creating a controversy to recover Bergdahl.

  • Haymitch Abernathy

    Certainly, the simple freedom to vote one’s self into servitude, thus giving up liberty, is not liberty at all.

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