Don't Let Senate Republicans "Torpedo" Historic Veterans Bill

By:  Jamie Reno

If you've read this news blog for any stretch of time, you know that I'm neither a knee-jerk liberal nor a reactionary conservative. While I lean left on most social issues, I'm demonstrably more conservative than many of my lefty pals. On the other hand, I'm certainly more liberal than my right-wing buddies. And I feel compelled to say that what is happening in Congress right now with regard to an historic bill for America's veterans is despicable. And yes, I'm looking at you, Senate Republicans.

As many of you know, there is a comprehensive, bipartisan veterans bill now before the Senate. The bill, S. 1982, would if passed expand healthcare, education opportunities, employment and other benefits for our former warriors. It would specifically allow more veterans to receive treatment at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities, improve care and services for veterans who were victims of military sexual assault, advance the use of alternative medical therapies and treatments, guarantee that veterans going to school on the GI Bill pay in-state tuition, and expand dental care. 

But GOP senators, who are typically sane and less inclined to do something this crazy than their reliably do-nothing counterparts in the House, are demanding a vote on an amendment that would reduce the costs of the $21 billion legislation and add language to the bill imposing new sanctions on Iran if the current political efforts to curb that country's nuclear program don't succeed. 

In other words, these lawmakers, led by Senate Minority Leader and world-class obstructionist Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), are holding this bill and America's veterans hostage over an entirely separate issue. And if these children don't get their way, the bill will likely die. This is beyond shameful. And I think it's gonna backfire. It's never a good idea for legislators to use veterans as pawns in a political chess game. Cynical, exploitative political tactics involving our war heroes just don't sit well with Americans of any and all political stripes.