The largest piece of veterans legislation in decades — aimed at expanding health care, education and other benefits — was rejected Thursday by the Senate on a procedural issue after proponents failed to obtain 60 votes to keep the bill alive.
Wrangling over an issue -- veterans -- that often receives bipartisan support, the legislation died on a vote of 56-41, with only two Republicans voting for it.
Most Republicans said it was too large, too costly and would burden a Department of Veterans Affairs already struggling to keep up with promised benefits.
Sen Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent and chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee who authored the bill, argued that many provisions in the bill have won bipartisan support in other pieces of pending legislation before Congress.
Republicans complained about how to pay for it. Sanders' legislation had more than 140 provisions costing $21 billion over 10 years.
Most of that money was to come from billions of dollars the government projected it would be allowed to spend on wars overseas in the fight against al-Qaeda.
But Republicans argued that this is "phony" budgeting because U.S. participation in the Iraq War is over and operations in Afghanistan are winding down.
The legislation would have restored cost-of-living increases for the pensions of future military retirees; expanded VA health care by allowing acquisition of 27 new medical facilities and paid for reproductive services for 2,300 troops wounded in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
It also would have expanded compensation for family caregivers of disabled veterans — something now provided for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan — to families of veterans of all wars.
The bill was supported by nearly all veterans groups.
And yes, this is where I give Bernie Sanders credit because passing legislation in the Senate is his job, and this is absolutely a worthy piece of legislation. But hey, $21 billion over ten years is a fraction of the Pentagon budget, literally less than a half a percent of what we spend on our military over that time period, and that was too much for Republicans.
Literally a fraction of one F-35 Joint Strike Fighter's cost. Oh well. Can't actually give the Department of Veteran's Affairs money, because screw them, right?
But military voters overwhelmingly voted for Republicans in November. Congrats, soliders, sailors and airmen, you got what you voted for.