Well, give them credit for drama — in Congress’ last days before ending a grueling four-week work month, the Senate’s Bernie Sanders and House Rep Jeff Miller (R-FL) have reached a deal on a Veterans’ bill. And, oddly, it doesn’t seem to entail the sacrifice of virgins to Ayn Rand.
While the VA issue has long been a bipartisan one, it’s surprising to see that the tentative compromise legislation developed by Sanders and Miller is exactly that: a bipartisan compromise, where both sides get some of what they want. But objectively, one side seems to have gotten a little bit more than the other.
While details are still out pending today’s news conference, it would seem that Democrats and Sanders specifically win on a few key points. The bill is expected to authorize billions in funding for veterans, though it’ll probably be a good bit short of the $25 billion a year, recommended, and well short of the $50 billion a year projected by the CBO for the previous Senate bill.
The funding will likely go to leasing at least 27 more VA hospital offices, and VA Secretary Sloan Gibson is expected to get at least some of the $17.6 billion he asked for hiring new doctors.
The GOP’ got broader powers for the VA Secretary to fire senior officials found guilty of mismanagement, and it’s likely they got a few budget cuts in other areas to offset the cost of the program. As of right now, there’s no indication of revenue being raised by increasing taxes on anyone — more likely we’re looking a some bone-cutting and horse-trading for minor cuts to social programs and a few tax breaks for Wall Street.
In the middle are provisions that make it easier for veterans who have been waiting more than 30 days for an appointment to go to outside care providers. That might seem like a shill to privatization, but an updated audit by the VA this month has shown that about 10 percent of vets still have to wait more than a month for treatment. So, in the name of getting people off of waiting lists, then fair enough.
All things considered, if the agreement goes through as a bill by July 4th as-is, then this could easily be declared as a solid ‘win‘ for Dems. Sanders’ plan certainly appears to have come out the better represented of the two. But, of course, the GOP will also declare it a win, and probably give award themselves Medals of Honor for doing their jobs.
But (the way it looks right now) the real “winners” here might, finally, be our veterans
Isn’t it nice having a functional government for a few days?
Here’s the news report from CBS This Morning.