On February 27th, 2014, by a vote of 44 to 52, the U.S. Senate failed to Table S. 1982, otherwise known as the "Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014".
This Bill, introduced on February 3rd, 2014 and sponsored by Senator Bernard Sanders (I - Vermont) and 28 Democratic co-sponsors was to do the following for hundreds of thousands more veterans every year:
It was estimated by the CBO that the Bill would cost $21 billion over 10 years and had the backing of all major U.S. veterans' groups and millions of America's 22 million veterans, including more than 2 million who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Senate Republicans also attempted to attach a provision (the Burr Bill) to the Bill that would have imposed new sanctions on Iran. The Bill was defeated by Senate Republicans
I think that it is important to see who voted against S.1982 (i.e. those Senators who voted "Yea" on the procedural vote):
Here's what one of the Republican naysayers, Jeff Sessions (R-AL) who helped to defeat the Tabling of the Bill, had to say:
" So now we have a veterans bill before us. Nobody, I do not believe, is more committed to veterans in this body than I have been, and so many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle want to do the right thing for veterans. But it is an audacious thing we are seeing here today...
I say to Senator Sanders and colleagues, the pending measure before us today, S. 1982, the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014--which is a good title for a bill--would cause the aggregate level of budget authority and outlays for fiscal year 2014, deemed pursuant to section 111 of Public Law 113-67, to be exceeded. Therefore, I raise a point of order under section 311(a)(2) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974.
It is using the veterans as a political tool, in my view. I do not think our veterans want their programs to be enhanced if every penny of money that is going to enhance those programs is added to the debt of the United States of America..
Our voters deserve better. Look at how they tend to maneuver this legislation. It is so absurd sometimes. We should laugh about it if it were not so serious. It is serious. The Sanders bill, the veterans’ bill--we are being told we must vote for it or they will accuse us of being unkind and unsupportive and unsympathetic to our veterans. That day is over. We are not going to be intimidated on this. We are going to do the right thing for veterans and America." (my bold)
Senator Sessions seemed far more concerned about the issue of the Democrats deliberately “busting” the Budget Control Act than he was about veterans, despite his protestations to the contrary. His fellow Republican Senators seemed more concerned about scoring political points by attaching the Burr Bill Iranian sanctions to S. 1982.
If you have the stomach for reading what is actually spoken in the Senate in the Congressional Record, you will notice that the Senators present during the debate over the Tabling of S. 1982 talked about just about anything but the business before them. Topics discussed ranged from Texas Independence Day to bulk data collection by the U.S government to IRS intrusion into poetical organizations to a call for finding out what happened at Benghazi by Senator Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina). It's always reassuring to see that Senators can stay on topic when discussing an issue as important as the welfare of millions of American veterans.
It will be interesting to see if there is any veteran backlash over the defeat of S. 1982. Unfortunately, the current highly partisan atmosphere in Washington has resulted in a totally ineffective Congress, something that Americans are growing increasingly accustomed to.