Crapo, Risch Help GOP Block Democratic Bill to Boost Veterans Benefits

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UPDATE: Correction; this is a story, referring to a vote in the U.S. Senate that took place on February 27, 2014.


ORIGINAL STORY

Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate spent the better part of Thursday blaming each other for the death of a measure that would have provided nearly $21 billion for the nation's veterans' medical care, education and job training.

Republicans stood firm, denying the Democrats' effort to garner the necessary 60 votes for passage. But the GOP used a procedural move to block the bill, instead attaching an amendment that would have sliced the size of the funding and added sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program.

Idaho GOP Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch joined 39 other Republican senators, thus leaving 56 other Senate votes to come just short of the needed 60 to keep it alive.

Meanwhile the Veterans Administration said it was anxiously awaiting the bill's passage to help curb a backlog of hundreds of thousands of benefit claims that have been awaiting action for more than 125 days. The proposed measure also would have bolstered programs for veterans who are victims of sexual abuse and would have increased dental care.  Additionally, the bill would have increased benefits to spouses of deceased veterans.

"I personally—I have to say this honestly—have a hard time understanding how anyone could vote for tax breaks for billionaires, for millionaires, for large corporations and then say we don't have the resources to protect our veterans," said Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, the measure's chief author.