The Trenches at Home: VA Bill Passes Five Months Later Than it Should Have
There is a serious argument to make that the United States government is more partisan, and thus more broken, than ever. While not primarily his fault, since President Obama took the oath of office the likelihood of reasonable compromise in Washington has become laughable. Yet, in spite of all this, sometimes the Legislative Branch manages to actually do something that doesn’t embarrass the country.
The Senate passed the VA reform bill late Thursday and, according to The Washington Post, is sending the bill to the White House for the President’s signature where he is sure to sign the bill into law. The law, comprised of two bills reconciled by the House and the Senate, provides $16 billion in funding (a billion less than previously reported this week) to the VA to fix its administrative problems that caused veterans to experience almost criminal wait times for appointments.
Legislators, many facing reelection this year, are sure to tout this bill as an accomplishment of bipartisanship. However, it isn’t. To offer praise now is to give extra credit to Congress for something it should have been doing in the first place. As the comedian Chris Rock once put it, it’s like expecting congratulations for never having been in jail, when one is not supposed to break the law in the first place.
It took Congress more than three months to address the largest crisis in the history of the VA and, as IAVA’s Paul Rieckhoff put it, “this bill…is not a silver bullet” when actually it “is only a Band-Aid and one that will soon fall off.” Almost a month before the VA scandal story was broken by CNN reporters Scott Bronstein and Drew Griffin the Senate failed to pass a bill aimed at VA reform.
According to Reuters, “U.S. Senate Republicans blocked legislation on [Februrary 27] that would have expanded federal healthcare and education programs for veterans, saying the $24 billion bill would bust the budget.” While the news of the VA scandal was shocking to most Americans, veterans and their families were aware of the problems well beforehand. However the VA reform bill died because, “Senate Republicans, backed by their leader, Mitch McConnell, attempted to attach controversial legislation,” and the issue of veterans’ health and welfare got lost in the partisan political muck.