Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a bill that sought to provide veterans with greater access to health care and education over an amendment aimed at increasing sanctions on Iran.
Democrats failed to reach the 60 votes necessary to overcome the GOP obstruction.
Republicans have been trying to get a vote on an Iran sanctions measure, which has stalled after experts and Obama administration officials convinced most members of the Democratic caucus that it would derail talks with Iran over its nuclear program and could lead to war.
After numerous attempts failed, the Senate GOP used Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) veterans’ benefits bill to bring the issue up again but Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) refused to go along. “Republicans say they want to help veterans. They have a strange way of showing it. We introduced a bill that would do just that. Republicans immediately inject partisan politics into the mix, insisting on amendments that have nothing to do with helping veterans,” Reid said on Wednesday.
One of the nation’s largest veterans groups, the American Legion, agreed. “Iran is a serious issue that Congress needs to address, but it cannot be tied to S. 1982, which is extremely important as our nation prepares to welcome millions of U.S. military servicemen and women home from war,” American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger said in a statement this week. “This comprehensive bill aims to help veterans find good jobs, get the health care they need and make in-state tuition rates applicable to all who are using their GI Bill benefits.”
“There was a right way to vote and a wrong way to vote today, and 41 senators chose the wrong way,” the American Legion tweeted on Thursday.
“Veterans don’t have time for this nonsense and veterans are tired of being used as political chew toys,” said IAVA founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff, according to the Washington Post.
Sanders’ bill paid for the benefits by using some funds that would have otherwise been earmarked for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Senate Republicans like Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who had no objections using those funds to pay for the wars, called it a “bogus gimmick.”
“How can we afford $100 billion in tax breaks for the wealthiest three-tenths of Americans, but we can’t pay for veterans benefits?” Sanders tweeted.
A bipartisan expert group said in a recent report that new Iran sanctions now would undermine the Obama administration’s diplomacy with Iran. James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, said last month that “right now the imposition of more sanctions would be counterproductive.”