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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Senate-House Negotiations Break Down, VA Bill in Jeopardy

Disheartening events on Capitol Hill:

While their congressional aides scramble to prepare a package of vital veterans’ legislation, the House and Senate veterans’ affairs committee chairmen are pointing fingers over who doomed an omnibus benefits and construction bill for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, the Senate committee chairman, said the veterans’ bill is being held up because of the House veterans’ committee’s refusal to delete $600 million for a medical center for Charleston, S.C. The joint medical center was included in the House version of the bill at the urging of Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., House committee chairman ...

“Veterans must have improved access to better care, which means a more thoughtful approach to building facilities, more highly trained clinicians, and the best equipment possible,” Buyer said. “To refuse a shared medical facility through collaboration in Charleston is to champion the status quo and settle for mere changes at the margin. Our veterans deserve better.”

Buyer said the Senate has “obstinately refused to support an innovative” project “despite intense negotiations.” With the sides clearly drawn and no talks underway, House and Senate aides are compiling a separate list of must-pass veterans legislation, such as the extension of some homeless programs and grants, that are about to expire. More>>

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