Senate Democrats

Objection to H.R.3521, Vets Affairs Major Medical Facility Lease Authorization

This morning, Senator Vitter asked unanimous consent the Senate take up and pass H.R.3521, the Department of Veterans Affairs Major Medical Facility Lease Authorization Act of 2013.

 

Senator Sanders objected to Senator Vitter’s request on the basis that the bill and many other significant provisions are included in S.1982, the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014.

 

The unofficial transcript of the exchange is below.

 

{09:59:08} (MR. VITTER) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT }

THE SECOND NATIONAL AND LOUISIANA ISSUE I WANT TO DISCUSS HAS TO DO

WITH VETERANS AND VETERANS HEALTH CARE WHICH WE’VE BEEN TALKING

ABOUT ON THE SENATE FLOOR FOR SOME TIME NOW. SPECIFICALLY, THE

NEED TO MOVE FORWARD WITH 27 FULLY APPROVED, FULLY AUTHORIZED

V.A. COMMUNITY-BASED CLINICS THAT HAVE BEEN STALLED BECAUSE OF

BUREAUCRATIC PROBLEMS. NOW THESE — AGAIN, THESE CLINICS ARE

AROUND THE COUNTRY. TWO ARE IN LOUISIANA, ONE IN LAFAYETTE, ONE

IN LAKE CHARLES. THESE CLINICS HAVE BEEN APPROVED BY THE V.A.,

HAVE BEEN IN THEIR PLAN FOR SOME TIME. THEY ARE FULLY

AUTHORIZED. WE THOUGHT THEY WERE FULLY PAID FOR UNTIL, FIRST,

THE V.A. MADE SOME BUREAUCRATIC MISTAKES TO DELAY THE LAKE

CHARLES AND LAFAYETTE CLINICS IN PARTICULAR, AND THEN OUT OF

THE BLUE THE C.B.O. CHANGED WAIT THEY SCORE ALL OF THESE

CLINICS AND ALL OF THESE ISSUES AND CREATED ANOTHER

BUREAUCRATIC HURDLE. MR. PRESIDENT, AGAIN THE GOOD NEWS IS WE

CAME TOGETHER IN A BIPARTISAN WAY AND HAVE A SOLUTION TO THOSE

PURELY BUREAUCRATIC HURDLES SO THAT ALL OF THESE CLINICS CAN

MOVE FORWARD EXPEDITIOUSLY.

 

BILL THAT WOULD DO THAT, THAT WOULD TAKE CARE OF THESE

BUREAUCRATIC HURDLES. THEY PASSED IT ON THE CONSENT CALENDAR BY

A WHOPPING BIPARTISAN MARGIN. AND SO I COME TO THE FLOOR, MR.

PRESIDENT, URGING ALL OF US TO DO THE SAME. SPECIFICALLY, I

HAVE AN AMENDMENT TO THE BILL THAT ALSO MAKES IT EVEN MORE

FISCALLY SUSTAINABLE BY HAVING A PAY-FOR FOR ANY CONCEIVABLE

COST TO THIS BILL, AND THAT IS WHAT MY AMENDMENT WOULD DO. NOW,

THIS V.A. CLINIC LEGISLATION WAS IN THE SANDERS VETERANS BILL

LAST WEEK, AND IT WAS IN THE BURR ALTERNATIVE. IT WAS IN BOTH

THE DEMOCRATIC AND THE REPUBLICAN VETERANS PACKAGES. NEITHER OF

THOSE PACKAGES PASSED. THE SANDERS BILL WAS DEFEATED ON A

BUDGET POINT OF ORDER, WHICH I SUPPORTED, BECAUSE I DON’T THINK

IT’S PROPERLY PAID FOR AND IS SUSTAINABLE BOTH IN TERMS OF OUR

BUDGET AND, EVEN MORE IMPORTANTLY FOR VETERANS, HOW THE VETERAN

SYSTEM WORKS AND HANDLES ITS CURRENT PATIENT LOAD. THE BURR

BILL NEVER EVEN GOT A VOTE. WE HAVE DISAGREEMENTS ABOUT THOSE

LARGER PACKAGES. THOSE ARE REAL SUBSTANTIAL DISAGREEMENTS. BUT

IN THE MIDST OF THAT, MR. PRESIDENT, I WOULD HOPE WE CAN AGREE

TO WHAT WE CAN AGREE ON. AND THESE V. CLINICS CERTAINLY — AND

THESE V.A. CLINICS CERTAINLY FALL INTO THAT CATEGORY. WE HAVE

CLEARED ALL OBJECTIONS TO THIS V.A. CLINIC PIECE SPECIFICALLY.

WE HAVE ADDRESSED ALL ISSUES HAVING TO DO WITH THESE V.A.

CLINICS, IN PART THROUGH MY AMENDMENT AT THE DESK. THE ONLY

POSSIBLE OBJECTION I KNOW OF IS THE FACT THAT A LARGER PACKAGE

IS NOT PASSIBLE. WELL, I UNDERSTAND THEIR BIG ARGUMENTS ABOUT

THAT LARGER PACKAGE. THOSE ARE LEGITIMATE DIFFERENCES OF

OPINION. I DON’T THINK THAT SHOULD STAND IN THE WAY OF US

AGREEING TO WHAT WE CAN AGREE ON AND MOVE FORWARD WITH AN

IMPORTANT PIECE OF THE PUZZLE FOR VETERANS HEALTH CARE, WHICH

ARE THESE 27 COMMUNITY-BASED CLINICS AROUND THE COUNTRY. AND IN

THAT SPIRIT, MR. PRESIDENT, I WOULD A ASK UNANIMOUS CONSENT

AGREEMENT WHEREBY WE WOULD TAKE UP THE HOUSE-PASSED BILL.

AGAIN, THIS HOUSE-PASSED BILL WAS ACTUALLY ON THE CONSENT

CALENDAR, PASSED WITH A WHOPPING BIPARTISAN MAJORITY. WE WOULD

ADOPT MY AMENDMENT AT THE DESK, WHICH ADDRESSES SOME FISCAL

CONCERNS WITH THE BILL, AND WE WOULD PASS IT THROUGH THE

PROCESS. THIS WOULD BE OUR COMING TOGETHER, AGREEING WHAT WE

CAN AGREE ON. THAT’S WHAT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE WANT US TO DO AS

WE WORK ON ALL OTHER ASPECTS OF HEALTH CARE AND VETERANS

BENEFITS COVERED BY BOTH THE BURR AND THE SANDERS BILLS DEBATED

LAST WEEK. AND SO, MR. PRESIDENT, I ASK UNANIMOUS CONSENT THAT

THE SENATE PROCEED TO THE IMMEDIATE CONSIDERATION OF H.R.3521,

WHICH WAS RECEIVED FROM THE HOUSE; THAT MY AMENDMENT, WHICH IS

AT THE DESK, BE AGREED TO; THAT THE BILL AS AMENDED BE READ A

THIRD TIME AND PASSED AND THE MOTION TO RECONSIDER BE LAID UPON

THE TABLE.

THE PRESIDING OFFICER: IS THERE OBJECTION?

MR. SANDERS: MR. PRESIDENT, RESERVING THE RIGHT TO OBJECT –

THE PRESIDING OFFICER: THE SENATOR FROM VERMONT.

MR. SANDERS: MR. PRESIDENT, I THANK VERY MUCH MY COLLEAGUE FROM

LOUISIANA BRINGING FORTH THIS VERY, VERY IMPORTANT ISSUE.

SENATOR MARY LANDRIEU FROM LOUISIANA HAS ALSO RAISED THIS

ISSUE, AS HAVE MANY COLLEAGUES. AND MY FRIEND FROM LOUISIANA IS

ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. THIS IS AN IMPORTANT ISSUE, AND THIS IS AN

ISSUE THAT SHOULD BE PASSED. BUT I WOULD SAY TO MY FRIEND FROM

LOUISIANA THAT LAST WEEK WE BROUGHT FORTH THE MOST

COMPREHENSIVE VETERANS LEGISLATION IN THE MODERN HISTORY OF THE

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AND THAT LEGISLATION DEALT WITH MANY,

MANY ISSUES RAISED BY VETERANS ORGANIZATIONS WHO REPRESENT

MILLIONS OF MEN AND WOMEN WHO HAVE PUT THEIR LIVES ON THE LINE

TO DEFEND OUR COUNTRY. LET ME VERY BRIEFLY, MR. PRESIDENT –

VERY BRIEFLY — TOUCH ON SOME OF THOSE ISSUES INCLUDED IN THIS

COMPREHENSIVE PIECE OF LEGISLATION THAT LACKED THREE VOTES. WE

GOT 56 VOTES. ONE SENATOR WAS ABSENT, WOULD HAVE VOTED. WE NEED

THREE VOTES TO PASS THIS. THIS WOULD HAVE ADDRESSED SOME OF THE

SERIOUS PROBLEMS IN THE CLAIMS BACKLOG. IT WOULD HAVE ADDRESSED

THE CRISIS OF ADVANCED APPROPRIATIONS TO MAKE SURE IF THERE IS

EVER AGAIN ANOTHER GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN, NO VETERAN — DISABLED

VETERAN, NO VETERAN ON A PENSION WOULD NOT GET THEIR CHECK.

THIS LEGISLATION INCLUDED AN ENORMOUSLY IMPORTANT PROVISION

EXPANDING THE CAREGIVERS’ PROGRAM SO THAT WIVES AND SISTERS AND

BROTHERS TAKING CARE OF DISABLED VETS FINALLY GET THE ATTENTION

THEY DESERVE. THAT LEGISLATION WOULD HAVE ADDRESSED A TERRIBLE

PROBLEM FACING SOME 2,300 FAMILIES TODAY WHERE MEN AND WOMEN

WERE INJURED IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN, NO LONGER CAN HAVE

BABIES, AND THEY WANT HELP THROUGH IN VITRO FERTILIZATION OR

OTHER PROCESSES, OR ADOPTION, TO BE ABLE TO HAVE FAMILIES. THIS

ADDRESSED THE VERY SERIOUS PROBLEM THAT MANY OF OUR YOUNG MEN

AND WOMEN ARE NOT GETTING THE EDUCATION THEY NEED BECAUSE

STATES ARE NOT ALLOWING THEM TO GET IN-STATE TUITION, AND IT

ADDRESSED MANY, MANY OTHER CRISIS, WHICH IS WHY THAT

LEGISLATION HAD THE SUPPORT OF THE AMERICAN LEGION, VETERANS OF

FOREIGN WARS, THE DISABLED AMERICAN VETERANS, THE VIETNAM

VETERANS OF AMERICA, THE IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF

AMERICA, AND IN FACT VIRTUALLY EVERY VETERANS ORGANIZATION IN

THE COUNTRY. SO LET ME SAY TO THIS MY FRIEND FROM LOUISIANA,

AND I SAY THIS SINCERELY: WHAT I WILL NOT DO IS DISMEMBER THIS PIECE OF

LEGISLATION. WHAT I WILL DO IS WORK WITH YOU AND WORK WITH

OTHER REPUBLICANS WHO VOTED AGAINST THIS COMPREHENSIVE VETERANS

LEGISLATION SO THAT WE CAN BRING FORTH TO THE FLOOR A BILL THAT

REFLECTS THE NEEDS OF MILLIONS AND MILLIONS OF VETERANS WHO ARE

HURTING TODAY. SO I LOOK FORWARD TO WORKING WITH MY COLLEAGUE

FROM LOUISIANA ON A COMPREHENSIVE BILL, BUT AT THIS POINT I

OBJECT TO HIS PROPOSAL.

THE PRESIDING OFFICER: OBJECTION IS HEARD.

MR. VITTER: MR. PRESIDENT, RECLAIMING THE FLOOR AND MY TIME –

THE PRESIDING OFFICER: THE SENATOR FROM LOUISIANA.

MR. VITTER: I FIND THAT VERY REGRETTABLE. OF COURSE I’LL

CONTINUE TOWORK WITH THE SENATOR FROM VERMONT. OF COURSE I WILL

CONTINUE TO WORK ON THAT LARGER PACKAGE, WHICH I HAVE BEEN

ACTIVELY INVOLVED IN FOR SOMETIME. AND I’LL CONTINUE THAT. BUT

BASICALLY THE SENATOR FROM VERMONT IS HOLDING A VERY TINY PIECE

OF IT HOSTAGE, A TINY PIECE THAT WILL HAVE NO IMPACT, WHETHER

IT IS IN OR OUT IN TERMS OF PASSAGE OF THAT BROADER BILL. WHAT

IS HAPPENING IS WE HAVE A PIECE THAT, ON ITS SUBSTANCE, ON THE

SUBSTANCE OF THE CLINICS THEMSELVES, NO ONE OBJECTS TO, A PIECE

THAT PASSED THE HOUSE BY A HUGE, OVERWHELMING BIPARTISAN

MAJORITY. AND YET IT’S NOT GOING TO PASS HERE TODAY OR PERHAPS

ANYTIME SOON BECAUSE IT’S HELD HOSTAGE OVER LARGER FIGHTS. I’LL

CONTINUE TO WORK ON THAT BROADER VETERANS PIECE. I SUPPORT A

BROADER VETERANS BILL, IF IT’S STYLED THE RIGHT WAY AND IF IT’S

FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE. I SUPPORT THE BURR ALTERNATIVE. I’LL

CONTINUE TO LOOK FOR COMMON GROUND BETWEEN THAT BURR

ALTERNATIVE AND THE SANDERS BILL. BUT WHETHER THIS CLINIC PIECE

IS IN OR OUT OF THAT DISCUSSION WILL HAVE ZERO IMPACT ON

PASSING THAT PIECE. I HONESTLY THINK IT WILL HAVE ZERO IMPACT.

SO I JUST FIND IT REALLY UNFORTUNATE THAT WE CAN’T GET THIS

DONE IN THE MEANTIME, THAT WHAT MY COLLEAGUE CONSIDERS THE

PERFECT IS NOW THE ENEMY OF THE VERY GOOD AND WE CAN’T SERVE

VETERANS BY COMING TOGETHER ON WHAT WE DO AGREE ON AND ACTING

IN THE MEANTIME. WITH THAT, MR. PRESIDENT, I WOULD URGE MY

DISTINGUISHED COLLEAGUE FROM VERMONT TO RECONSIDER OVER TIME,

AS WE WORK ON THIS LARGER VETERANS BILL, BECAUSE WE COULD PASS

THIS TODAY. THE HOUSE WOULD PASS THE SLIGHTLY MODIFIED VERSION

IMMEDIATELY, AND WE WOULD BE MOVING ON WITH 27 COMMUNITY-BASED

CLINICS AROUND THE COUNTRY, WHICH VETERANS IN ALL OF THOSE

COMMUNITIES DESPERATELY NEED. THANK YOU, MR. PRESIDENT. I YIELD

THE FLOOR. OH, EXCUSE ME, MR. PRESIDENT. IF I COULD JUST BE

RECOGNIZED FOR 30 ADDITIONAL SECONDS, I WOULD LIKE TO ENTER

INTO THE RECORD AND ASK UNANIMOUS CONSENT TO DO SO A COLLOQUY,

WRITTEN COLLOQUY BETWEEN MYSELF AND SENATOR INHOFE REGARDING

THESE CLINICS. I THANK SENATOR INHOFE FOR HIS ACTIVE

COOPERATION IN MOVING THESE CLINICS FORWARD, AND I ASK

UNANIMOUS CONSENT TO SUBMIT THIS WRITTEN COLLOQUY FOR THE

RECORD.

THE PRESIDING OFFICER: WITHOUT OBJECTION.

 

MR. VITTER: WITH THAT, MR. PRESIDENT, I YIELD THE FLOOR. MR.

SANDERS: MR. PRESIDENT?

THE PRESIDING OFFICER: THE SENATOR FROM VERMONT.

MR. SANDERS: MR. PRESIDENT, LET ME HE ITERATE MY HOPE — LET ME

REITERATE MY HOPE THAT THE SENATOR FROM LOUISIANA WILL IN FACT

WORK WITH US. IT IS MY INTENTION TO SEE THAT THIS BILL GET TO

THE FLOOR AGAIN BEFORE MEMORIAL DAY. I THINK WE OWE IT TO THE

MEN AND WOMEN WHO HAVE PUT THEIR LIVES ON THE LINE TO DEFEND

THIS COUNTRY TO ADDRESS THEIR SERIOUS NEEDS. THE ISSUE OF THESE

27 MEDICAL FACILITIES ARE ONE OF THOSE NEEDS, BUT THERE ARE

MANY, MANY MORE. AND I LOOK FORWARD TO WORKING WITH THE SENATOR

FROM LOUISIANA, AND OTHER SENATORS, TO DO WHAT THE VETERANS

COMMUNITIES WANT US TO DO AND TO GO FORWARD ON WHAT WILL BE THE

MOST SIGNIFICANT PIECE OF LEGISLATION TO TAKE CARE OF THE NEEDS

OF OUR VETERANS PASSED IN SEVERAL DECADES. WITH THAT, MR.

PRESIDENT, I WOULD YIELD THE FLOOR.

 

 

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