The Garden City Telegram
3/9/2014
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Vet hit — Republican obstructionists zero in on nation's veterans

Efforts to aid the nation's veterans usually garner bipartisan support among lawmakers, and rightly so.

But recently in the U.S. Senate, a number of Republicans took an unfortunate stand against those who served.

Senate Republicans kept Democrats from advancing a bill that would have expanded healthcare and education programs for veterans.

The proposal called for $21 billion in medical, education and job-training benefits. It's a sensible investment, considering veterans' needs only promise to escalate due to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But opponents said the bill failed to address reform to the Veterans Affairs system. They also sought an up-or-down vote on sanctions against Iran as part of the deal.

While such issues warrant attention, they were unrelated to the veterans bill, and hardly cause for lawmakers to reject the new and needed benefits plan.

But instead of working toward a solution, Republicans seized an opportunity to shoot down a proposal that happened to come from the Democratic side of the aisle.

Republicans turned to a procedural maneuver to invoke a 60-vote rule, and a final vote of 56-41 fell short as Democrats didn't have the 60 votes needed to overcome the Republican roadblock.

Unfortunately, Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas joined Republicans who voted against the assistance. On the other hand, credit Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas for joining Senate Democrats in supporting the plan, one of only two Senate Republicans to do so — even though it wasn't enough to overcome the GOP obstruction.

Assistance for veterans should be one area where federal lawmakers set aside partisan politics and achieve progress.

It's disturbing when any federal lawmaker expresses support for war, then fails to acknowledge the consequences of such decisions — especially the fact that many veterans and their families will have pressing needs for the rest of their lives. At the very least, we owe sufficient, consistent assistance to the men and women who put so much on the line.

We now have more proof of that simple, vital mission being lost on many self-serving Republicans in Congress who'd rather play politics than do what's right for our veterans and nation.