House narrowly defeats motion agreeing to Senate VA bill

The House on Thursday narrowly defeated a Democratic motion to instruct House conferees on the Department of Veterans Affairs overhaul to simply adopt the Senate-passed bill. 

The motion, offered by Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), was rejected in a close 205-207 vote, with 13 Republicans voting in favor. All 207 no votes were from Republicans.

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The Peters motion directed House conferees to agree to the original Senate-passed VA overhaul the same day a House-Senate conference on that issue appeared to fall apart.

The 13 Republicans voting in favor of the motion included a number of centrists, including Reps. Jeff Denham (Calif.), Charlie Dent (Pa.), Chris Gibson (N.Y.), Candice Miller (Mich.) and Frank Wolf (Va.).

An aspect highlighted in the Peters motion to instruct directed House conferees for the VA overhaul to agree on Senate provisions allowing veterans to receive in-state tuition benefits regardless of their home state under the GI bill.

Peters said simply approving the Senate bill would be the best way for the House to ensure veterans get better healthcare from the VA before Congress adjourns next week for the August recess.

"Both the Senate and the House have taken action to make real, substantive changes at the VA. I voted for many of these measures in the House, but the Senate's plan is comprehensive, bipartisan and is the best opportunity for the quick action that our veterans deserve," Peters said.

But House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) said the motion to instruct was unnecessary.

"We are trying to work out a deal with the Senate, but I submit to this body today that these motions to instruct are clearly becoming unproductive, are slowing down our process, and unfortunately, I think they are being used as nothing more than a political ploy," Miller said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urged Democrats to vote for the Peters motion.

"Congressman Scott Peters’s motion would order House conferees to accept all the provisions of the Senate bill, so Congress can pass a final bill, and our veterans can get the support they deserve," Pelosi's office wrote in a key vote alert.