Reid: War savings should be spent on veterans

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that it’s “only fair” that Congress use war savings to increase veterans’ benefits.

“The United States is finally winding down more than a decade of war in Afghanistan,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “It is only fair that we use a small portion of those savings to invest in our returning veterans, who have given so much over the last 13 years to ensure our safety.”

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Reid’s comments came as the Senate is expected to consider an omnibus veterans’ bill. A vote to end debate on whether to proceed to that legislation is scheduled for later Tuesday.

“Today the Senate will vote to advance bipartisan legislation that expands and improves healthcare and job training for our nation’s veterans,” Reid said. “No one who has had to fight overseas should have to fight for a job back home.”

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced S. 1982, which would boost veterans' healthcare programs, give veterans in-state tuition rates at all schools across the country and provide advanced appropriations for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

It also seeks to permanently fix a cut to the growth rate of veterans' pensions. Earlier this year, Congress passed a bill to avoid a cut in the growth rate for current service members and veterans, but anyone enlisting after 2013 would still see a cut — Sanders’ bill would eliminate that cut as well.

He pays for the nearly $23 billion bill with funds allotted for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that won’t be used because the conflicts are ending early. Republicans have expressed skepticism about using the Afghanistan and Iraq funds — which are essentially “off budget” and not subject to discretionary spending caps — and are working to propose a GOP alternative as an amendment.