Reid: Senate should pass VA fix ‘as soon as possible’

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Monday that every senator should support a bill from Senate Veterans Affairs' Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that aims to hold senior VA officials accountable for delays in healthcare.

“We should pass Sen. Sanders’s bill as soon as possible,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “If Republicans support our nation’s soldiers, then help us support our nation’s soldiers. ... Let’s give the American veteran the thought and care they deserve.”

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Sanders is expected to introduce legislation this week as a result of a scandal at the VA over secret wait lists that concealed how long veterans were waiting for medical care. His bill would let the new head of the agency immediately remove senior executives for poor performance as well as authorizing emergency funding so the VA can hire more doctors and nurses. Last week, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned.

Reid criticized Republicans for blocking a veterans benefit bill earlier this year because it wasn’t fully paid for.

“Republicans ignore the true cost of democracy,” Reid said. “Instead Republicans focus on the monetary cost only.”

Republicans blocked Sanders's bill, which cost more than $20 billion, because it would “bust the budget.” It’s unclear whether Republicans will block Sanders's new effort, which includes provisions similar to a bill introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).