Vitter wants 27 healthcare facilities in VA bill

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) called on Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to include the construction of 27 veterans' healthcare facilities in his bill aimed at fixing dysfunction within the VA system.

Vitter has asked for unanimous consent several times to pass a bill that would authorize the construction of those outpatient facilities, but Sanders has objected, saying it should be included in a broader VA bill.

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“There is no good reason we cannot move on expanded outpatient clinics in 27 locations,” Vitter said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “We shouldn’t hold veterans hostage. ... Let’s start acting and where we have agreement, let’s move it.”

Sanders is reportedly working with Republicans on a compromise that would merge dueling bills to overhaul the VA health system after reports that some veterans waited more than 100 days on secret waiting lists designed to hide backlogs in the system.

Sanders wants to give the VA secretary new powers to fire senior executives for poor job performance and hire more doctors and nurses at VA facilities. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has a bill that would allow veterans to see non-VA medical providers.

If a deal is reached, the bill could come to the Senate floor as soon as next week.