Reid hopes VA bill moves ‘quickly’

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday that he hopes the Senate “quickly” votes on a bill that aims to fix dysfunctions within the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system by holding officials accountable and providing veterans with more choices.

“I stand ready to work with my Democratic allies here and those in the minority to move forward on this legislation as quickly as possible,” Reid said on the Senate floor.

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Reid said last night the bipartisan bill from Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) was hot-lined and only one senator had an objection. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is insisting that he be able to offer an amendment.

“The junior senator from Oklahoma has an amendment that he thinks should be offered,” Reid said. “Fine, let’s vote on it and move on.”

Sanders and McCain’s bill gives the VA secretary more flexibility to fire those involved in misconduct, authorizes construction of more than 20 VA medical facilities and uses $500 million to hire more doctors and nurses. It would establish a two-year program to allow veterans living more than 40 miles from a VA hospital to see the doctor of their choice.

The bill also includes measures allowing in-state tuition for all veterans at public colleges and improving medical care for military sexual assault victims. Surviving spouses of former service members would also be eligible for more VA education benefits.

The House passed similar legislation on Tuesday.

The compromise on VA reform comes following the resignation of Secretary Eric Shinseki after the agency’s inspector general confirmed charges that officials at a Phoenix clinic had lied about patient wait times. A White House-mandated audit also found fraudulent practices at a number of VA facilities around the country.

— Martin Matishak contributed to this article.