Sen. Tom CoburnTom CoburnDon't be fooled: Carper and Norton don't fight for DC Coburn: Trump's tweets aren't presidential The road ahead for America’s highways MORE (R-Okla.) blocked the Senate from passing a veterans’ suicide prevention bill.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who will serve as ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee next year, asked for unanimous consent to pass H.R. 5059, the Clay Hunt SAV Act. But Coburn objected because he said the goals of the bill are already funded through programs within the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“I don’t think this bill is going to do one thing to change what is happening.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said suicide is a personal issue for him, as his father killed himself. He said 22 veterans kill themselves every day.
“We shouldn’t delay a minute more to pass this legislation,” Reid said on the Senate floor Monday. “There is only one senator standing in the way.”
The bipartisan bill passed in the House last week. But Coburn was the final hurdle to passing the legislation before the Senate adjourns for the year.
H.R. 5059 would have required the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the Secretary of Defense to annually arrange for an independent evaluation of the VA and DOD mental health care and suicide prevention programs. It would also increase the number of psychiatrists at VA facilities.
Coburn is retiring so it is possible Congress takes the issue up again in the new Congress.
"If it fails this time, we will bring it back," Blumenthal said.
Coburn also blocked the Senate from passing, H.R. 2126, the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act. Another bipartisan measure the House passed that would have improved the energy efficiency of federal buildings. It had the support Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and was a pared down version of their Shaheen-Portman legislation.