OPIOID SERIES:

Vets group blasts ‘no’ votes on VA reform bill

A prominent veterans group on Thursday slammed three senators who voted against bipartisan legislation to rehab the Veterans Affairs Department’s healthcare system.

The three ‘no’ votes by Republican Sens. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump backs Blackburn's Tennessee Senate bid Senate committee sets Monday vote even as Pompeo appears to lack support Corker has 'no idea' if Trump will run for reelection MORE (Tenn.), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senator: Congress needs ‘to move on’ from Russia probe GOP senator: ‘Way too early’ to talk about supporting Trump in 2020 IG report faults fired FBI official McCabe for leak to media MORE (Wis.) and Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsAppeals court rules against Trump effort to hit 'sanctuary cities' Justice Dept inspector asks US attorney to consider criminal charges for McCabe: reports Poll: Almost two-thirds of Texas voters support legal recreational marijuana MORE (Ala.) “put dollars and cents above the interests of the nation’s veterans,” the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) said in a statement.

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“There is a cost of going to war that includes taking care of those who come home wounded, ill and injured, and if these three senators have determined that we can’t afford to properly care for our veterans, then they should seek employment elsewhere!” VFW National Commander William Thien said.

The measure, which passed the Senate in a 93-3 vote Wednesday, was brokered by Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainHeitkamp becomes first Dem to back Pompeo for secretary of State Senate committee sets Monday vote even as Pompeo appears to lack support Trump checkmates Democrats in sending Pompeo to North Korea MORE (R-Ariz.) and Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSanders, Warren, O’Rourke inspire patriotic small donor waves Bill Press reflects on Clinton, Sanders and a life in politics Overnight Health Care: GOP pushes stiff work requirements for food stamps | Johnny Isakson opens up about family's tragic loss to opioids | Republicans refuse to back vulnerable Dem's opioids bill | Dems offer new public option plan MORE (I-Vt). It grants new powers to the VA secretary to fire managers and allows veterans to seek private healthcare under certain circumstances.

In a statement following the vote, Johnson criticized Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination The Memo: Teens rankle the right with gun activism Dems to party: Go on offense with Trump’s alleged affairs MORE (D-Nev.) for rushing the bill to the floor without allowing lawmakers time to assess its long-term costs, saying the legislation would “spend more money to expand a broken system.”

He, along with Corker, defended their votes by pointing to a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released less than an hour before the Senate vote that estimated the non-VA provider provision could increase spending by about $35 billion over the next 10 years.

Sessions opposed the legislation because he claimed it would bust the budget caps Congress put in place in 2012.

Thien dismissed those concerns, saying “the last thing veterans want to hear is flimsy excuses that won’t hold water.”

“When it comes to taking care of America’s veterans, there is no discussion,” he said. “Senators Corker, Johnson and Sessions should know this; veterans have long memories and veterans vote.”