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 CorkerBob CorkerClinton administration official knocks 'soap opera' of Trump White House Trump's steps on Iran show cooperation with Congress is possible Senate GOP short on ideas for stabilizing ObamaCare markets MORE (Tenn.), Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonDivisions emerge in the Senate on pre-existing conditions Health groups push FDA not to repeal e-cig rules Senate GOP short on ideas for stabilizing ObamaCare markets MORE (Wis.) and Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsDOJ asks judge to reassess after sanctuary city update: report Sessions postpones Senate testimony on DOJ funding Voting advocates notch win at Supreme Court 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 McCainGOP senators knock Trump's budget proposal McCain: Trump's budget 'dead on arrival' Trump budget getting thumbs down from defense hawks MORE (R-Ariz.) and Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders: Trump plan to cut Medicaid is 'just cruel' Senate votes to confirm US ambassador to China Overnight Finance: What to expect from Trump budget | Plan calls for 0M in Medicaid cuts | Senate confirms ambassador to China | Roadblocks ahead for infrastructure 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 ReidThis week: Congress awaits Comey testimony Will Republicans grow a spine and restore democracy? Racial representation: A solution to inequality in the People’s House 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.”