McCain urges calm as VA talks hang by a thread

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called for cool heads in the House and Senate as compromise negotiations on a Veterans Affairs Department overhaul appear headed toward meltdown.

“I would hope that we could, maybe all of us, cool down some,” McCain said on the Senate floor.

He then implored Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to attend a conference committee meeting called for by his House counterpart, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.).

McCain admitted the monthlong talks have been a “frustrating” process, but he said both sides should sit down and hear each other’s proposals.

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Earlier Thursday, Sanders announced he had proposed earlier this week a $25 billion fix for the troubled VA that would allow veterans to seek medical care at private providers and that it had been rejected by fiscally conservative House members

In a fiery floor speech, Sanders said he has put “good-faith offers on table time and time again” and met House conferees “more than half way.”

However, he said, he could only now conclude, “with great reluctance, that the good faith we have shown has not been reciprocated by the other side.”

He noted he had been accused of “moving the goal posts” during the talks but argued he moved them in a “positive direction.”

McCain said failure to reach a deal on a bill before lawmakers leave for August recess would be a “gross disservice to those who deserve our consideration most.
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Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska), members of the Senate VA panel, also gave floor speeches Thursday denouncing the House GOP's tactics.