Huelskamp: Does Reid not like veterans?

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) on Wednesday asked the head of Veterans Affairs if he thinks Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-Nev.) doesn’t like veterans.

“Do you think Sen. Reid doesn’t like our veterans or the VA in particular?” Huelskamp asked Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki at a House hearing.

Huelskamp’s comment drew a rebuke from Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), who called on Huelskamp to apologize.

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“That’s beneath this Congress and certainly beneath this committee to question a commitment to veterans,” Walz said.

The sharp exchange highlights the increased tensions in the House over the government shutdown. 

The House approved a measure to fund the Veterans Affairs office, one of 10 bills they've passed that fund parts of the government. 

The White House and Senate Democrats have rejected the measures, demanding that House Republicans simply reopen the full government. They say they won't agree to cherry pick which parts of the government to open.

Huelskamp asked Shinseki if he thought Reid didn't like veterans since he hadn't allowed a Senate vote on the bill funding just the Veterans Affairs office. 

Shineski answered Huelskamp’s question directly, saying that Reid “very highly values veterans.”

“As to why we are unable, Congress is unable, to do its business, I will leave that to the members to discuss,” Shinseki said.

“You mention Congress, but it is an issue in the U.S. Senate,” Huelskamp responded.

Shinseki also testified that nearly four million veterans risk losing their benefits because of the shutdown, while others could lose pension payments.

Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) ripped into Republicans later in the hearing, blaming them for the shutdown impasse. 

“I’ve never seen anything like the people that serve in this House that want to act like they care about the veterans — they talk the talk but they don’t walk the walk,” Brown said. “This committee used to be bipartisan, and now you’ve got a few members dragging the House of Representatives down.”

After Brown spoke, Miller said that Senate Veterans Affairs Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) had introduced a stand-alone VA bill before the shutdown, too. He also noted that Sanders "held a news conference at the very same time we're having this hearing with the secretary."

At the conclusion of the hearing, Huelskamp apologized for offending members on the panel.

“I apologize to anyone on this committee who might have been offended,” Huelskamp said. He then criticized Reid for using terms like “anarchists” and “insane” to describe the tea party.

This story was updated at 1 p.m.