Dem hits GOP colleague for blocking bill to prevent veteran suicide
© Greg Nash

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Kentucky Democrat says primary challenge to McGrath 'might be helpful' McConnell's Democratic challenger McGrath backtracks on Kavanaugh comments MORE (D-W.Va.) knocked fellow Sen. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Worries grow about political violence as midterms approach President Trump’s war on federal waste American patients face too many hurdles in regard to health-care access MORE (R-Okla.) for blocking a bill to increase funding that would help prevent suicides among veterans and promised it will be a high priority when the Senate returns next year.

“I'm disappointed; my heart bleeds for all of you,” Manchin said on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” to a veteran’s advocate who also appeared on the show.

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“If, for some reason, we can’t work this out today, I can assure you we will come back immediately with the next congress, the 114th, and that will be our first priority.”

Manchin will serve on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee when the 114th Congress begins in January.

On Monday night, the Senate moved to pass the Clay Hunt SAV bill with unanimous support from lawmakers. That bill, already passed by the House, would have authorized $22 million to help add more psychiatrists to Department of Veterans Affairs facilities and evaluate the agency's efforts to prevent suicide.

But Coburn, who’s earned the nickname “Dr. No” for his desire to block bills that he believes include unnecessary spending, objected. He said that the bill was redundant and already included within the VA’s mission. 

“I’m going to be objecting to this bill because it actually throws money away,” Coburn said.

“I don’t think this bill is going to do one thing to change what is happening.”

The White House said it continued to urge the Senate to pass the legislation, "Sen. Coburn's objection notwithstanding."

"This is a critical issue, and the president believes that we owe it to our veterans to do everything we can to give them the support and the resources that they need," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. "Ensuring that veterans have access to timely and effective mental healthcare is a top administration priority."

Earnest said he did not believe Obama and Coburn, who struck up a friendship during their time in the Senate, had discussed the legislation.

Manchin said Congress should be able to find a way to offset the money, but the legislation is necessary even without an offset.  

“There’s an awful lot of waste all through government; this is a need that we have,” he said.

He called Coburn and is hoping to convince him to reconsider.

“You’ve got to set your priorities where your values are,” he said.

“We just passed an omnibus bill, an omnibus bill I voted against had $5 billion for military defense for products they didn’t want or didn’t need; $5 billion, and we cant find $22 million to help our service people coming back that need help to transition back into civilian life. Its just wrong.”

— Justin Sink contributed.