Veterans bill breaks Senate logjam on spending bills

Veterans bill breaks Senate logjam on spending bills
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Senate Democrats allowed a Veterans Affairs (VA) spending bill to move forward Thursday, effectively breaking a months-long logjam on funding legislation.  

Senators voted 93-0 on advancing the fiscal year 2016 funding bill for veterans' benefits and military construction. Sixty votes were needed to move forward with the proposal. 
 
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Democrats previously blocked the VA-military construction bill last month. Thursday's vote — which is the first time they've allowed a spending bill to move forward — came just a few hours after they blocked a defense spending bill for the third time.
 
 
"I would hope that it's not because they had thoughts about going home on Wednesday and giving patriotic speeches about our troops and the military but then realized what a spot they had put themselves in." 
 
"I'm hopeful the [military construction]-VA appropriations bill will help us move toward a bipartisan, omnibus funding bill both parties can accept," he told reporters. "In my conversations this morning with Senator McConnell, I think that's where we're headed."
 
Reid added that Democrats were ready to negotiate on a budget deal months ago. 
 
"The time for casting blame is gone and my friend, the Republican leader, should stop trying to blame it on us. We didn't do it. We're not the party of dysfunction."
 
McConnell teed up the second procedural vote on the VA legislation Thursday after Democrats blocked it last month as part of an effort to reach a long-term budget deal. 
 
He urged senators to let the VA legislation move forward, promising an open amendment process. 
 
"The chairman of that committee, Senator Kirk, is working with the ranking member to move that bill across the floor next week," McConnell said. "If senators cooperate in moving things along and scheduling votes on amendments to the bill, we can vote on passage Tuesday night." 
 
He added that a Tuesday vote would mean "that senators can commemorate Veterans Day back home. … Obviously this is going to require some cooperation from all members." 
 
Democrats also suggested they were willing to let the legislation move forward because it includes both defense and non-defense spending. 
 
 
Thursday's procedural hurdle occurred amid increasing partisan bickering over controversial policy riders and how to move funding legislation through the Senate. 
 
 
But with senators working toward an agreement by Thursday afternoon, Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinThreat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Senate Democrats request watchdog, Red Cross probe DHS detention facilities Iraq War looms over Trump battle with Iran MORE (D-Ill.) told reporters that a deal with McConnell wouldn't be enough. 
 
"We need an agreement with the House of Representatives," he said. 
 
Thursday's vote comes less than a week after lawmakers came together to pass the two-year budget agreement. Lawmakers now have until mid-December to pass legislation — either individually or as an omnibus — that would fund the government and avoid a shutdown.
 
A refusal by House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAmash storm hits Capitol Hill Debate with Donald Trump? Just say no Ex-Trump adviser says GOP needs a better health-care message for 2020 MORE (R-Wis.) to rule out adding the policy riders to an appropriations bill is already getting vocal pushback from Democrats. 
 
 
This story was updated at 3:07 p.m.