Paying to fix the VA: a tale full of sound and fury

With exuberant huzzahs, Democrats and Republicans are hailing a compromise reached Monday on a $17 billion veterans bill. It’s a demonstration of a new bipartisanship, they proclaim.

But the bipartisanship has brought forth a deeply flawed bill. That’s because it largely relies on emergency funding to cover the cost, rather than finding comparable savings elsewhere. Only $5 billion of the $17 billion is offset by other cuts.

That means $12 billion of the bill’s cost will be added to the obscene national debt, already over $17.5 trillion.


Politico characterized the compromise as a result of “knock-down, drag-out arguing.”

But in the end, the public acknowledgement of tooth-and-nail fighting was so much sturm and drang. The Republicans are where they said they’d never go. They have agreed to calling a failure of the VA system that has been building for years an emergency and joined with the Democrats in not bothering to pay for most of the fix.

It was a masterful performance on both sides, a tale full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

In earlier versions of the VA legislation, the Senate wanted to pay the bill’s entire tab through emergency legislation, which meant the tab would be added to the federal deficit.

But the Republican-controlled House bill called for the cost to be covered by spending cuts from somewhere else in the federal budget.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, tried to cast the House Republicans insisting on budget discipline as folks who wanted to take food out of the mouths of the needy, medical care away from the infirm and quality education away from American children.

“I hope very much we can avoid once again having a major debate about cutting food stamps, education, roads and bridges in order to fund the VA,” Sanders said.

Politico reported today that Senator Ben Nelson (D – Fla) said failure to reach a deal on VA reform would have meant “a huge dagger in the backs of veterans who so desperately need to have the confidence that the VA system is going to be straightened out.”

Now, instead, we have a bill that is a dagger is in the back of American taxpayers and their children who will be burdened with even more national debt.

Sure, sure. Spend away. No budget discipline needed here.

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