The Veterans’ Benefit Enhancement Act would, “expand eligibility for traumatic injury insurance; extend eligibility for specially adapted housing benefits to veterans with severe burns; increase benefits for veterans pursuing apprenticeships or on-job training programs; and restore veteran status to Filipino veterans who served under United States command during World War II.”
“No matter what position we take on the war in Iraq, we should all agree that providing for these veterans – and those who wore the uniform before them – is among our most solemn responsibilities. The Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act is one important part of fulfilling that responsibility. Every Senator has a right to oppose legislation that they do not support. In my time as Majority Leader, I have tried to work with the Republican leader to reach consensus on legislation on which members of the minority raise objections. I have made repeated efforts to do so on the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act.,” Reid said.
Reid described GOP efforts to stall the legislation, “Unfortunately, the Republican leader has not responded positively to my offer. As a result, I was forced Thursday night to file cloture on the ‘motion to proceed’ simply so that we could finally start debating this legislation…. “As the dedicated government-watchers and C-SPAN-watching insomniacs know, this is far from the first time the Republican minority has rejected our good-faith efforts at reaching compromise. Time and time again, they have chosen obstruction over negotiation.”
“It seems at times like this that our Republican friends would rather that we accomplish nothing. Perhaps they see political advantage in slow-walking, but the American people are left to suffer for their actions…It is time for our Republican colleagues to choose. Will they stand in lock-step with an obstinate few, intent on dragging their heels on the care and support our veterans need? We need just nine Republicans to join our side. Surely there are at least nine Republicans ready to stand on the side of our troops,” Reid said.
Reid concluded, “Nine months is long enough to wait. Tomorrow, Republicans have a chance to join Democrats to pass the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act. I extend my hand once more to the Republican leader and all of my colleagues in the minority. If they choose to end their needless obstruction, we can deliver an important victory to the men and women who have served us – and who serve us today – with courage, valor and distinction.”
It is a disgrace that Republicans have been so willing to send troops into battle, but unwilling to take care of them when they come home. The goal of the GOP has been to block everything that the Democrats propose this year in order to campaign against them as a do-nothing Congress this fall. I don’t think this cynical strategy will prevent the tidal wave of lost seats that is coming in November.
Many voters have finally realized that the problem in Congress is a Republican minority that stands in the way of every Democratic proposal. This story is a reminder that just as important as the White House is the need to expand the Democratic majority in Congress.
Reid’s full floor speech: