GOP filibuster kills bill to expand veterans benefits

Feb. 27, 2014 at 6:06 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- U.S. Senate Republicans used a filibuster to prevent a vote on expanded veterans benefits after Democrats blocked efforts to add an amendment on Iran sanctions.

The vote Thursday was 56-41 in favor of a bill by Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., to -- among other things -- expand healthcare programs and provide breaks on college tuition for veterans. Sixty votes were required to overcome the filibuster, the Hill reported. Two Republican senators, Dean Heller of Nevada and Jerry Moran of Kansas, voted with the Democrats, the Capitol Hill publication said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., refused to allow an up-or-down vote on a Republican amendment that included provision for further sanctions on Iran over that country's nuclear program.

"I hope all the veterans groups have witnessed all the contortions the Republicans have done to defeat this bill," he said. "Shame on Republicans for bringing base politics into a bill to help veterans."

The bill also would have restored cuts to veterans' pensions, adopted as part of a bipartisan budget bill to end the federal government shutdown last fall.

Its costs would have been paid for by reducing other budget items, the Hill said.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., called that a "bogus gimmick" and said the bill "proposes to spend more than we agreed to spend."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accused Democrats of pursuing "partisan legislation in a take-it-or-leave-it manner."

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