Veterans waiting for Congress to pass a law to reform their scandal plagued health care system will likely have to wait until after the legislature's five-week recess. After weeks of back and forth, the heads of the Veterans Affairs committees in both the House and the Senate presented very different bills on Thursday, reports the Associated Press. No one seems particularly optimistic that they'll get a bill passed before Congress breaks for recess on August 1.
On June 5, Sen. John McCain and Sen. Bernie Sanders reached a deal that would have granted the new Veterans Affairs head more power to fire people, and given veterans near overburdened hospitals the ability to go to private hospitals. Both houses passed bills that would have cost over $30 billion, and members challenged the price tag. Sen. Sanders introduced a compromise bill Thursday that would cost an estimated $25 billion over three years, according to Politico.
According to the AP, Miller announced his own plan hours later Thursday at a "hastily scheduled" conference meeting between House and Senate negotiators. Only one Democrat showed up. According to Sanders, he never agreed to the meeting and Miller intends to force the Senate to accept the House's deal. “His idea of negotiation is: ‘We have a proposal. Take it or leave it,’” Sanders said on the floor.“Any sixth-grader in a school of the United States understands: This is not negotiation.”
The sense now is that Congress will likely drop the ball on this. "Barring a lightning quick breakthrough, the developments diminish hopes of Congress passing a new veterans law before next Friday, when the August break begins," wrote Burgess Everett and Lauren French at Politico. "And with little more than a week remaining before Congress leaves for August recess, there seems little confidence for a quick resolution," wrote Sam Stein at The Huffington Post. Miller told Politico that talks hadn't fallen apart, but McCain seems equally pessimistic. “It is unconscionable,” McCain told The Huffington Post on Wednesday. “It is embarrassing. Embarrassing is a better word.”