Mar 6, 2014 2:57 PM by Dave Fields

Vitter's amendment to move VA hospital construction forward blocked

On the Senate floor Thursday, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., asked for unanimous consent of HR 3521 as he had amended to address possible "fiscal concerns" with VA bill that aims to proceed with 27 community-based Veterans Administration (VA) clinics around the country, but the vote was blocked.

Of the 27 VA clinic projects mentioned in the bill, one is slated for Lake Charles and another is in Lafayette.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., blocked the request Vitter made in an attempt to have his fellow senators consider an amendment to a VA clinic bill that already had passed the U.S. House of Representatives.

"Twenty-seven fully approved, fully authorized VA community-based clinics around the country have been stalled for far too long," Vitter said in a release, echoing his comments from the podium. "The good news is that we came together in a bipartisan way to find a solution to the bureaucratic hurdles that stalled these clinics, and the House passed a bill that would do just that. Now I'm urging the Senate to do the same."

On the floor, Vitter made an appeal for his colleagues to put their differences aside.

"I understand their big arguments about that larger package. Those are legitimate differences of opinion. I don't think that should stand in the way of us agreeing to what we can agree on and move forward with an important piece of the puzzle for veterans health care, which are these 27 community-based clinics around the country," Vitter explained.

"In that spirit, I would ask a unanimous consent agreement whereby we would take up the house-passed bill... we would adopt my amendment, ...which addresses some fiscal concerns with the bill...This would be our coming-together, agreeing to what we can agree on," said Vitter.

In December 2013, Sen. Landrieu and Congressman Boustany had introduced legislation together in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives to green light construction of the new clinic in Lake Charles, while ensuring that the Lafayette clinic would remain open. The bipartisan bill, the Keep Our Commitment to Veterans Act, passed the House with a near unanimous vote of 346-1, with the entire delegation supporting it.

Vitter's attempt to move the VA projects forward follows a letter to the VA secretary from the entire Louisiana Congressional delegation.



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