Have you ever hear the phrase “it’ll take an act of Congress”? Whenever someone utters that phrase it usually mean that something is nearly impossible to accomplish. That’s because Democrats and Republicans rarely find issues where they agree. People’s biggest gripe about Congress is the lack of compromise on and Congress’ inability to get things done. On Wednesday however, both sides of the aisle found common ground on one issue that has sent members on a sprint to get legislation passed before the planned August recess at the end of the week. That act of Congress is one step closer to reality.
Members of Congress have come to a meeting of the mind in regards to reforms at the VA. Public outrage at the scope of mismanagement and horrific treatment of our nation’s veterans has fueled Congress’ response to the scandal. One of the bills that is being fast tracked through the House is the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014 co-sponsored by Rep. Tom Latham of Iowa and Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana.. This bill would allow the VA to improve the way it schedules patient’s appointments, provide funds to train existing staff and to hire additional doctors and support staff, allow the Secretary of Veteran Affairs to remove top level executives and other staff who do not perform to acceptable standards, to lease or build additional buildings and facilities and most importantly allow veterans to seek medical care at non-VA facilities if they do not live near a VA facility or have waited more than thirty days for an appointment. The bill would grant the VA $17 Billion to begin fixing the system and making improvements.
Wednesday’s vote on H.R. 3230: Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014; was to approve a House procedure called “suspension of the rules;” which is legislative procedure that is used on non-controversial bills to get them passed quickly. An astounding 97% of the House or broken down by party 225 Republicans and 195 Democrats voted Yea where only a 2/3 vote was needed. There were only five Nay votes; all Republicans. The Nay votes belonged to Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston, Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas, Rep. Marshall “Mark” Sanford of South Carolina, Rep. Walter Jones Jr. of North Carolina and Rep. Eric “Rick” Crawford of Arkansas.
The bill is expected to make its way to passage in both chambers befor the end of the week, amid other brewing issues such as the growing crisis of Illegal immigrant children showing up at the border and the Republicans move to sue the President over his use of executive orders related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known more commonly as Obamacare. On a side note, the embattled VA has a new leader. On Wednesday the 8th Secretary of Veterans Affairs for the United States, Robert Alan McDonald was sworn in. The U.S. Senate voted 97-0 to confirm McDonald on July 29,2014.
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