The Outlook for Veterans Choice Suddenly Darkens. Jim Geraghty, Morning Jolt
Remember yesterday when the House of Representatives was going to allocate another $2 billion to keep the Veterans Choice program going? The vote failed. Not because of a lack of support, as 219 Republicans voted for the bill, but it was brought to the floor of the House under rules that required a two-thirds majority. House Republicans thought they had an agreement with House Democrats to pass the additional $2 billion and then go back to reevaluate the program with an eye on the long term, but apparently too many House Democrats see Veterans Choice as a backdoor effort to privatize veterans care… so they’re willing to let money run out in early August. Quite a few Democrats seem strangely eager to declare the program a failure; Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., said, “The VA Choice program has failed to deliver on the promise of shorter wait times.” (Gee, do you think demand for the program increasing 50 percent from last year has anything to do with it?) The chairman of the House Veterans Committee, Phil Roe, contends the Democrats backed out of a deal at the last minute. “Last week, during a bipartisan member meeting, members of both parties came together and agreed to fund the Choice program for six months while Congress worked on other reforms,” the Republican from Tennessee said in a released statement. “This was a bipartisan agreement, and I’m disappointed the concerns raised on the House floor today were not mentioned during what I thought was an open and honest conversation. I will continue to fight tirelessly to ensure the Choice Fund does not run out of money so veterans can continue to access care.” Veterans groups didn’t like the stopgap measure; one exception was Concerned Veterans for America. That group’s executive director, Mark Lucas, blasted the other veterans groups for putting the program at risk by opposing the temporary extension. “The Veteran Service Organizations and members of Congress who used this as an opportunity to advance a misleading anti-choice agenda are standing directly between millions of veterans and their health care,” Lucas said. “They spread false information about Chairman Roe’s proposal in a transparent attempt to tie this bill to unnecessary VA spending. It didn’t look like they were opposing the Veterans Choice Program several months ago when they happily stood behind the President for a photo op as he signed an extension without the funding increases they are demanding today. “It’s incredibly disappointing that Rep. Walz, who supported this measure as early as last week, flip-flopped on his position at such a critical moment,” Lucas concluded. “He let veterans down.” And the NRCC started hitting House Democratic incumbents over their votes.