That Washington

Murray Gets Passionate (and Political) with Vets Proposal

By Bryce McKay June 29, 2010

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riNOnsbI6bQ[/youtube]

On behalf of U.S. Sen. (and 2010 candidate) Patty Murry, Democrats are passing around a video today that highlights Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) objecting to a program Murray pitched that would require federally funded veterans' centers to provide resources to homeless female veterans and homeless male veterans with children.

It's a cool idea (and an urgent one). As Murray explained: “Female veterans are between two and four times as likely to be homeless than their civilian counterparts—and they have unique needs and often require specialized services." Murray told an effective anecdote about a woman named Natalie: a mother of two and a navy vet, who ended up homeless after returning from serving her country.

Introducing the bill yesterday, Murray called for unanimous consent. Typically, unanimous consent is a time-saving procedure reserved for technical amendments and noncontroversial votes that allows a picayune motion to pass without all the parliamentary rigamarole (including hearings and committee meetings).  The catch is: If one Senator objects, it's dead in the water.

Here comes the political side of Murray's move.  She is clearly daring the GOP to knock down this heartfelt bill. And, they take the bait. McConnell, citing a letter from his GOP colleague Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), objected.

Shazam! In this Washington, the Democrats pounced and  sent out a press release saying Rossi hates homeless veterans becuase he's going to a fundraiser this week with Republicans like Coburn.

Politics aside, the crux of McConnell's objection boils down to money. Quoting the Coburn letter, he demands that Murray's veterans' bill "be paid for up front, so that the promises it makes to veterans can, in fact, be kept." (And Rossi's campaign pointed out that Murray supposedly supports "paygo"—fiscal rules she voted for requiring the Senate to identify the money that's needed to pay for any federal program they're putting in the budget.)

However, according to Murray Spokesman Eli Zupnick, Murray's simple proposal doesn't come with a price tag—she's only directing Congress to fund veterans centers come the next budget cycle.  "It's an authorization not an appropriation." Cute. Although, Zupnick explains: "The longer we wait [to authorize this], the less time the VA will have to prepare."

When the budgets are considered, "there will have to be an offset," Zupnick admitted.
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