Senate committee OKs advance funding for VA

By Rick Maze – Staff writer
Posted : Thursday May 21, 2009 14:16:55 EDT 

Momentum has gathered behind the idea of advance appropriations for the Veterans Affairs Department — to the point that one of the chief supporters says he would be stunned if anything derails what has become the top priority for veterans groups.

Peter Dickinson, a former House Veterans’ Affairs Committee staffer who has been working on VA advance funding on behalf of the Partnership for Veterans’ Health Care Reform, said willingness to make changes to strengthen the legislation and “address concerns about unintended consequences” seem to have paid off.

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee approved an advance appropriations bill Thursday by unanimous voice vote without dissent. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, the committee chairman, said the proposal “has the potential to strengthen every aspect of VA’s national health care system.”

And with every major veterans group backing the idea; with President Barack Obama and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki on board; and with 47 cosponsors in the Senate, Dickinson said Senate passage seems virtually assured.  “It would be stunning if Congress or the Administration backed away from advance appropriations now,” he said.

Under Senate rules, it takes 50 votes to pass a bill but 60 votes to overcome procedural hurdles if determined opposition tries to block a measure. The 47 cosponsors make the proposal very close to passage as long as no one steps forward to hold it up.


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