Senate Unanimously Passes VA Funding Bill

| by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades
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Senators abandoned partisan lines to pass a $166 billion Department of Veterans Affairs funding bill ahead of Veterans Day.

The measure, which funds both veterans programs and military construction, will still require some negotiation before it’s sent to the White House, but it passed the Senate with a 93-0 vote, the Military Times reported.

“Today the Senate put our veterans first,” Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois told The Hill. “With $1.1 billion in funding for veterans' care above the President’s request and special protections for whistleblowers like doctors and nurses who speak up to protect our vets, I am proud we found a bipartisan path forward.”

Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana encouraged his colleagues to support the bill.

"If we're going to fix the access problems, if we're going to serve our veterans in the way they need to be served, we need to pass this bill," he said prior to the vote.

The bill was especially symbolic due to its timing.

"I want to encourage everyone in the Senate to vote favorably," Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia said before the vote. "But I want everybody to stop and take a deep breath and think about three things: Number one, today is the 240th anniversary of the United States Marine Corps. … Tomorrow at 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month we celebrate the soldiers of World War I in the United States of America, and today in the United States Senate we're fixing problems that confront our veterans." 

The bill contains about $7.9 billion more in discretionary spending for veterans programs and military construction compared to last year’s legislation. 

Sources: The Hill, Military Times / Photo credit: The U.S. Army/Flickr