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VA bill will get vote soon, panel chairman says

Jul. 16, 2014 - 03:48PM   |  
Jeff Miller
House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., speaks July 10 on Capitol Hill. (Evan Vucci / AP)
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The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman expressed confidence Wednesday that the bill to fix problems in the troubled Veterans Affairs Department would be voted on before Congress leaves for its August recess.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., rebutted accusations from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., that House Republicans were impeding bill negotiations.

Reid told The Hill newspaper on Tuesday that the conference committee has been stymied in forging a deal and the GOP was standing in the way.

But Miller said the main sticking point has been how to pay for the legislation.

“Harry Reid is the only person interjecting politics into this very critical process. We are negotiating with our Senate colleagues trying to fix a problem that has to be fixed, and fixed correctly,” Miller said.

The Congressional Budget Office last week released an assessment of the Senate bill that said the legislation would cost about $30 billion over the next three years, with costs dropping dramatically after a two-year private care pilot project expires.

The estimate was considerably lower than CBO’s initial scoring of the bill, which indicated it would cost roughly $50 billion per year.

In the conference, House Republicans are looking at ways to cover the costs, using discretionary funds, Miller said. Meanwhile, senators are pushing to have the bill supported by a different funding pot — mandatory spending.

In comments to The Hill, Reid suggested the House adopt the Senate’s version of the bill.

Miller said a compromise will emerge that both parties can support. He added that Republicans are looking for ways to pay for the bill but aren’t insisting that the legislation contain a full offset.

“The Senate wants to throw money at a situation that is not defined, in an amount of money that is not defined. We’re re trying to define the issue and figure out how to pay for it,” Miller said.

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