Saturday, November 21, 2009

U.S. Senate approves bill to provide financial aid to caregivers of disabled veterans

From The Oklahoman:

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate unanimously approved legislation Nov. 19 to provide financial aid to caregivers of disabled veterans, ending a stand-off with Sen. Tom Coburn that drew national attention.

The bill would affect an estimated 6,900 families, according to officials.

Coburn wound up voting for the bill after his attempt failed to shift money from the United Nations to pay for the new aid.

Coburn had objected for weeks to passing the bill using the Senate’s fast-track process, holding out for the opportunity to offer amendments.

Senate Democratic leaders ultimately relented, giving the Oklahoma Republican the chance on Thursday to offer an amendment that would include more veterans and pay for the bill by cutting U.S. aid to the United Nations. Coburn’s amendment failed by a vote of 32-66, and the bill then passed 98-0.

"I apologize to no one for putting a hold on this bill for a very good reason,” Coburn said Thursday.

Coburn said he was "bewildered” that senators did not have the "courage” to cut $3.7 billion from other spending plans in order to pay the five-year cost of the veterans’ bill.

"We can’t continue to borrow 43 cents of every dollar we spend,” Coburn said.

Earlier this week, Coburn sought to require cuts in the spending bill for military construction and veterans affairs to pay for the aid to caregivers. That effort also failed.