A bill to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs suicide hotline sailed unanimously through the House last week, until Senate Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid blocked the legislation and refused to let it come to the floor for a voice vote.
The House approved GOP Rep. David Young’s bill last Monday by a vote of 357-0. Young introduced the legislation after hearing numerous complaints from constituents that the Veterans Crisis Line, designed to provide support for veterans feeling suicidal, simply failed to answer emails or calls. The bipartisan bill passed the House without a hitch and Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar teamed up with GOP Sen. John Thune to move the legislation through the Senate. Both majority and minority staff on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs cleared the bill, Meg Baglien, communications director for Young, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
But a nod from the committee didn’t prevent Reid from stopping the bill in its tracks, prompting GOP Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to castigate him.
“Unfortunately politics do get in the way sometimes,” Young told WOWT News, “but I’m still hopeful that we can try to get this done.”
“I guess the question I would pose to Harry Reid is, ‘What is wrong with passing this legislation to make sure that our veterans receive the help that they deserve?'” Young added.
Republicans have referred to Reid’s actions as obstructionism, with some speculating his recent decisions on legislation are retaliation in response to refusal to move forward with Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. Reid has played the same move on numerous bills.
But Young still thinks the bill has a chance in the future, since for him, non-responsiveness on a crisis hotline is unacceptable, especially given the statistics on veterans taking their own lives. Recently released data from the VA show that approximately 20 veterans commit suicide every day.
A report from the Government Accountability Office has provided credence to constituent complaints, finding that almost 30 percent of texts to the hotline went unanswered.
The bill directs the VA secretary to create a quality assurance process and to develop and submit a plan to Congress on how the department is going to ensure calls are actually answered by a real person on the other end.
Reid’s office did not respond to a request for comment from TheDCNF by press time.
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