House Republican leaders have pulled from this week's calendar a bill to extend a program to help veterans just as they are trying to force through a massive tax reform bill that would bestow untold riches upon the wealthy and corporations and raise the federal deficit by an estimated $1.5 trillion over 10 years.
Even as the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) released a report saying the proposed Senate tax bill, instead of cutting taxes for the middle class as promised, actually will increase taxes for 13.8 million households earning under $200,000 annually, the House Rules Committee yanked the veterans' bill because it would cost $3.8 billion over 10 years and the Veterans Affairs Committee hadn't figured out how to cover the cost.
At stake is the Veterans Choice program, which makes it possible for veterans to obtain healthcare services from private doctors and hospitals if they live too far away from a VA hospital, have to wait an inordinately long time for an appointment or other reasons. That program is scheduled to run out of money by the end of this year.
The bill GOP leaders pulled would provide a $2.1 billion mandatory cash infusion into the Choice program, which the Congressional Budget Office calculated would "extend the life of the program through the remainder of 2018.
That action does not necessarily doom the bill, but it puts it in danger. A complicating factor is a provision to allow the VA to lease facilities so there could be more service centers closer to more veterans. Budget analysts say that would add hundreds of millions in additional costs.
It just seemed to be ironic that on the same day the JCT said millions of middle income families would get slapped with a tax increase to help pay for cuts for corporations and the top one percent, that penny pinching lawmakers would be so concerned about spending a few bucks to help our veterans -- those very same people they claim with all of their flag waving rhetoric to love and support.
If you care about this, contact your Representative and urge support of HR 4243.