WASHINGTON — A divided Senate on Thursday derailed Democratic legislation that would have provided $21 billion for medical, education and job-training benefits for veterans.
Each party covets the allegiance of the country's 22 million veterans and their families, and each party blamed the other for turning the effort into a chess match aimed at forcing politically embarrassing votes.
Republicans used a procedural move to block the bill after Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chided GOP lawmakers about their priorities.
"I personally, I have to say this honestly, have a hard time understanding how anyone could vote for tax breaks for billionaires, for millionaires, for large corporations and then say we don't have the resources to protect our veterans," said Sanders, the measure's chief author.
Republicans said they still favor helping veterans while also wanting to be prudent about federal spending.
Republicans criticized how most of Sanders' bill was paid for — with unspent money from the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and the winding down of military involvement in Afghanistan. The GOP says those aren't real savings.
The vote sidetracking the bill was 56-41, with supporters falling four votes short of the 60 they needed to prevail.