Just this week, President Barack Obama signed into law the “No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act”.
The new law now requires the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure calls made to its suicide hotline are returned in a timely manner.
Republicans hailed it as “a victory for our veterans, service members and their families in Iowa and across the country.”
Thankfully, this bill really is now the law.
But back in October, representative House and Senate Republicans blamed Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid for stalling on the final passage of the bill that would’ve saved the lives of countless veterans.
And apparently, Reid’s office strongly pushed back, claiming it was Senate Republicans who stalled the “No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act,” which were clearly false accusations.
The idea of semantic problems, which Reid was insinuating with this bill, is unacceptable because of the lives it would have saved between the beginning of October and earlier this week.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 22 veterans commit suicide every day. After veterans in Iowa Congressman David Young’s district reached out for help, he sent a letter to the VA last month where he outlined his concerns about the Veteran Crisis Line (VCL).
A House Republican said:
“The Veterans Crisis Line was created to help and support veterans struggling with emotional and mental health crises. Yet, veterans’ calls, text messages, and other communications to the network have gone unanswered.”
Back in October, the bill passed unanimously through the House – 357 to 0 – but it hit a wall in the Senate because, as the bill’s sponsor said:
“[These are the] actions of one senior retiring member in that chamber. I remain committed to making progress on this legislation so it may be someday soon signed into law. These practical fixes to the Veterans Crisis Line have received widespread support by Republicans and Democrats alike.”
The bill sat on the desk of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for far too long.
Coincidentally, the Senate also uses a legislative “hotline” of its own to determine if the body can approve a bill via unanimous consent.
If no one objects on the hotline, then the leader usually puts the bill on the floor and senators approve the plan via unanimous consent.
But the Democrats claimed there wasn’t enough “time” to clear the bill.
David Popp, McConnell’s spokesman said,
“It is untrue that it is our side holding it up. It is actually the Democrats in some capacity are the ones holding it up right now.”
Hilariously, one senior Senate Democrat said there was no “serious attempt” to approve the bill, characterizing the GOP maneuver as an effort to “check a box so they could try and blame us.”
But House Republicans highlighted there can be no more of a serious attempt to pass a bill than by unanimous consent from the House and then send it to the Senate. That very well may be the definition of “cut-and-dry.”
Reid deflected the blame back on the GOP establishment in any way he could, saying that they adjourned on vacation early instead of taking care of veterans and insinuated payback for the GOP’s blocking Merrick Garland from the Supreme Court.
These are lame and shameful excuses from the senior Senator.
But at least the bill is the law now.