WASHINGTON, D.C. – Amid the shutdown turmoil in the nation’s capital city, 33 House Democrats crossed party lines Tuesday night to support a GOP measure to restore funding for veterans benefits for fiscal year 2014.
The resolution failed (264 – 164) to get the two-thirds vote threshold required for passage in the House under a suspension of the rules. Reps. Michael Michaud and Chellie Pingree joined House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to help defeat the resolution.
The failure of the measure offers little assurance to veterans, whose benefits have been jeopardized by the uncertainty of partisan chaos in grid-locked D.C. Although October’s benefit checks have already gone out, a prolonged shutdown could place November’s payments in doubt. Moreover, the backlog of veterans benefits claims, which only recently has begun to shrink, will certainly grow since many VA staffers have been furloughed.
The vote is especially problematic for Michaud, who has abdicated his congressional seat to run for governor, and who has made veterans affairs the signature issue of his decade in Congress. Michaud’s vote also runs contrary to statements he made on Tuesday regarding appropriations for veterans benefits in light of the partial federal shutdown.
In an Oct. 1 press release, Michaud said, “I’m especially concerned with the impact a drawn-out shutdown could have on the ability of VA to make benefit payments.”
“The political games need to stop and we must pass a funding resolution as soon as possible,” he said.
In response to Michaud’s vote against funding for veterans affairs, the Maine Republican Party questioned whether the Congressman’s loyalties lie with national Democrats or Maine’s veterans.
“Thirty-three Democrats in the House broke rank with their party leaders and had the courage to vote to provide funding for veterans’ benefits in the face of this government shutdown, but Mike Michaud was not one of them,” said Jason Savage, executive director of the Maine Republican Party.
“Are our veterans as important to Mike Michaud as helping his partisan leadership team to score a few political points? How can voters expect Mike Michaud to effectively lead our state if he won’t even buck his partisan leaders to help Maine veterans?” asked Savage. “This recent vote against veterans is certainly not a profile in courage – Maine deserves better.”
Calls placed to Michaud’s Washington, D.C. office were not returned.
Maine Wire Reporter