Blue Water Navy bill fails in Senate

Elizabeth Howe
December 11, 2018 - 7:06 am

Photo courtesy of courtney.house.gov

The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2018,  H.R. 299, is in limbo after a Senator objected to the bill Tuesday.  The Senate is trying to pass the bill through unanimous consent - which does not require an actual floor vote of all Senators - however if one Senator objects to the bill (thus making it not unanimous), the bill stalls.

RELATED: House to Senate: Pass ‘Blue Water’ Navy bill already

Back in June, the House passed H.R. 299 unanimously. The bill would finally provide Vietnam, Korean DMZ, and Thailand veterans suffering from health conditions related to exposure to Agent Orange health benefits. But since the House vote, the bill has been stuck in the Senate. 

RELATED: House approves benefits for Blue Water Navy veterans

So last night's outcome was long anticipated — but disappointing for "Blue Water" Navy veterans.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand went to the Senate floor seeking unanimous consent that would expedite the bill's approval. Sen. Mike Enzi was one of several senators who objected. 

“On this bill, many of us have been made aware of the potential cost growth and the budgetary and operational pressures that would happen at the VA,” Enzi stated on the floor according to the Stars and Stripes. “They’re having a lot of problems, anyway.”

Soon after the vote, the Veterans of Foreign Wars published a statement denouncing Enzi for his "obstruction" of H.R. 299.

“What the senator just did was fail some 90,000 so-called Blue Water Navy veterans — many of whom reside in his state — who had their disability eligibility taken away in 2002 after regulatory changes," VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence writes in the statement. "His obstruction forsakes our nation’s promise to take care of those who were injured or made ill due to their military service.”

RELATED: Decades after Vietnam, ‘Blue Water’ sailors still fighting for VA benefits

The next step is a Senate vote before the conclusion of the 115th Congress — or those championing for "Blue Water" veterans will have to restart from square one. 

"The VFW now calls on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to schedule a vote on this important bill before the Senate concludes the 115th Congress," the organization's statement reads.

“Senator Enzi failed America’s veterans,” Lawrence wrote. “The VFW hopes Senate leadership does not do the same.”

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