U.S. Rep. David Young and congressional Republicans are blaming Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid for holding up final passage of a bill that would make needed changes to a suicide hotline for veterans. Reid’s office is strongly pushing back, claiming it was Senate Republicans who stalled the “No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act.”
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 22 veterans commit suicide every day. After veterans in 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).
“The Veterans Crisis Line was created to help and support veterans struggling with emotional and mental health crises,” he said. “Yet, veterans’ calls, text messages, and other communications to the network have gone unanswered.”
The status of the bill highlights a much deeper brawl between Republicans and Democrats. The bill passed unanimously through the House – 357 to 0 – but has hit a wall in the Senate because of what Young describes as “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," Young said. "These practical fixes to the Veterans Crisis Line have received widespread support by Republicans and Democrats alike."
Speaker Paul Ryan came to Young’s defense on Twitter, blaming Reid for the bill’s stall in the Senate.
The bill is on the desk of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Senate frequently 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. However, Democratic sources say there wasn’t enough time to clear the bill.
“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,” said David Popp, a McConnell spokesman told Fox News.
Democrats say it’s likely the Senate would have approved the House version of the bill had they remained in session even a day or two. "If the Republican-led Senate was at work today as it was supposed to be, this bill would have passed by now,” said Reid.
One senior Senate Democratic source tells Fox that 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.”
Young highlights that there can be no more serious attempt to pass a bill than by unanimous consent and scuffed at the idea that this bill is about a political victory. “It’s non-controversial, it’s common sense," he said.
“This was cleared by the Republican cloakroom and the Democratic cloakroom,” Young continued. “This has been a bipartisan effort to get this done, that’s just a fact.”
Late last week, Reid did come to the floor and personally objected to a couple of efforts to approve bills by unanimous consent. He cited the GOP’s resentence to even hold a hearing on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court.
Young told Fox News he wholly expects the bill to pass in a lame duck session. “There’s no doubt about it,” he said.Reid's office strongly denies the claims, saying Republicans are being used as political pawns by Republicans.
"If they had suck around for a day or two instead of adjourning for recess a week early, this bill would be passed and on its way to the president," Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Reid told Fox News. He added: "But Republicans cared more about going on vacation a week early than taking care of veterans."
Fox News' Chad Pergram contributed to this story.