November 30, 2010 — After Republicans raised concerns about access to abortion services and other issues, House leaders on Monday postponed debate on a bill (HR 5953) that would require Department of Veterans Affairs facilities to display a "Women Veterans Bill of Rights," CQ Today reports. A senior Democratic aide said the bill is likely to be considered today.
The bill, sponsored by Veterans' Affairs Committee Chair Bob Filner (D-Calif.), would direct VA facilities to prominently display a list of 24 rights guaranteed to female veterans. The list includes "the right to request and get treatment by clinicians with specific training and expertise in women's health issues." Republicans opposed to the bill argue that the statement could establish a legal basis for mandating abortion coverage and would require the department to hire abortion providers.
The measure was scheduled for floor consideration on Monday under suspension of the rules, which expedites the process by limiting debate on amendments. The procedure also allows the bill's floor manager to call up an amended version of the bill. The House was expected to consider a modified version of the bill that would include language from a separate measure (HR 5428) -- also sponsored by Filner -- that would require VA to also display an "Injured Amputee Veterans Bill of Rights."
Rep. Steve Buyer (Ind.), ranking Republican on the Veterans' Affairs Committee, on Monday circulated a letter urging colleagues to vote "no" on the legislation. Buyer, who is retiring at the end of this congressional session, argued that the measure is "an attempt to play politics with veterans' programs, but does little to actually protect the 'rights' of our women, injured and amputee veterans." He noted that the committee had not held a hearing on the measure and that the Obama administration has not offered official views on the matter (Symes, CQ Today, 11/29).