Burr Amendment to Veterans Bill Fails

Posted April 24, 2008 at 12:16pm

An amendment by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) to strip certain pension benefits from Filipino World War II veterans failed 56-41 midday Thursday, as the chamber finally moved on to a vote on the actual veterans legislation.

That legislation passed, 96-1, afterward.

The Senate spent the earlier part of the week debating the legislation — sponsored by Senate Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) — and trying to reach compromise on the somewhat controversial Filipino language.

Burr, ranking member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, wanted to strike language from the Akaka bill that would grant pension benefits to Filipino veterans of World War II who live overseas. Burr argued that was too costly, and that the benefits should only cover those Filipino veterans living in the United State. He wanted the $221 million offset to go towards burial, housing and auto benefits for U.S. veterans.

But Burr’s language received pushback from senior Republicans such as Sen. Ted Stevens (Alaska), one of five World War II vets serving in the Senate. Stevens took to the floor Tuesday in support of Akaka’s measure.

“I don’t get excited too many times on this floor. This bill excites me. There are few of us left from World War II. When I came to the Senate, almost every person served in World War II,” Stevens proclaimed earlier in the week. “There are five of us left now. I hope the Senate will listen to the five of us, because we are united on this.”

The other veterans are Sens. John Warner (R-Va.), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.).