Republicans storm out of vote on bill to help women veterans, citing procedural issues

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GOP lawmakers said they were upset with the way House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Mark Takano was running the meeting.

Republican members on the House Veterans Affairs Committee stormed out of a key meeting on Tuesday without bothering to vote on a bill impacting the health care of women veterans.

Committee Chair Mark Takano (D-CA) was working to wrap up an hour-long meeting where 10 bills were set to pass out of the committee. The last of those bills, the Deborah Sampson Act, addressed inequalities and barriers faced by women veterans.

Before the final few votes, a Republican member asked permission of Takano to be recognized for a parliamentary inquiry, or a request for clarification on procedural moves. Takano ruled that the particular request was out of order at that time.

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Republicans could have then waited and used a different mechanism, known as a motion to recommit, in order to attempt to change the legislation and apply specific amendments they had in mind going into the meeting. But they opted to leave instead.

In a video of the markup, a Republican staffer seems to signal to the Republicans on the committee to leave. The Republican lawmakers then stand up and walk out, refusing to vote on the bill, even as Takano continues to talk.

"Republicans chose to walk away from our markup and walk out on the 2 million women veterans whose lives will be enhanced by this legislation," Takano said in a statement after the meeting.

After Republicans left the markup, the remaining Democrats in the room took three additional votes, all related to sending the Deborah Simpson Act to the House floor.

"Currently, women veterans comprise the fastest growing demographic within the veteran community, yet their invaluable service is often overlooked and forgotten, leading these women to feel invisible," Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA) said in a statement following the vote. "The Deborah Sampson Act recognizes and honors women veterans by ensuring inclusivity and equitable access to resources, benefits, and services," she added.

Brownley remained in the committee room until the final vote was cast.

Republicans insisted the abrupt exit was a way to protest the way Takano ran the meeting.

The walkout was "an unprecedented, extemporaneous reaction when Chairman Takano made it clear that the markup was over and he was no longer going to give Republicans the opportunity to speak," a spokesperson for Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), ranking Republican on the committee, said in an email.

After the votes concluded, Roe put out a statement critical of Takano's "embarrassing and undemocratic behavior clearly dictated by partisan interests." Roe's statement claimed Takano "refused to allow consideration of, or comment on" seven amendments.

However, Takano insisted that he worked with Republicans throughout the process, giving all members of the committee ample opportunity to provide input into the legislation.

"My Republican colleagues had a seat at the table every step of the way," Takano said in his statement. "Instead of bringing forth meaningful, productive additions to legislation that will improve the lives of women veterans, they added toxic, partisan amendments — none of which worked to address how women veterans receive care."

Takano added that the bills were backed by "14 Veteran Service Organizations — including 6 specifically advocating for women veterans," and Republicans had, in the process of storming out, "left these veterans behind."

When reached for comment Tuesday, Will Goodwin, director of government relations with VoteVets, had harsh words.

"It's a real shame that Republicans wanted to make another dramatic show within week, after storming the SCIF, by marching out of a hearing to pass through a bill that would help countless women veterans," Goodwin said in an email. "The Republican caucus is just fundamentally broken right now, and veterans are now paying for it."

Goodwin was referring to the recent stunt led by Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz (FL) who, along with several of his GOP colleagues last week, demanded entry into a secure room where a bipartisan group of lawmakers were preparing to listen to a witness give testimony in the House impeachment inquiry.

At that time, Republicans — many of whom brought their phones with them into the secure room, threatening national security — complained about being excluded, even though almost 50 Republicans on each of three  committees leading the inquiry were welcome to attend.

Published with permission of The American Independent.