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October 9th, 2013
06:48 PM ET

Chair of Veterans Affairs on how the shutdown is affecting vets

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in March that he opposed linking the defunding of Obamacare to the government spending bill, because it would lead to a government shutdown – which it did.

Responsible members of the House Republican leadership opposed the tactic, because they knew they did not have the Senate votes, and that President Barack Obama was not going to gut his signature legislation.

Why would the chair of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs go along with the tactic, knowing that it would hurt veterans and their families?

"Almost 85% of the Department of Veterans Affairs is forward-funded for a two-year period instead of a one-year period," said Republican Congressman Jeff Miller, chair of the Veterans' Affairs committee.

"Nobody wanted to get to where we had a government shutdown," said Miller. "But certainly an opportunity to start a negotiation or a discussion with the president and Senator Reid over in the Senate, I think, was very important."

The original government funding bill defunded Obamacare. Then there were several provisions and follow-up bills to gut it by taking out the individual mandate. The bills were nonstarters; those items were not negotiable. The legislation, Obamacare, was passed by the House, passed by the Senate, signed into law by President Obama, and found constitutional by the Supreme Court.

The shutdown, and the pain inflicted on veterans and their families, was entirely predictable.

"It's a much larger issue. We're talking about debt deficits and spending that our children and grandchildren for many years to come are going to have to pay," said Miller.

A veteran who is also a widow wrote CNN about the frustrations she feels regarding the shutdown.

"Honestly I feel like the child of two drunken parents in a raging fight that at the end of the night forgot to feed me and their other children. For me, away from politics, I feel that I'm in an abusive relationship with my government. They just swung at my family with these threats of non-payment. Even if they fix it, what's it going to be next time? I'm horribly fed up. Justin giving his life for war to defend our country I can handle and keep faith in. The federal government throwing tantrums on television making us look like fools I have a bigger problem with."

Asked if he could give her an answer, Miller said "It's going to sound political when I say this, but only four people in the House of Representatives voted against the veterans funding bill back in June, 127 days ago."

"We could solve the issue that she is most concerned about if Harry Reid would just bring that particular bill up for a vote on the floor," said the chair of the Veterans Affairs committee.

Watch this feisty interview with Congressman Jeff Miller in the video above.

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