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Budget battle focuses on homeless veterans

WASHINGTON — Later this morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will hold a conference call to again criticize Republican budget cutting plans, in particular highlighting the decision to cut $75 million used to fund about 10,000 housing vouchers for homeless veterans.

It’s the second time in less than a week that Senate Democrats have seized on the proposed spending cut as evidence the GOP savings plans are too drastic. Last Thursday, Sen. Patty Murray, chairwoman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, called the proposal “just one more example of the Republicans’ reckless budget that puts politics and ideology over … those who have served and sacrificed for our nation.”

Of course, Republican leaders call the vouchers talk misleading and confusing. They point out that the Housing and Urban Development program currently has a backlog of vouchers, with about 11,000 available for homeless veterans to use between now and the end of the fiscal year.

But Democrats insist the extra money is needed to keep the program solvent for years to come, since awarding the vouchers is usually a months-long process that requires steady funding.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than half of the nation’s nearly 76,000 chronically homeless veterans are located in four states: California, Florida, New York and Texas. Democrats said while those states would be hardest hit by the cuts, nearly every state would feel some impact.

On Tuesday, the House passed another stop-gap three-week spending bill over objections from conservative lawmakers who wanted a long-term, trimmed down budget. The Senate is expected to take up the measure before the end of the week.

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