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Senate veterans hearing shut down due to partisan obstruction


U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, held a hearing Wednesday, March 24 on VA’s plan to end veteran homelessness in the next five years. It is estimated more than 100,000 veterans – including at least 800 in Hawaii – are homeless in the United States on any given night.

The hearing ended abruptly at 11 a.m. after opponents of health insurance reform objected to allowing most committee hearings, including the Veterans’ Affairs hearing, to continue. Senate rules require unanimous consent on the Senate floor for committees to meet two hours after the Senate convenes. Objections to the routine procedure are extremely rare.

“The Senate should be a place for debate, but I cannot imagine how shutting down a hearing on helping homeless veterans has any part of the debate on the health insurance reform. I am deeply disappointed that my colleagues chose to hinder our common work to help end veteran homelessness,” Akaka said.

The hearing included witnesses from the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Labor, and Housing and Urban Development, as well as community providers who help homeless veterans, and a veteran in transitional housing.

Chairman Akaka was forced to gavel the hearing to an end in the middle of testimony from witness Dr. Sam Tsemberis from Pathways to Housing, a service provider with hands-on experience helping homeless veterans, particularly those with psychiatric disabilities and addiction disorders.

“With a growing commitment from Congress, the federal government, and community providers, we are on track to end veteran homelessness in five years. We must stay focused and work together to accomplish this important and ambitious goal,” Akaka said.

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