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Lawmakers have unveiled a $17.5 billion compromise bill to address widespread problems at veterans hospitals around the nation, days after the deal seemed to be crumbling over a dispute about its cost. Senate Armed Services Chairman Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent who caucuses with Democrats, and House Armed Services Chairman Jeff Miller, a Republican, announced the deal at a press conference Monday afternoon.

"This VA conference committee legislation that we are bringing forward today is far from what I would have written if I had to do it alone," Sanders said. "And I suspect the same thing - [it's] far from what Chairman Miller would have done if he wrote this bill by himself. It is a compromise."

Last week, the legislation appeared to be in jeopardy, even though both chambers of Congress had nearly unanimously passed their own versions of the bill. But after a weekend of negotiations, the two sides agreed on a $17.5 billion measure – more than Miller’s version would have cost but less than what Sanders had asked for. Of that amount, $10 billion will be devoted to providing the contracting out of private health care for veterans who are subject to long waiting lines or who live far away from a VA facility.

Speaking to reporters earlier Monday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest declined to discuss the bill in detail but said that “early reports are positive.” The bill now must be passed by both the House and the Senate.



- Carrie Dann