A unanimous House agreed late Thursday to immediately spend nearly $1 billion on veterans healthcare in a swift answer to President Bush's call for lawmakers to plug a politically troubling shortfall. The measure, approved 419-0, will close a funding gap that was disclosed last week to the surprise of lawmakers, who were told unexpected healthcare demands had eaten a $1 billion hole in the budget for the Veterans Affairs Department.
The House passed the $975 million supplemental spending bill a day after the Senate voted unanimously to give the department an extra $1.5 billion to cover the healthcare shortfall and more, allowing the VA to carry unused funds into next year. Senators indicated they wanted to stick with their bigger spending package instead of passing the House's smaller bill. The VA would not get any additional funds until the House and Senate reconcile their bills.