By David McGrath Schwartz
Rep. Shelley Berkley called votes to eliminate programs serving former members of the U.S. armed forces "shameful" while she touted her work on veteran issues during a small campaign event at a restaurant here today.
The Las Vegas Democrat, running for U.S. Senate, singled out a vote by Republican Sen. Dean Heller in 2011 that would have cut a veterans housing voucher program by $75 million.
"I find it shameful there are people in Congress, serving in the Senate, that would vote to eliminate programs that help our veterans," Berkley told a gathering of about a dozen people. "Our responsibility begins the day they sign up and ends the day they pass away."
Berkley did not mention Heller by name in her remarks, but confirmed she was talking about him when asked.
The 2011 vote was on a $75 million supplement to a housing voucher program for veterans that Republicans called unnecessary because the program still had unused vouchers.
"Dean Heller has never voted to place homeless veterans in jeopardy," said Heller campaign spokeswoman Chandler Smith, in a statement. "In fact, Dean Heller has a consistent record fighting to provide veterans with the benefits they earned and deserve."
Despite Berkley's accusation the vote wasn't to eliminate the program.
Heller's campaign pointed to a breakdown by the nonpartisan FactCheck.org that found that the Democratic charge of eliminating 10,000 vouchers for homeless vets was exagerated. It also found that Republicans downplayed the potential impact.
The cut passed the Republican-controlled House but not the Democratically controlled Senate that year, according to Democrats. Heller was a Congressman from Carson City at the time, before Sen. John Ensign resigned and Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed Heller to complete his term.
Berkley was speaking in Reno as part of her "Prioritize Veterans Tour" to highlight her work with former members of the armed services.