AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– Congress has 11 days to approve the higher price tag for the VA hospital in Aurora or construction will stop. Congress and the VA are at a standstill over what the hospital should cost and how it will be paid for.
The project was approved at $800 million but now the Veterans Administration said it needs $1 billion more to complete the hospital. If congress doesn’t approve the increased cost, work on the project will stop for what would be the second time.
Because of the tight timeline it sill take two-thirds of the House of Representatives and every single senator to keep the project going.
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Congress is demanding the VA lower the nearly $2 billion price tag. The VA has refused, proposing instead to divert money from other projects around the country.
“There’s no way at this point in time that, unless they come forward with another proposal that is substantially different from what has been submitted before, that there’s not going to be a shutdown,” said Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican representing Aurora.
Coffman said he told that to the Deputy Secretary of the VA last night. Coffman said the VA’s budget has grown by nearly 70 percent in the last five years and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are demanding the VA find money within that budget.
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“Congress is fed up with the VA,” said Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat representing Colorado.
Bennet said he was on the phone with the White House on Friday morning.
“What we need to make sure is that our veterans and the subcontractors who are working that project, aren’t thrown under the bus as a result of what the VA has failed to do,” said Bennet.
When asked how this is possible in such a short amount of time, Bennet replied, “I think we need the White House to have the VA respond to that with something other than just, ‘No.'”
Coffman said one of the challenges is many lawmakers see this as a Colorado problem.
“These are veterans who have served this nation and this nation has an obligation to these vets,” said Coffman.
Even if Congress lifts the cap by May 22, it only buys a few more weeks of construction. To finish the hospital, Congress will need to approve an additional $830 million.