Congress reaches short-term construction deal on Aurora VA hospital

Photo: Aurora VA Hospital construction April 2015 3, silhouetted man walking (AP Photo)
Workers build the Veterans Affairs hospital Wednesday, April 15, 2015, in Aurora, Colo. 

Lawmakers have reached a deal to keep construction underway on a troubled Veterans Administration hospital outside Denver.

The VA was on the verge of running out of money for the project, estimated to be $1 billion over its construction budget. It warned that construction would stop unless Congress acted by Sunday to lift a spending cap.

House Speaker John Boehner at first refused, arguing the VA needed to come up with a longer-term plan and make far-reaching internal changes in its culture.

He relented Thursday, agreeing to a short-term deal that will keep construction moving for three weeks while a long-term deal is negotiated. The 11th hour compromise would lift a spending cap on the project from $800 million to $900 million.

"I think the most important thing now is that we have time to negotiate something, to sit down with the speaker’s office, with the Veterans Administration and come up with something that will have broad bipartisan support," said Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, who represents the district where the medical center is being built.

Democrat Rep. Ed Perlmutter, who helped push through initial approve for the hospital when his district included Aurora, echoed Coffman and added he was disappointed a long-term fixed wasn't reached.

VA Secretary Robert McDonald said he was pleased by the deal. 

"I look forward to working with Congress in the coming weeks to determine a path forward to finishing the campus," he said in a statement.

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